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Cemetery History

“Let Them Sleep Undisturbed” was an editorial that appeared in the Minneapolis Journal on April 28, 1925. It became the rallying cry for friends and family, as well as other interested citizens, to preserve Layman’s Cemetery.

Let Them Sleep Undisturbed

Sixteen thousand citizens of Minneapolis are sleeping their last sleep in Layman’s Cemetery. Many of them were pioneers, men and women who saw the birth of this City and labored fruitfully in its development. The friendly earth in which they might sleep peacefully was bought and paid for by themselves or their kin, and they were laid there with loving care.

But their kin have scattered, or their families have died out. There is no one left to cherish their graves, or raise a protest when it is proposed to move their bones elsewhere.

No one? Yes, every good Minneapolitan who loves his City, who cherishes its traditions, who feels grateful to those workers that have passed on for what they wrought here, must certainly make vigorous protest.

Why are these graves to be desecrated, these bones disturbed, title to these burial lots forfeited?

Because, forsooth, the land is valuable; because it abuts on great thoroughfares; because the turning of this sacred ground into a public park will permit the Layman heirs to take, as their reward for moving the bodies, strips of valuable land along Lake Street and Cedar Avenue.

It there no surety for those who inhabit the cities of the dead? Have they no guaranty that their last resting places shall not be violated? Is land in Minneapolis more valuable and more necessary to be used for the living than land in other great American cities?

Go down into the lower end of Manhattan Island, where the great buildings scrape the very sky, where in the deep canyons called streets men boisterously trade on the curb, where the money marts of America have their place. Yet a few steps will bring you into the quiet precincts of a cemetery whose very atmosphere is fraught with a solemn quiet, with historic associations. How many a weary soul has found momentary refuge there from the feverish city, has felt the benison of the sacred spot!

How valuable is the land of Trinity Churchyard? If those ancient graves were violated and the bones moved elsewhere, how much money would the tract bring? Millions upon millions. Yet there it stands, and will stand for years upon years.

Philadelphia has at least two ancient cemeteries whose sites would be immensely valuable if cleared and devoted to business. New Orleans has numerous cemeteries, covering ground which, if it were converted, would yield huge profits. But these and other cities have respect and reverence for the cities of the dead. They cherish and care for and beautify these sacred tenements. They do not seek enabling acts from the Legislature whereunder violation and despoliation can be committed legally.

Layman’s Cemetery should be preserved inviolate. It should be beautified and cared for lovingly. The Park Board should reject absolutely the project for taking it over and making of it a playground, where the joyous feet of the living may desecrate what was once the last earthly resting place of men and women who helped make Minneapolis a city.