This article originally appeared in the Phillips community's Alley Newspaper, August 2006.
Photo: Sue Hunter Weir
People often ask whether it’s still possible to be buried in Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery. The answer is that it’s possible but not likely. In order to be buried in the cemetery, you would already need to own a plot, have a relative who’s already buried there, and have the permission of the Minneapolis City Council. If you meet the first two conditions, getting permission from the City Council is almost assured. The problem is that plots have not been sold since around 1920.
One reason that so many people ask is that the cemetery, at least judging by the number of markers, looks so “empty.” As most of us know, looks can be deceiving. There are over 21,000 people buried in Layman’s Cemetery, but there are only 1,820 markers. Many markers have been destroyed by vandals over the years. Others were made of materials that could not withstand Minnesota winters. Pollution from automobiles also took its toll on the markers, especially during those years when cars used lead-based fuels.
The most densely populated section of the cemetery, Section H, has the fewest markers. Section H is in the northeast corner of the cemetery and is its designated paupers’ section. Over 10% of the cemetery’s burials (2,990) people are buried in that single section, yet there are no more than a couple dozen markers. The majority of burials were recent arrivals or their children. Others were people whose burials were paid for by Hennepin County.
In most cases the names of the people buried in Section H are known, but there are 78 people who were never identified. There records identify them simply as “unknown.” In some cases, the records include identifiers, such as “Unknown German Man.” At least 24 of the identified burials were abandoned infants or “foundlings.”
The paupers’ section includes three mass graves which contain the remains of 355 people whose bodies were used for research by the University’s Medical School in the 19-teens. Friends of the Cemetery is currently working on trying to get a memorial marker for them, and we will keep you posted on how that turns out.
This year, Friends of the Cemetery will be offering our first-ever (at least that we know of) Murder and Mayhem Tour at the cemetery. The tour is scheduled for Sunday, October 8th at 1:00. Please join us for an interesting look at some of the cemetery’s most interesting, though not always its most upstanding, people.
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Abandoned Infants -- November 2006