Woodland Cemetery’s 175th Anniversary: A Day of History, Diversity, and Celebration. Cemeteries are not places one typically associates with celebration, but on a remarkable Saturday, Woodland Cemetery defied convention as it marked its 175th anniversary with an event that promises to be a journey through time, back to the 1800s.
This extraordinary celebration, a culmination of over a year of meticulous planning, welcomes all attendees to partake in a day filled with captivating stories and profound insights into the history of our community. Notably, this event is entirely free for everyone.
It’s essential to note that for this special occasion, all vehicular access to the cemetery will be temporarily closed. However, fret not, as convenient parking options are available nearby. We encourage you to embrace the serene atmosphere and approach the main entrance of the cemetery on foot.
Throughout the day, esteemed historians, passionate re-enactors, and descendants of those interred at Woodland will take center stage. Their collective mission is to narrate the captivating tales of Des Moines’ early days, effectively transporting attendees back to the 1800s, where they can gain a profound understanding of our shared history and the challenges faced by our forebearers.
To ensure your comfort and enjoyment during this unique day, we recommend bringing water and wearing comfortable attire suitable for strolling the beautiful grounds of the cemetery.
For more information about this engaging daylong celebration, please feel free to reach out to us at 515-248-6320 or via email at [email protected].
Woodland Cemetery History:
In 1848, a mere two years after Iowa achieved statehood and just before the incorporation of Fort Des Moines on September 22, 1851, the city’s population was steadily approaching 4,000. As the community expanded, it became evident that a cemetery was a necessity. Thus, Woodland Cemetery was established, inspired by the Garden Cemetery movement originating in rural Cambridge, MA, in 1831.
The first 5 1/2 acres of Woodland Cemetery were generously donated by area farmers located on the city’s outskirts. John Dean, Abel Cain, Lewis Jones, Henry Everly, and Jonathan Lyon played pivotal roles in this act of philanthropy. Over time, the cemetery expanded, with the city of Des Moines officially becoming the owner of the cemetery’s 36½ acres in 1857. In 1864, an additional parcel of land was purchased from J. B. Bausman, further expanding Woodland Cemetery. Today, it spans an impressive 65 acres, including the adjacent St. Ambrose Cemetery, deeded to the city by the Catholic Diocese of Des Moines in 1923.
Over time, Woodland and St. Ambrose cemeteries became somewhat forgotten within the city’s inner core. However, today their significance is cherished primarily by neighboring residents, genealogists, and the relatives of nearly 50,000 individuals laid to rest in these hallowed grounds. These serene parks hold a rich history and serve as a poignant reminder of the city’s past and the lives of those who shaped it.
As the celebration unfolds at Woodland Cemetery, it is not merely a commemoration of 175 years but a testament to the resilience, diversity, and enduring spirit of the community it has faithfully served throughout its storied history.