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Tales from the Cemetery: FAQs

Tales from the Cemetery: FAQs

The fish were biting at Cedar and Lake. Twenty-first century kids had the opportunity to play 19th-century games. Photo credit: Tim McCall By SUE HUNTER WEIR Frequently Asked Questions The answers to most, if not all of these questions have appeared in one of the Cemetery Tales that have been published over the last almost-20 years. Here they are all in one place. When was the first burial? Who was it? The first burial took place in September 1853. The funeral was for 10-month old Carlton Keith Cressey. His father was the minister of the First Baptist Church of Minneapolis. Who owned the cemetery? The cemetery was privately owned by Martin and Elizabeth Layman, transplanted New Yorkers. They arrived in Minnesota in the 1850s and built the sixth house in what would become Minneapolis. They had 13 children, all of whom survived to adulthood. Although the cemetery was commonly referred to as “Layman’s Cemetery,” its legal name in its early days was Minneapolis Cemetery. Who owns the cemetery now? Between 1853 and 1919, more than 27,000 people were buried in the cemetery. It was full and no longer profitable. It was poorly maintained and local residents and merchants petitioned the City Council to close the cemetery. They voted to close it to future burials. Although they were not required to, families disinterred the remains of about 5,000 relatives and moved them to other cemeteries. In 1925, concerned citizens began a letter writing campaign and the state legislature approved a bonding bill that enabled the City of Minneapolis to buy out the interests of the Layman family heirs. When that transaction was completed, the name was changed from Layman’s or Minneapolis Cemetery to Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery. The City currently maintains the cemetery and owns the 5,000 empty graves and the physical structures (cottage, flagpole, fence, etc.). Occupied graves remain the property of family members. When was [...]

Tales from the Cemetery August ’22

Tales from the Cemetery August ’22

by Sue Hunter Weir Pictures courtesy Gretchen Pederson, cemetery caretaker. The good news and the bad news...The bad news: Several large tree branches have come down in recent storms and either have been or will be removed by the Park Board. On the Fourth of July, a stolen van loaded with fireworks crashed into the fence near the Cedar-Lake bus stop. The good news: The trim on the caretaker’s cottage has a fresh coat of paint, and the 50-foot-tall flagpole has also been repainted. Elizabeth Avenue, the cemetery’s only road has been seal coated. On July 8th, three new markers, all for infants, were placed. Architects from Miller- Dunwiddie have been surveying the limestone pillars and restoration will begin soon. When a street in South Minneapolis was renamed to honor John Cheatham, Minneapolis’ first Black firefighter, it was a big news story. It was picked up by all of the local television stations, by Minneapolis Public Radio and by the Atlanta Black Star and the Grio, a national news outlet that focuses on stories of interest to African-Americans. The fact that he was Minneapolis' first Black firefighter is an important story but it isn’t the whole story. His is also a story about character and community. One of the questions that wasn’t addressed is why John Cheatham was the first. Clearly, he was smart and hardworking. But he was much more than that. There were more than 50 newspaper stories about him that appeared during his lifetime. The answer to the question of what made him stand out—what made him special--is reflected in those stories. One of the words that was often used to describe him was “respected.” He was an important member of the City’s early African-American community, a person who would be described as a pillar of the community. He had close ties to several families who have members buried in the cemetery. His name first appears in Minnesota census records in 1875 when he was living with Morgan and [...]

Tale of the Tales: Q&A with Sue Hunter Weir

Tale of the Tales: Q&A with Sue Hunter Weir

Caption: Anna ClarkCredit: Courtesy of Bob Clark By LAURA HULSCHER and SUE HUNTER WEIR This is your 200th column. How long have you been writing Tales from Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery? What inspired you to start? I wrote my first story about the cemetery in September 2003. At the time I was concerned (irritated) about the Phillips Neighborhood being characterized as "crime-ridden" and wanted to remind people that Phillips is a community with a long and very rich history. Ours is a community shaped by migration, immigration, the need for public housing and for livable-wage jobs. Our boundaries were, and are, shaped by transportation routes. Much has changed but much remains the same. We have a great deal to be proud of. What motivates you to continue the series after so many years? I remember reading that no one is truly dead who is remembered. I believe that and these stories are my way of remembering people who I never knew but who deserve to be remembered. They are the people who built this City. I have written about 200 people so far and have many thousands left to go. Stay tuned. If you could meet one cemetery resident you have written about, who would it be? If I could meet one of the people I've written about, it would be Anna Clark. Anna was one of the first people I found and hers is one of the most heartbreaking stories I've ever read. She was a poet and she was beautiful. She gave birth to 16 children, only eight of whom survived. When she was 53, and widowed, she committed suicide in the Cemetery because as she put it, the "sorrow and agony in my heart is too great to bear." There is nothing that I could do to change that but I could at least give her a hug and let her know that she has not been forgotten.

Tales from the Cemetery #200: A Peaceable Fourth?

Tales from the Cemetery #200:  A Peaceable Fourth?

Caption: Jan Hamorrik's marker is typical of markers placed on the graves of Slovak immigrants at the turn of the 20th century.Credit: Tim McCall by Sue Hunter Weir Reporters who covered Fourth of July festivities in 1906 had a peculiar notion of what a “peaceable” Fourth looked like. The Minneapolis Tribune described it as the “most peaceable Fourth that the city has seen.” They then went on to list 29 injuries and accidents, including two children blinded, three people who lost fingers, and numerous people, mostly children, with burned faces, hands and arms. The Journal’s headline described the day’s events in its headline: “Man Murdered, Boy Blinded, Many Patriots Injured.” The man who was murdered was 24-year Jan Hamorrik, a Slovak immigrant. Little, other than the fact that he was employed as a laborer, is known about him but he appears not to have lived in Minneapolis more than a year or so. His wife, Anna, gave birth to their daughter, also named Anna, on June 5, 1906, about a month before her father was killed. On the Fourth of July, Hamorrik was drinking with his friend Andrew Shurba in a saloon owned by Shurba’s son-in-law. Shurba’s son, Steven, who had been drinking heavily, came into the saloon and demanded that his father give him money to buy fireworks. His father refused and Steven struck him. Hamorrik intervened, striking Steven. Steven went to the back of the saloon and replaced the blank bullets in his 35-calibre gun with live ammunition. He headed toward the front of the saloon where he fired three shots. Two of them struck Hamorrik, one of them in his heart. He died on the way to the hospital. Although there was never any question that Steven shot Hamorrik, there were a number of complicated issues that came out during the trial. The majority of witnesses described Hamorrik as a Good Samaritan, a “peacemaker” who was trying to, if not defuse the situation, protect Andrew Shurba. During the trial, however, [...]

A Sister Remembered #199

A Sister Remembered #199

By Sue Hunter Weir Carolyne's grave. Her name was most often spelled Carolyne but is spelled Caroline on her marker. Photo credit Sue Hunter Weir Captain Nudd / Minnesota Historical Society Maude Wiggin is the forgotten sister in the Wiggin family tree even though she isn’t really all that hard to find. She was named in the 1870 census and when she died on December 12, 1877, her obituary appeared in the Minneapolis Tribune and it is easily accessed online. Maude died from something called “spinal disease,” most likely spinal meningitis. She was 13 years and nine months old. Her sister, Carolyne, was 12. There were also two other younger sisters, Nancy and Mae. Carolyne, Nancy and Mae appear on several family trees on ancestry.com but there is no mention of Maude. It’s almost as though she never existed, yet she is buried in the Wiggin-Nudd family plot near her grandmother, Nancy Wiggin Nudd. Her cousin, Captain Charles Nudd, a Civil War veteran, is buried there, as is a woman named Mary Nudd, whose connection to the family is something of a mystery. The Nudd-Wiggin family was typical of most of the cemetery’s earliest burials. They were transplanted New Englanders, many of whom could trace their families back to the American Revolution. Carolyne and Maude’s great-great-grandfather, Andrew Wiggin, “immediately responded to the call for soldiers made in 1877. James Wiggin, their great-grandfather, one of Andrew’s 17 children, also enlisted. Andrew was 37 at the time, James was 17. Andrew was described in the History of Wolfesborough, New Hampshire as a man who “had little education, but was a man of probity and sound judgment, as evinced by the responsible positions in which his townsmen placed him. He held few offices on account of his lack of educational attainments, but no citizen was more respected, and few had greater influence in directing public affairs than he. He had much to do with the building of the town meeting house, [...]

Cemetery Events Summer ’22

Cemetery Events Summer ’22

Summer Events at Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery Photo courtesy of TIM MCCALL Check the Friends of the Cemetery Facebook page for more events in the summer and later in the fall. Want a tour but don't see one that works? Contact Sue Hunter Weir at s-hunt1@umn.edu to talk about setting one up. Open Streets East Lake Street Saturday, August 13, 11 AM-4:30 PM Stop by and play old-fashioned games (there will be prizes for the kids), take a self-guided smartphone tour, and talk with volunteers. Murder, Mayhem and More (sponsored by Preserve Minneapolis) Sunday, August 21, Tours at 10 AM and 1 PM 10 AM: Tour will cover the southeast quadrant of the cemetery which includes many of the oldest graves, as well as the grave of our most notorious criminal, and those of notable territorial pioneers. 1 PM: Tour will cover the southwest quadrant of the cemetery, including the grave of William Goodridge, a pre-Civil War conductor on the Underground Railroad, and his grandson, the first African-American child born in St. Anthony. The graves of dozens of Civil War veterans and other very interesting folk are also located in this section. Tour sign-ups will be listed at preserveminneapolis.org

# 198 Jack Ferman

# 198 Jack Ferman

Tales from the Cemetery by Susan Hunter Weir November 20, 2021, was a bittersweet day in the history of Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery. It was a sad day because it was the day that his wife and daughters buried Jack Ferman. It was a sweet day because he was buried where he wanted to be—in his family’s plot near the cemetery’s Lake Street gates. Jack’s was our first burial in 22 years and the first in the 21st century. If you attended one of the movies that we’ve shown in the cemetery and bought some snacks, there’s a good chance that you bought them from Jack. He attended every Memorial Day program for at least the past 20 years and possibly before that. He was at all of our fundraising events, always present and always helping out. He was on the Board of Friends of the Cemetery. He wrote about his immigrant grandparents who are buried in the cemetery in an Alley story published in January 2016. He followed politics, both local and national, closely and was a frequent contributor to e-democracy.com. He loved to tell jokes, most of them awful. Jack spent four years in the Navy. He had traced the story of his Norwegian seafaring family back to the 17th century. He had a Ph.D in metallurgy and worked on projects for General Motors and Westinghouse in the University’s Physics Department. Later, he worked for the Pollution Control Agency. One of the questions that we are most often asked is whether it is possible to be buried in the cemetery. The answer is almost always, “maybe, although it’s not very likely.” More than a century ago, in 1918, the City Council voted to close the cemetery to future burials. In 1935, they voted to allow exceptions for people who met certain conditions. Those who want to be buried there have to own a plot purchased before 1918 and to have a family member already buried in the cemetery. And the City has to approve the burial. Jack had the original deed to his family’s plot. It is dated [...]

Memorial Day 2022

Memorial Day 2022

The Tradition Continues By SUE HUNTER WEIR After a two-year hiatus, Memorial Day will be observed in Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery (corner of Cedar Avenue and Lake Street). The program begins at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 30th. Highlights include music by the Seward Community Concert Band (they begin playing about 9:40). Our keynote speaker is Milt Schoen, Vice Commander of American Legion Post #1. This event is supported by numerous groups and organizations including students from the Minnesota Transition School, Scout Troop #1, and American Legion Post #1 and Team Rubicon. We have a limited number of chairs so if you are able to, please bring a lawn chair. We hope to see you there. At 1 p.m., there will be an hour-long presentation about the history of the cemetery. Guests will be seated for the talk but are welcome to explore the grounds before or after the program. All events are free and open to the public. Everyone is welcome.

Tales from the Cemetery: Righting History

Tales from the Cemetery: Righting History

Bryan Tyner, Minneapolis’ first Black fire chief, pays tribute to Captain John Cheatham, Minneapolis’ first Black firefighter. By SUE HUNTER WEIR Something important happened in Minneapolis at 10 a.m. on Thursday, March 17, 2022. Street signs along the nine-block stretch of road between 34th Street and 43rd Street in South Minneapolis were replaced. What had been known as Dight Avenue became Cheatham Avenue. It’s the kind of change that causes some folks to rage about “cancel culture,” but others will see it for what it is—honoring John Cheatham, an honorable man whose contributions to the city’s history should have been recognized long ago. Charles F. Dight, a Socialist, served on the Minneapolis City Council from 1914 to 1918. He was one of three Socialists on the City Council at the time but the only one who lived in what was more or less a tree house that he built on 39th Avenue and Minnehaha Creek. He was described as a “conservative Socialist” meaning that he opposed the use of violence to effect social change which was not in and of itself a bad thing. If it stopped there, he might have gone down in history as an amiable eccentric. But he was not. He advocated for the forced sterilization of those who were deemed “defective.” It got worse. In 1933, he wrote to Hitler, praising him for his support for eliminating “mental defectives.” So how did he get a street named after him? The honor was conferred on him by his City Council colleagues at the end of his second term. To be fair, his belief in eugenics was not widely known. That became clear in 1923 when he founded the Minnesota Eugenics Society. It appears that the honor was bestowed upon him because his colleagues and local newspaper editors believed that he had come to his senses—that he had become a “Bad Socialist,” someone whose political party refused to endorse his candidacy for reelection. In the midst of the “Red Scare” that followed the [...]

Tales from Pioneers & Soldiers Cemetery: Bad Luck Followed Him

Tales from Pioneers & Soldiers Cemetery: Bad Luck Followed Him

By Sue Hunter Weir The Grand Army of the Republic Block which was established to prevent Civil War veterans from being buried as paupers. The block of graves was purchased in 1870-71, and Arthur Pruitt, who died in 1874, should have been buried here. For some reason he was not and was buried in an unmarked grave in the cemetery's paupers' section. Photo credit: Minnesota Historical Society, 1938. Bad things can happen to people for any number of reasons. Some people make bad decisions. Others simply have bad luck. Arthur Pruitt may well be one of the unluckiest people buried in the cemetery. The last ten years of his life was a series of tragedies, all of them beyond his control.  Arthur Pruitt was born in Kentucky sometime around 1837. He married Irene Elizabeth Tribble in Scott, Illinois on May 21, 1857. On May 7, 1864, he enlisted in Company B of the 27th Illinois Infantry. He signed on for 100 days. His military records state that he was 28 years old, that he was 5 feet 8 inches tall, and had light hair and blue eyes.  Three months after he enlisted. he was captured and sent to Andersonville Prison, the worst prisoner of war camp during the Civil War. Of the 45,000 men held captive there, 13,000 died from malnutrition and disease. He was released in a prisoner exchange on April 1, 1865. After the war, he and his wife settled in Memphis and that is when the first in what would turn out to be a series of heartbreaking losses began. Their children died during a yellow fever epidemic. Soon after, their house containing everything that they owned was destroyed by fire. They left Memphis in late 1873 and moved to Minnesota with an eye to starting over. Irene had relatives in Long Lake who had promised to help them but there was some misunderstanding. By the time that the couple arrived, the people who they were counting on to help them had moved to Missouri. Arthur found work and he and his wife stayed in Long Lake until February 6th when [...]

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