|Entrance of Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery|
That's what I learned when my friend Ann Risch and I visited the oldest surviving burial ground in the city, a 15-minute bike ride from my home. Thousands of bodies have been removed from Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery, leaving 7,000 empty plots owned by Minneapolis.
Pioneers and Soldiers opened in 1853 at Lake St. and Cedar Ave., the only Minnesota cemetery on the National Register of Historic Places. Founded by an abolitionist, it was one of the few unsegregated cemeteries of its time, the final resting place of African American businessmen, fire fighters, and Civil War veterans. For 25 years, it was the only Minneapolis cemetery that accepted bodies of those who died without money or family to bury them. Plots cost $1 dollar.
|See all the green space|
A civic campaign to save the cemetery from being turned into a public playground or sold to business interests for development succeeded. In 1927, the Minneapolis City Council voted to purchase the cemetery and implement improvements, including the current limestone and iron fence.
Could Minneapolis start offering those 7,000 empty plots for natural burial? What would be the requirements? No embalming, biodegradable caskets or shrouds, no concrete grave liners, and environmentally-friendly grave markers. Being a pioneer for green burials right in the city would be fitting for a cemetery that pioneered a desegregated burial ground over a century ago!
|Tattered flag at Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery October 2014|
For more information, visit friendsofthecemetery.org or contact the City of Minneapolis’ Division of Public Works at (612) 729-8484