COMO YOU KNOW: Columbia Cemetery

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 | 11:39 a.m. CDT; updated 6:40 p.m. CDT, Friday, May 9, 2014

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Columbia Cemetery was once a privately owned cemetery before the city took over its maintenance.

Full text

The Columbia Cemetery, located at 30 E. Broadway, was established almost two centuries ago in 1820. The original owners were Daniel P. Wilcox and his wife, Elizabeth. According to the Columbia Cemetery Association's history, the couple deeded the cemetery to the Corporation of Columbia on March 17, 1829.

The cemetery was neglected after the city took charge. According to the association's history, the Columbia Statesman in 1849 described it as being in "disgraceful condition" and wrote about the possibility of haphazard burials. In response to the article and the poor state of the cemetery, the Missouri General Assembly incorporated the Columbia Cemetery Association on Feb. 28, 1853.

The association's history also says that The Act of Incorporation gave control of the cemetery to seven trustees: Jefferson Garth, James R. Boyce, Moss Prewitt, W.F. Switzler, Richard C. Branham, H.H. Ready and James S. Rollins.

About five years later, in 1858, the Statesman ran another article detailing the improvements to the cemetery. Land had been purchased, a fence built and walkways and roadways created. More land purchases were made over the years, bringing the cemetery to its present size of almost 35 acres.

In 1877, a limestone vault was built in the middle of the cemetery for storing bodies that could not be buried immediately, which was sometimes a problem during the winter when the ground was frozen, according to the association's history.

Interesting facts:

According to a VOX magazine article, there is a rumor that a witch is buried in the midst of a circle of cedar trees. However, superintendent Tanja Patton said the trees were deliberately planted in a circle, and a bandstand used to be in the middle of them. Today, a tool shed stands in its place.

The cemetery has an African-American section and a Jewish section. The Jewish section is referred to as the Beth Olem cemetery, and it was established in 1880.

The Missouri State Historical Society recognized the cemetery as a historic site in 1996. The graveyard was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

The cheapest plan for one burial plot is $1,850, according to a July 2008 article in the Missourian.

Links and sources

A 2008 Missourian article about Columbia Cemetery and the "green cemeteries" movement.

A 2009 Vox article about Columbia's cemeteries.

Download a PDF report about the Jewish section of the cemetery.


Updated: April 23, 2013

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