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Fundraising Underway To Restore Historic Iron Fence At Maple Park Cemetery

Maple Cemetery Fence
KSMU
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The fence at Maple Park Cemetery has fallen into disrepair.

The cemetery in central Springfield, known for its towering maple trees, was established in 1876.

A fundraiser this weekend will benefit Springfield’s Maple Park Cemetery. The cemetery encompasses 50 acres southeast of the Grand and Campbell intersection.

The land was used as fairgrounds in the 1800s. It was originally part of more than 200 acres owned by L.A. Campbell, the son of John Polk Campbell, Springfield's founder.

Tiffany Mims, superintendent of the nonprofit Maple Park Cemetery, said in the 1870s there was public outcry because the city’s main cemetery, Hazelwood, was so far out in the country, and people had a hard time visiting their loved ones’ graves.

"If you think about trying to take a horse or trying to walk from [Park Central Square] to Hazelwood, that would be a long walk," said Mims. "And families that couldn't afford to hire a carriage to take them out there or, you know, didn't have horses or a carriage of their own, you know, they would have to walk it."

Springfield citizens wanted a cemetery closer to town. So, six businessmen who were involved with the Greene County Agricultural and Mechanical Association, which operated an annual fair at the fairgrounds petitioned the court in May of 1876 to allow them to establish a not-for-profit cemetery association, and the court approved it.

They wanted the cemetery to be in the style of the rural cemetery movement, which was popular at the time. Mims said those were cemeteries often built just outside city limits and that were more like parks with lots of trees and green space.

"And the idea behind it was for people to bring their family, have a picnic on the grounds, visit their loved ones, you know, decorate and clean up their graves, that kind of stuff, and spend time here," she said.

Gazebo
Michele Skalicky
Gazebo at Maple Park Cemetery in Springfield

Maple Park Cemetery has a gazebo that’s believed to date back to when the cemetery was first built, but Mims says it could date back even further to when the land was used as fairgrounds.

Parker Paxson, son of a local businessman, was the first to be buried at Maple Park in July of 1876.

Other notable people who are buried at the cemetery are Davis Tutt who was killed by Wild Bill Hickok in a shootout on Park Central Square and Brevet Brigadier General John Craven McQuiston who fought in many Civil War battles and who served as a staff officer when the surrender ceremony took place between General Tecumseh Sherman and Confederal General Joe Johnston in Raleigh, SC.

Today thousands of people are buried at Maple Park, and people come from all over each year to view the hundreds of maple trees at the cemetery ablaze in their fall colors.

Maple Park Cemetery
Michele Skalicky
Sign at Maple Park Cemetery

Proceeds from a fundraiser Saturday, September 25, will go toward restoring an iron fence that surrounds part of the cemetery and that dates back to the 1800s. Mims said it’s missing some parts, and those will need to be remade, and "it needs to be straightened, it needs to be welded in places where there are parts, but they're not connected anymore, and then, of course, the biggest thing is it needs to be sandblasted and painted."

Tickets for a dinner Saturday are sold out, but you can go to the cemetery that day from 3 to 5 p.m. for guided tours. Actors will portray six people who are buried at Maple Park, including:

  • Lewis Tutt, businessman, investor and half brother of the infamous David Tutt
  • Sarah Graham who was murdered by her bigamist husband
  • Betty Love, a trailblazing photojournalist
  • Ellen Burge, founder of Burge Deaconess Hospital (now CoxHealth)
  • William Howard Johnson, pioneer civic leaders and Springfield's first city attorney

The tours are free, but donations will be accepted. And an online auction continues until noon Friday, September 24, at mapleparkcemetery.org.