There are many listservs and online groups dedicated to Tombstone Tourists. These TTs are also known as “cemetery enthusiasts,” “grave hunters,” and “taphophiles.” Tombstone tourists like to view historic graveyards and cemeteries to connect with history, whether personal or regional. With Nebraska’s rich history, several historic cemeteries in Nebraska make the list for visiting.
And, yes, we number ourselves among these tourists. We love history – and consider ourselves caretakers of it because of our profession!
So here are some of our favorite historic cemeteries in Nebraska that you can respectfully visit (and one you can’t visit!) to see some authentic Nebraska history firsthand.
Ball Cemetery is the only cemetery on this list that is privately-owned. As such, it is not open to the public. The property owner will chase you off with his shotgun and his dog, or so it’s rumored. Rumor also has it that this cemetery is one of the most haunted spots in Nebraska. (But we can save those eerie details for a future blog – perhaps closer to Halloween.)
Many of the gravestones in this historic cemetery are written in Czech. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information available online for this cemetery, but it is one of the oldest in the area.
North of the original settlement of Ogallala, a small hill was the rural area’s first burial ground. This ground became known as “Boot Hill” during the 1880s’ Texas Trail era. The nickname “Boot Hill” refers to when unlucky cowboys were buried with their boots on.
Through the years, there have been numerous stories of those days when gun battles took their toll on human life. So many buried at Boot Hill ran afoul of the law, and the streets of Ogallala echoed with gunfire as some slick (or not-so-slick) gambler or horse thief met his end. “Rattlesnake Ed” was one of these burials. A fellow card player shot him over a nine-dollar bet in a Monte game in the “Cowboy’s Rest Saloon.”
Gravediggers lowered the bodies, placed in canvas sacks, into shallow graves and marked them with a wooden headboard. As a result, Boot Hill is unique. And buried in its sod are the many stories of the early days of Ogallala.
Founders established this small cemetery in the 1800s. It is cared for now by the city of Dakota City.
This twenty-acre cemetery, located south of Maxwell, holds more than ten thousand graves. Through the years, the graveyards of twenty-three abandoned frontier towns were moved to Ft. McPherson. The last of these moves occurred in 1947.
The Fort McPherson National Cemetery is famously known as the only national cemetery in the state of Nebraska.
Originally, this graveyard was the post cemetery of Fort McPherson, a U.S. Army facility established to protect settlers moving west to Colorado. The U.S. military abandoned the fort itself in 1880, although they retained a large tract of land dedicated to a national cemetery in 1873.
Today, the Fort McPherson National Cemetery is the final resting place for soldiers from the Indian Wars, the Civil War, World Wars, and other national conflicts.
Notably, Fort McPherson National Cemetery is the final resting place for four Medal of Honor recipients. The U.S. Medal of Honor is our nation’s highest military decoration, awarded for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.“
Other significant interments include 63 Buffalo soldiers from the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry. These African American soldiers served in the West during the Indian Wars after the Civil War. Interred initially at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, these soldiers’ gravesites were transferred to Fort McPherson National Cemetery in 1947 when the fort was deactivated.
Many Omaha historians consider Prospect Hill Cemetery to be Omaha’s oldest cemetery. Many of the city’s earliest pioneers, politicians, and business leaders are interred here. These burials were added in with the Native Americans and Mormon pioneers buried on the land before it became Prospect Hill.
Since 1858, approximately 15,000 burials recorded in this cemetery, including those of many Omaha pioneers. Deuel, Gaylord, Hall, Hanscom, Hitchcock, Kennard, Kountze, Krug, Lake, Lowe, McCague, Metz, Millard, Poppleton, Redick, Reed, Shinn, and Anna Wilson and her good friend Dan Allen are a few of the names that dot the Prospect Hill registry. All of these are Omaha developers, religious leaders, mayors, judges, and benefactors.
There are military burials from the Civil War and early-day Omaha Barracks (later Fort Omaha, now the Fort Omaha Campus of Metro Community College) and many from armed conflicts dating back to the War of 1812. In addition, the Cemetery’s Spanish-American War memorial, dedicated in 1900, commemorates Nebraskans who fought and died in that war.
For Any Of These Historical Sites….
…or for additional ones we’ll talk about in the future, we can help preserve these snapshots of times past.
We take pride in helping historic cemeteries in Nebraska, churches, communities, and families preserve their monuments’ structural integrity and beauty. Contact the experts at Monument Solutions for professional preservation assistance today.