Milwaukee’s History and Burial Trends of the Rich and Important at Forest Home Cemetery

A few weeks ago on my trip to Milwaukee, I visited the Forest Home Cemetery. It is a beautiful old cemetery and the final resting place of many of the most famous names of Milwaukee. It is a history lesson in Milwaukee and burial trends.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church developed the cemetery for the city. There were six cemeteries in the city at the time, but some were limited to specific religions and some were city run and poorly run with shallow graves. The church solicited money from 50 prominent Milwaukeeans to raise the initial money for the land on which the cemetery would stand.

The first person was buried at the cemetery in 1850 and shows the changes in burial trends over the years. Before the Civil War, most grave markers were made of limestone and marble, while after they were made of granite. This was due to the industrial age and a new ability to cut the harder and more durable stone.

Beauty is a Sign of the Times

As Milwaukee grew in wealth and size following the war due to the industrial age, from 20,000 in 1850 to 285,000 in 1900, more significant monuments filled the cemetery. They were designed in the Egyptian-style popular at the time and took the shape of obelisks, sarcophaguses, and urns. They are beautiful monuments that showcase the desire of the living to produce the most stunning and largest memorial for their dead.

The cemetery is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and caters to tourists. In the summer they offer tours. People can also drive and walk around on their own as we did. The man in the office was very helpful and gave us a map and guide. The guide included lists of people buried in the cemetery in the following categories:

  • Black Leaders
  • Early Educators
  • Leading Physicians
  • Military Heroes
  • Milwaukee Mayors
  • Milwaukee’s Beer Barons
  • Pioneering Women
  • Powerful Industrialists
  • Wisconsin Governors

We used the map and guide to find some graves with names we knew, but mostly we drove around and looked at the beautiful monuments. Many of them reminded me of some that I saw in the famous Bonaventure Cemetery in Savanah, GA. I will share pictures of that historic cemetery another time.

Images Tell the Story

For now, here are a few pictures from Forest Home Cemetery. I’ve made notes in the captions if the grave marked a famous person. Most of the pictures I took were of graves that I found interesting or beautiful.

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12 comments

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    • Catherine Lanser

      Yes, it’s interesting that graveyards are some of our most beautiful and peaceful places.

  1. Sherry

    Wow! This must have been such a memorable excursion! I am planning to go through a grave site in Belgium this upcoming summer. The town where my grandmother fled from is still fairly small. I will be looking for family names. I expect to be hit by a few emotions in this process.

    • Catherine Lanser

      Sherry that will be an amazing trip. I hope you are able to find some family stones.

  2. Kate Johnston

    Wow. Those are beautiful monuments. I remember as a kid doing gravestone etchings with my elementary school class, but can’t recall the purpose behind such an activity!

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