You only have to walk through Mound Cemetery to get a glimpse of Brooklyn Center history.
"I think it's really a place of serenity," said Michael Howe, president of the Mound Cemetery Association. Howe plans to be buried here someday, right alongside some of his ancestors who helped found the cemetery 150 years ago.
"There's been a long tradition in our family of being involved in cemetery," said Howe.
A group of farmers and lumbermen who settled the Brooklyn Township established Mound Cemetery on May 2, 1862. The two-acre hill was purchased for $2 from James and Eliza Henderson with the stipulation that it be used for a cemetery. Founders called the cemetery "Mound Cemetery" after several burial mounds that were located around nearby Palmer Lake.
"If you can imagine 150 years ago on the top of hill, it was the highest area in community," said Howe.
The land already had gravesites on it, however. The earliest markers cite 1855 as the date of the person's death, which predates the state of Minnesota. Other acres were added over time and a cemetery association formed in 1873.
"It is just a little, country cemetery," said Howe. "I think the cemetery is kind of a quiet jewel in the center of the city."
A changing cemetery
Old handwritten records in the office show immigrants from Sweden, Norway, and Germany plus their cause of death like tuberculosis or dropsy. Today information is catalogued and searchable on the computer.
The cemetery still reflect's the community's changing population. Some recent sections of the cemetery are for Hmong immigrants; there's another set of gravestones with Arabic writing that are facing east toward Mecca for Muslims.
"We have a real ethnic diversity," said Dan Kantar, cemetery manager.
Cemeteries across the country are adapting to the new burial trend of cremation and Mound Cemetery is no different.
"Our cremation burials are outnumbering our natural and traditional burials," said Kantar.
A new section of cemetery will accommodate the people who want cremation but still want a permanent resting place. The columbarium spaces are beside another new area called the Garden of Serenity. Historically, the area was outside of the cemetery fence and acted as a "potter's field" for pioneers who died while travelling through and didn't have the money to be buried inside of the cemetery. A new walkway will protect the space as well as act as a memorial for people who are buried elsewhere but want to be remembered in Brooklyn Center. People can have their name engraved on a rock in the pathway.
"It's keeping up with the times," said Kantar.
The Cemetery recently earned the distinction of being a certified green burial cemetery from the Green Burial Council. If someone chooses a green burial, they will not include a burial vault, not be embalmed, and use a biodegradable casket. In Minnesota, that could even be a shroud. Kantar says more people are inquiring about green burial options and the cemetery has already had one green burial.
Mound Cemetery will celebrate its history and accomplishments in a special event on Memorial Day.
"Now and Then" Celebration
Monday, May 28 at 11 a.m.
Mound Cemetery of Brooklyn Center
Memorial Day service cosponsored with Palmer Lake VFW Post 3915, Clarence LaBelle VFW post 217, and Brooklyn Center American Legion Post 630.
Civil War reenactment by the First Regiment of Minnesota Volunteer Infantry reenactors
Music provided by the Band of Praise, a Minnesota Jazz Funeral Band
Dedication of the Garden of Serenity
Shannon Slatton, reporting
May 26, 2012