After Sherman County was
organized and Goodland became the County Seat, the cry went up to have a
cemetery. From The Adviser, July 15, 1886, “The fact that there are over
3,000 persons of all ages now residing in Sherman County demands that
some place be prepared in which to bury the dead. Where there are so
many people, deaths may be expected frequently, and yet there is not a
burial place in the county. It is not advisable to take some step in
this important matter?”
However, it was not until 1893
that the city fathers answered the cry by purchasing 20 acres north of
town in the NE¼ of 18-8-39 for a cemetery. Up until this time, the
unprotected plat had been repeatedly invaded by herds of cattle and
loose horses, so the directors wisely concluded to enclose the grounds
by a good, strong fence.
In 1899, the grounds of the
cemetery in north Goodland which had remained unkempt and allowed to
retrograde were to be groomed, the grass watered, trees planted and
other beautifying improvements made. Enough money had been raised by
popular subscription to put down a well, erect a windmill and tank, and
complete all the improvements. A great deal of credit was due to Mrs. C.
E. Swartz, who was instrumental in raising the necessary money and
getting the people interested in the matter. Additional improvements
were made in 1900 by setting out 100 shade trees.
Head stones for five ex-union
soldier’s graves were received in 1902, by Wallace Filer, quartermaster
of the local G.A. R. post, from the quartermaster’s department of the
United States Army, and they were put in place by a detail of the G.A.R.
Then in 1925, Jennie Copeland, president of the Goodland W.R.C., was
able to obtain headstones for the five remaining unmarked graves of
Civil War soldiers buried in the Goodland cemetery. The stones were
shipped from St. Louis to Mrs. Copeland, who saw that they were erected
over the graves.
Also in 1925, an association was
formed to plan and secure money for the cemetery. A large steel gate for
vehicles and two smaller gates for pedestrians were installed at the
entrances, which added materially to the improvement and appearance of
the cemetery. The gates swung from brick pillars, which also went to
adorn the grounds, and a new steel fence was also built on the east
front of the grounds. The money to defray the expenses of the
improvements made was once again raised by popular subscription.
In January 1935, the Public Works
division authorized the city to make extensive improvements at the
cemetery. A small chapel was appropriately built and finished so that
small services could be conducted in it, if desired. The building was 18
by 30 feet, of white stucco with red tile roof, built in Spanish style,
and had quite an artistic looking architecture appropriate to the
setting. It was placed near the center of the cemetery and was
The chapel was only one part of
this extensive cemetery improvement. All of the neglected graves were
leveled off and re-sodded; including the entire G.A.R. plot Block 9
(known since 1901 as the Grand Army plot), where headstones and markers
were aligned and reset. Other improvements included: Installing
additional water lines, removal of dead trees, planting of additional
trees, and landscaping of the front of the cemetery. The fence was fixed
to keep rabbits out, in an attempt to prevent damage to young trees, and
roadways throughout the cemetery were graded and surfaced.
In 1949 the cemetery acquired an
additional 300 feet frontage to the south of the main cemetery. With a
depth of 90 feet, the additional space was a must, as within five more
years the existing cemetery would have been entirely full. As soon as it
was possible, the new addition was put in proper order and shrubbery was
A new Cemetery Board formed in
1956 to aid in the improvement of the cemetery. New barrels were placed
throughout the grounds so it would be convenient for the public to
deposit trash. Water lines were extended and a man was hired to bring
the water lines up to date. Long-range plans for the improvement of the
cemetery were also established.
In 1967 an additional 22.63 acres
of land was purchased adjoining the cemetery to the north. This property
is known as Cemetery Site II.
In 1976 chapel restoration
was completed with the addition of new carpet and pews. The outside was
painted white and the doors were repaired. The cemetery also got an
overall appearance update with grass neatly trimmed and benches added
throughout the grounds. Bronze plaques were purchased for “hours open”
and placed on both east gates. Block 10 in Site II was sold to the
V.F.W. and American Legion in May 1976 so that any veteran could be
buried in a military cemetery plot if they choose.
1981 saw a major addition to the
cemetery when long-time supporter and cemetery board member Doris Soden
had a Bell Tower built and placed to the southeast corner of the chapel
as a memorial to his late wife, Nelle Soden, who had passed away in
1971. The memorial is made of beautifully polished Carnelian granite,
and features appropriate lettering. The structure has a foundation
extending 15 feet down from ground level of solid concrete reinforced
with steel bars and weighing 35 tons. Above ground level, the granite
tower stands 32 ½ feet high and weighs 32 tons. The completed project
weighs a total of 67 tons. The Bell Tower is equipped with chimes, which
permit various kinds of music to be played, before, during or after a
service. During a dedication service on July 20, 1981, the Bell Tower
was gifted to the Goodland City Cemetery.
Another beautiful addition added
in the 1980’s was the iron and brick fence along the east side of the
cemetery. Two new large gates were placed at the entrances on the east
end of the Cemetery Site I, and four small matching gates installed as
walk-in gates at either end of the large gates. A “Cemetery Map Shelter”
was built at the north side of the chapel, and chain link fencing was
installed along the west side of the cemetery. In the middle 1980’s the
flagpoles were installed along the road, between Site I and Site II, for
the parade of flags on Memorial Day, and the old door on the chapel was
replaced with a new solid core hardwood door in 1982.
In the early 2000's, two Eagle
Scout projects were added to the cemetery. The first
project, by Scout David Russell was a memorial for Unborn Children
dedicated in July 2001. It is located to the west of the All Faith
Chapel, and includes a bench to allow people to pause and seek solace or
to simply enjoy the beauty of the monument and the quiet. The second
project, by Scout Jacob Erickson was the addition of three metal benches
at the Veterans Memorial. The project included a level concrete area and
sidewalks for wheel chair accessibility. It was dedicated in April of
2003. Both young men should be commended on the fine job they did on
their projects and on improving our cemetery.
In the fall of 2005 and spring of
2006, the Chapel once again underwent another major facelift. This
included: a new roof, new vinyl windows, stucco repair, chimney and
soffet repairs, filling in the basement windows and dirt work around the
In the summer of 2019, the
Cemetery Board in cooperation with the City of Goodland installed an
Ossuarium just to the West of the Chapel. This Ossuarium was the
first of its kind in Northwest Kansas.
Over the years, there have been
several Caretakers responsible for the upkeep of the Goodland Cemetery.
Under their expert care it has become no secret that the Goodland
Cemetery is one of the best-kept cemeteries in this area and the people
of Sherman County are very proud of it.
There have been many, many
changes to the Cemetery in its more than 100-year history. Through
grit and determination, it was forged from a simple cow pasture and
has evolved to a well-manicured oasis on the Kansas prairie. It has
endured through hardship and prosperity. We are so very fortunate to
have such a place of beauty and tranquility, and we honor and thank
all of the people, both past and present, which have made this small
plot of land their labor of love.