May 26, 2023 - News

Des Moines anticipates 20K cemetery visitors this Memorial Day

Volunteers decorated graves of hundreds of veterans at Glendale Cemetery this week. Photo: Courtesy of the city of DSM

About 20,000 people will visit Des Moines cemeteries between now and June 1, city officials estimate.

Zoom in: There are more than 350 acres of burial grounds at seven municipal cemeteries: Woodland, St. Ambrose, Glendale, Oak Grove, Laurel Hill, Sims and Elm Grove.

🪦 State of play: DSM's cemetery system averaged just over 550 annual burials over the last five years, according to city data.

  • There were 177,254 total interments as of May 4.

Between the lines: Nearly 600 volunteers donated about 3,300 hours last year to fix, improve and restore the grounds or monuments.

The intrigue: The oldest is Woodland, which was planned prior to the 1851 incorporation of the town of "Fort Des Moines."

  • Burials include hundreds of unknown orphans on "baby hill," where they were stacked on top of each other in crate-like caskets in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
  • Former Iowa Gov. Samuel Merrill, early DSM settler Hoyt Sherman and Drake University founder George Thomas Carpenter are buried at Woodland.

1 cool thing to go: You can take a self-guided tour and watch short videos about some of the people buried at Woodland on your phone.


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