Minneopa, county's oldest cemetary, marks 150 years.
By Tim Krohn, Free Press Staff Writer
Photos by Luke Gronneberg
June 2005, Mankato -- John and Beth Norman and a few family members were hunting out a headstone, without much luck.
“I thought it was around here, but I’m just not sure. It was years ago I found it,” said Beth Norman.
A woman studies the dramatic grave marker of a teenage girl buried at Minneopa Cemetery.
The Normans of Lake Crystal were at Minneopa Cemetery Sunday looking for the grave site of John Norman’s great-great grandfather, Thomas Evans.
The cemetery, on a hill between Minneopa State Park’s water falls and campgrounds is filled with Evans, Jones, Seppmans and other settlers, as well as grave sites from recent years.
The Blue Earth County Historical Society held an open house and tours Sunday to mark the 150 anniversary of Minneopa, the county’s oldest cemetery.
Win Grundmeier a historian who has researched the cemetery and who was giving tours Sunday, said the cemetery was started by Welsh settlers.
“The first burial was in October of 1855, a babe girl, barely two, who died on the trip here,” Grundmeier said.
The original stone that marked Ann Jones’ grave wore down and the marker was replaced in 1995. It was an exact replica of the original stone except with the words “First Burial.”
Soon after it was established, the cemetery came under control of South Bend Township. But Grundmeier said a ghastly, little know incident led to a takeover of the cemetery after the turn of the century.
“When the railroad went past the cemetery it cut into the hillside. In 1908 there were some heavy rains and it washed six graves don the hillside,” Grundmeier said.
Georgia Schultz gives a tour of the Minneopa Cemetery. The Blue Earth County Historical Society celebrated the cemetery's 150th year Sunday with walking and riding tours.
The railroad, he said, quickly made reparations of $60,000, but township officials spent most of the money on roads and refused to spend the money to reinforce the hillside.
“That caused a lot of consternation. People couldn’t let that stand so they took control of the cemetery and set up a board to run it.” The cemetery continues to be operated by a cemetery association.
In order to maintain adequate funding, the cemetery association began in 1941 to collect a perpetual care fee. Half the purchase price of a plot is put into a perpetual care fund. In 1971, Ester Daniels a lifelong resident and school teacher in Mankato, left one-third of here estate to the Minneopa Cemetery. The crypt in the cemetery was dedicated to here memory.
The cemetery expanded in 1946 when the state gave land across the road from the cemetery in exchange for some land the cemetery owned adjacent to Minneopa State Park.
Besides being the oldest cemetery in the county, it has an amazing record when it comes to caretakers. Arthur Roberts served 64 years on the association board, from 1917 until his death in 1981. His daughter, Ruth Roberts Otto, also served 40 years a secretary of the association.
On Sunday, a steady stream of visitors stopped by the cemetery. Several actors, wearing period dress, sat by some of the gravesites and played the role of the person buried there, recounting the highlights of their lives for the visitors.
The cemetery tours were in conjunction with a centennial celebration open house at nearby Minneopa State Park.