Why was Maple Park Cemetery created?
The creation and development of the cemetery was to give the citizens a burial grounds nearby. At the time, Hazelwood, the city cemetery, was two miles outside of city limits and four miles from the square downtown. The distance made it difficult for many people to visit their loved ones' graves due to it being a long walk or needing to hire a carriage to take them there. Citizens of the city had complained in the newspaper about it being a shame that the city built the cemetery so far away that it made it difficult for many to visit it. The concerns of the city citizens prompted six businessmen to begin the association and cemetery as a not-for-profit cemetery, and it has operated as one since.
In the nineteenth century, a popular cemetery movement swept across the nation called the rural cemetery movement. The idea started in France; the main idea was for the cemeteries to be outside of town, have beautiful landscaping, and encourage the citizens to take a walk, enjoy the cemetery and the park-like setting. It was common for people to pack a lunch, walk to the cemetery, have a picnic, and enjoy the grounds. The planting of maple trees was a priority early on to provide the cemetery for people to enjoy the shade of the trees on their outings. In fact, at one point, they considered naming the cemetery Maple Shade Cemetery.
Well known for its large maple trees and the spectacular color of the leaves in the fall Maple Park Cemetery has become a destination for many people every fall. People will travel from other states to see the fall colors and take photographs. It can take more time in the fall to make your way through the cemetery due to the large number of people driving and walking through the cemetery enjoying the atmosphere. Year-round, the cemetery has many walkers, runners, and bicyclists to get exercise and enjoy the peacefulness and nature in the cemetery. The cemetery association strives to keep it a place of tranquility in the city.
History of the Land
John Polk Campbell originally owned the land on which this cemetery is situated and much more land in the area. Through his will, he gave his son, L. A. Campbell, over 200 acres of land, who developed the large plot of land into a fruit farm and built his residence on it. He sold 30 acres in the northwest section of his land to an agricultural association. It was used as fairgrounds for a few years, and then they sold it to the cemetery association. On May 19th, 2021, the cemetery association turned 145 years old.
Leonidas "Lonnie" Adolphus Campbell, son of John Polk Campbell. Courtesy of the Museum on the Square.
Features of the Cemetery
The cemetery has a beautiful historic gazebo just inside the entrance. It is unknown who built the gazebo, but the association believes it was built either shortly after creating the cemetery or when it was a fairground. It has a unique architecture with the onion dome cupola, along with several features that most people overlook, the horseshoe-shaped openings, the four-leaf clover, and cross designs near the roof. It was initially created as a bandstand and for community use for gatherings and speeches.
Several years ago, the board of directors undertook the massive task of restoring the gazebo to its original beauty. Financial support from people in the community was invaluable to be able to complete the restoration. We regularly continue to address maintenance needs and the ongoing preservation of them. We strive to ensure it remains for generations to come.
Last year there was a successful fundraiser that allowed us to repair, restore, and paint the antique fence along Grand Street. The cemetery has painted the fence along Campbell Avenue and is currently fundraising to paint the fence along Jefferson Avenue, work has already begun on that fence.