A couple of weekends ago, I took a walking tour of Wyuka cemetery in Lincoln, Nebraska. It took over three hours of walking along ancient brick-cobbled roads through acres and acres of pine, cottonwood, and cedar trees with the sun filtering through leaves and dappling the ground. At the end of that time, I was a so tired I was ready to tell my guide to just dig a hole, stuff me into it, and leave me there. He didn’t; so in spite of that, I came away informed and a little awed by what I had seen.

Wyuka has been around almost as long as the city. In 1869, two years after the founding of Lincoln as the state capital, the Nebraska legislature passed an act to provide the city a State Cemetery. The first site was along Salt Creek near the State Asylum but because there was a danger of flooding there, 80 acres were purchased east of the city.

The first thing one notices is the fence surrounding the cemetery, black, wrought-iron pickets with spearhead points. This fence once surrounded the entire University of Nebraska campus and its gates were so narrow that on a night when a fire blazed, fire equipment couldn't get through. Many building, including that which would become the Nebraska State Museum housing Archie the Mammoth, were destroyed because of this. Needless to say, the gates were enlarged; later as the campus grew, they were moved to Wyuka.

Wyuka hold a vast number of personages, known and unknown, of all races and creeds, infamous and famous. Here can be found a friend of Charles Lindbergh, killed in a plane crash, his tombstone a wooden airplane propeller, along with a letter written by the famous pilot, embedded in a stone plaque. Actor and singer Gordon McRae makes his final resting place here, the opening bars of “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” inscribed on the stone. A black soldier who fought with the Union army during the War Between the States shares the ground with a loving couple who have a stone bench near their site, inviting people “to Sit,” nearby a picnic table and benches do the same. A 4-ton granite monolith in the shape of a tree trunk, symbolizing death and resurrection marks a family plot. Mass murderer Charles Starkweather and several of his victims rest in the same hallowed ground. An American soldier who died fighting in a regiment sent to fight the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution rests under a shady shrubbery.

Angels, shrouded figures, and animals hovered over markers. A Grecian monument marks the grave of Robert Allington, engineer, chemist, inventor, and entrepreneur, who entered the University of Nebraska at age 16 and went on to become a multimilliionaire though paralyzed with polio. Many victims of the 1917 Spanish influenza, as well as three governors are buried here. Other stones bear a single word…”Mother,” or perhaps the most poignant of all…”Our Baby.” There’s a memorial to the Holocaust, firefighters, 9-11, as well veterans of other wars and conflicts. Mausoleums and crypts, built into the hillsides, their walls covered with soil, gather in little communities all their own, and a water tower, which was used to irrigate the grounds, looms as round and imposing as an ancient Norman castle.

I didn’t finish the tour so I'll have to go back for the rest. As soon as I get the energy.

(PICTURED ABOVE: Baby marker; BELOW: Bronze door wreath; Mother; Hathaway tree; Gordon McRae's stone; Oldest stone in Wyuka (1869); propeller; mausoleum; Allington monument; Sawyer orb; Witte stone)











































































7 comments

  1. Jianne Carlo // July 15, 2010 at 2:19 PM  

    Toni,

    What a fascinating stroll. I love wandering through graveyards as well and trying to imagine the lives of those buried there.

    In March we were lucky enough to tour the Tombstone graveyard. So interesting.

    Thanks for the tour,

    Jianne

  2. Joanne // July 15, 2010 at 8:35 PM  

    Toni,
    You never cease to amaze me. What stories these graveyards tell.

  3. Mary Marvella // July 15, 2010 at 10:57 PM  

    Informative and inviting, Toni. I felt as though I walked beside you. Love the photos!

  4. Mona Risk // July 15, 2010 at 11:00 PM  

    Toni, that was a great post. I went to Omaha several times on business trips and never found anything to do after the official meetings!!

  5. Autumn Jordon // July 16, 2010 at 1:55 AM  

    I too love walking through cemetries and learning a little of the area's history through the markers. I always wonder above the lives of those I stop and view.

    It sounds like you really enjoyed your visit, no matter how tiring it was.

  6. Judy // July 16, 2010 at 8:40 AM  

    Great post, Toni! I remember taking a group of 4th graders to an old New England cemetary for grave rubbings and it's amazing what you learn about people. I, of course, was already making up stories about them! LOL

  7. Mary Ricksen // July 16, 2010 at 2:14 PM  

    Wonderful post Toni.
    These kind of posts make me wistful and sad at the same time. Wistful
    To know that there are so many places and things in this world that I will never get to see. I feel sad.
    Thanks for the blog and the pictures are fantastic. I feel almost like I was there too when I see what you are describing. Good one!
    I too used to love to wander through graveyards on a moonlit nite. Crazy me.