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A Look at Historical Union Hill Cemetery in Kansas City, MO

Updated on February 26, 2013

Union Hill Cemetery Tombstone

Inscription: B.M. JEWETT M.D. Born Aug 20, 1810 in Greenwich, Mass Died Jan 6, 1879 in Kansas City MO   ANNA M. Born Jun 27, 1848 Died July 24, 1867
Inscription: B.M. JEWETT M.D. Born Aug 20, 1810 in Greenwich, Mass Died Jan 6, 1879 in Kansas City MO ANNA M. Born Jun 27, 1848 Died July 24, 1867

Union Hill Cemetery, Kansas City, MO

I view cemeteries as locations where lives are continuously memorialized. Having driven past this historical cemetery many times, I decided I needed to see its history. The cemetery is over 150 years old. It is the home of many Civil War veterans. In 1849, a cholera epidemic had affected the area. Cemeteries in what used to be called the Town of Kansas, which is now Kansas City, Missouri, and Westport, which still exists, were enjoined, a "union," if you will of victims to the epidemic. This is how the cemetery received its name.

Initially, the cemetery was erected on 49 acres, but is only about 27 acres now. Over 50,000 people are buried here, but many do not have markers. There is a historical society associated with this cemetery.

Union Hill Cemetery is located on what must have been a hill at one time. It is surrounded by a black wrought iron fence. This cemetery with its markers and fence looked very distinct against the well taken care of green lawn that was garnished with yellow dandelions. In the entrance to the cemetery, to the right, a very old small white house stood which could cause a visitor to wonder if at one time a groundskeeper was employed to greet people, or to help people locate a specific gravesite. There was also a sign posted on the house indicating the cemetery is an historical site and that tours are self-guided.

After passing the house, again to the right, there was a wide open area with just a few markers. I wondered if possibly there used to be other markers at one point in time because the markers are very old. I was curious about the graves having no markers. Some of the graves dated back to the Civil War era.

As I continued my exploration, I was thinking how at one time this cemetery must have been just part of a growing city, and that now it's only near the heart of an ever and on growing city with suburbs. With nearby buildings being converted into upscale apartments, some of which rest only a few feet from the wrought iron fence enclosing the old gravesites, there is an interesting reinvention of opinion that seems to take place. Who would want to live next to a cemetery? That's a commonplace query. It seems ordinary to not choose to reside so close to one, but in light of the historical beauty of this cemetery plus the downtown area convenience, acceptance and desire are noteworthy.

On my first trip to this cemetery, I noted a 5 mph speed limit sign, but was concerned I should not be driving the pathway because it was very narrow. Upon seeing a couple of other vehicles inside, I proceeded. I noted joggers presuming they lived nearby, and watched them running back and forth through the paved paths as if they were strolling through a park.

The first Civil War marker I paid attention to was inscribed "Sam. L Troutman." There was a dot between the "m" in Sam and the "L" and I wondered if it was a shortened version of the name, Samuel. The marker had obviously undergone the effects of weather and time. There was a tombstone dedicated to "La Hines" containing an old base with a newly erected monument made of red tinted marble. There were tree trunk designed tombstones which were interesting to observe. One of the designed included a squirrel. This type of creative or artistic marker seemed to be more personal.

There were a lot of square and rectangular shaped markers. Some of the older ones were not legible at all, but pronounced antiquity. There was one I saw causing me to wonder if it ever contained an inscription.

There were two tombs, the fronts of which were abutted against the earth in that the rest of the tomb was buried. One held the family name of Gree and the other of McGee, the latter dating back to 1884.

A lot of old markers were overcome with moss and weather effects. The newly designed markers were of engraved marble. Some of the old markers had raise letters causing me to wonder about the concrete casts or forms that were used at one time. There were few I recalled seeing that had inverted engraving. Another interesting marker had gates on it that were open and a dove was depicted at the top, and below the gates were the words, "enter in."

On my second journey to the cemetery, the sun was out and the lawn was wonderfully green. I remember thinking if I lived closer to this cemetery, I would want to plant flowers near several of the grave sites, especially in the section for infants. There were so many markers dating back to the late 1800s.

One comparison in markers I noted was of the surname, Swain. The older marker on the left had a very interesting architectural design at the top which depicted some type of cover with tassels. I wondered if it was just a design the surviving members had selected, or if it was representative of some favorite cover or blanket. When you look to the right of the marker, you immediately note the new condition and casting material of marble.

With most of the markers I was draw to, they dated to the late 1800s. I would imagine a group of family members standing in a half circle nearby with the men dressed in black with dusty boots and women in their long dresses and bonnets.

The monumental markers stood quite tall and several had begun to lean from the ground settling. As I looked across the grounds, I thought of how many people were buried there, what their lives must have been like and what kinds of goals could they have had. In looking at each marker, a life was represented. In noticing the styles of some of the markers, I tried to decipher or at least imagine what the meaningful message was with each image or message. Aside from realizing the cemetery existed during the Civil War, I wondered how much history existed in this cemetery.


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