927 Jackson St., St. Paul, MN 55117
When you write, be sure to include a SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope), with a donation. This is a courtesy, in recognition that the business of a cemetery is to care for burials and the burial grounds, not to correspond with family historians.
With the founding of the Oakland Cemetery Association in 1853, St. Paul had one of the first formal non-sectarian burial places in the developing territory. It began with 40 acres, and was expanded as other burial grounds in the area were absorbed. Today, Oakland has 100 acres, and remains non-sectarian. It is bounded by Jackson, Magnolia, Sylvan and Sycamore Streets, two miles north of the Mississippi River. There are approximately 48,000 burials.
Two church-related burial grounds are among those annexed to Oakland, including the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, and the Christ Church - Episcopal. The Zion records before the annexation in 1905 were published as the first volume in this series, under the title Oakland Cemetery - Zion Block. The records from the Christ Church preceding its annexation to Oakland in the 1860s were published in the Minnesota Genealogist, Vol. 21, No. 4.
Because of its distance from the populated area of St. Paul and its statuesque oak trees, Oakland became a site for picnics. Families would bring their lunch, visit the graves of their family members and tend to them, while the children would play. Though now completely surrounded by development, the cemetery retains its serenity and peacefulness. The gates and fence are now modern. The chapel has been razed, as was the original office building and the greenhouses constructed about a century ago.
Detailed record keeping began in 1860 under the direction of Morris Lanpher, actuary. Five books of transcriptions from the interment records have now been published. Oakland's interment books include name, age, nativity (where born), sex, marital status, date, place and cause of death, when and where interred. (Bodies brought during the winter were stored until the ground softened in the spring.) All are available from Park Genealogical Books.
The volumes include:
Many well-known pioneers are buried here: Harriet Bishop, first school teacher in St. Paul; Governors Alexander Ramsey and Henry S. Sibley; Brigadier General John B. Sanborn, who served with distinction during the Civil War; Norman Kittson, early trader and politician for whom the county is named; Elizabeth Jeffries, one of the first members of the church organized by Dr. Thomas Williamson during his work among the Dakota Indians; Ta-Ti, the widow of Chaska, who saved hundreds of whites during the Dakota Conflict; Charles E. Flandrau, Indian agent and judge; and many others, notable and notorious.
The cemetery is interesting to tour. There are areas established for various groups, including Chinese, Hmong, Orthodox Christians; a variety of monuments from the trees of life to lambs to hand carved stones to ornate sarcophagi; an area set aside for burial of the poor, and another for soldiers, and yet another for firefighters. The photos here were chosen to help you experience the atmosphere of this historical cemetery.
Rober Orr Baker's article "Oakland Cemetery: A Safe and Permanent Resting Place" provides additional information on the cemetery. It can be found in Ramsey County History, Vol. 16, No. 1, 1980, published by the Ramsey County Historical Society.
Click on the images to see full-sized photos.
Competitors in the political scene, the graves of Alexander Ramsey and Henry Hastings Sibley are in close proximity. Both were governors, both had counties named for them, both served Minnesota in Washington DC, both were presidents of the Minnesota Historical Society, both were active in many facets of public service.
Ramsey's brother Justus came to St. Paul in 1849 and engaged in the grocery business and real estate transactions. He was a representative in the Territorial Legislature for three terms.
Norman Kittson came to Minnesota in 1834, working first in the sutler's department at Fort Snelling and then as a fur trader. He too was prominent in the early political life of the Territory and State, and has had a county named for him.
Abram S. Elfelt was a merchant who came to St. Paul in 1850. A street in St. Paul in named for him.
Like most older cemeteries, Oakland has a typical Soldiers' Rest for Civil War veterans. Gen. John B. Sanborn arrived in Minnesota in 1854, and began the Civil War as Minnesota's Adjutant General and organized the first troops sent to serve. In 1862 he then became the Colonel with the 4th Minnesota, became a brigadier general in 1863, and was brevetted major general in 1865. His monument lists the battles in which he served.
The early Chinese community established a small burial ground near the early church cemeteries. As time passed it was incorporated as a part of Oakland Cemetery, and many monuments still include Chinese characters. It is not surprising that the more recently arrived Hmong community is represented at Oakland as well.
The Easter Orthodox section is near the Chinese section, and is notable for the crosses marking the monuments.
Alton R. Dalrymple came to Minnesota from Pennsylvania in 1877, and owned a large farm in the Red River Valley. Until his death in 1901 he managed his uncle Oliver Dalrymple's 40,000 acre farm, his steamboard and grain elevators. He lived in St. Paul after 1886.
Monuments commemorating the tree of life are sprinkled throughout the cemetery. This one has a chair for visitors.
The St. Paul Fire Department bought a section for the burial of firefighters who were unmarried here and at Calvary Cemetery. Both have a statue of a firefighter carrying a small child.
Oakland's markers range from unique obelisks and monuments to simple stones. Charles E. Flandrau arrived in St. Paul in 1853, already an attorney. He became an Indian agent and associate justice of the Supreme Court of Minnesota. He led the citizen militia that defended the City of New Ulm during the Dakota Conflict.
Israel Crosley and his wife Charlotte were farmers in Rose Township, and owned a booth in the Farmers Market in downtown St. Paul. As the only blacks in that area, they understood the need for higher education. Crosley's will provided a scholarship fund at the University of Minnesota for black scholars that lasted until the 1950s.
Fraternal organizations are represented in the monument art. The large IOOF monument was erected in 1912.
Park Genealogical Books' on-line catalog lists all five volumes of transcriptions from the interment records that have been published. They list the name of the person interred, sometimes the name of the family member who arranged for the burial, age, sex, parentage and/or birthplace, death date/cause, the burial location and remarks from the interment books.
© 1999 Park Genealogical Books, Roseville MN
Park Genealogical Books
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Last update: Thursday, October 21, 1999
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