So why Iowa?
If you’ve read my blog for very long, you know that my best friend, Christi, moved from Atlanta to Omaha in 2000. When I started cemetery “hopping” about six years ago, I started dragging her across Nebraska (with some stops in Kansas) to find cool cemeteries to explore.
So in the summer of 2017, as I planned my September visit, I decided it might be fun to fly into Des Moines, Iowa and we could stop by some cemeteries on our way back to Omaha. I knew we could hit some good ones if I planned it right.
After Christi picked me up at the Des Moines Airport, we swung by Glendale Cemetery so I could photograph the grave of a Medal of Honor recipient. The rest of the cemetery wasn’t that remarkable so we didn’t linger. My goal was the spend a few hours at Des Moines’ oldest cemetery, Woodland Cemetery. As we drove through the front gates, I could tell it was going to be a great place to “hop” around.
Woodland was established in 1848 when five farmers donated land for the purpose of providing a city cemetery. Originally 5.5 acres, it was first called Fort Des Moines Cemetery with the first burial taking place in 1850.
The city took ownership of the cemetery in 1857, and purchased an additional 36.5 acres in 1864. Since then, Woodland’s coverage has expanded to 69 acres and now houses over 80,000 graves. A receiving vault was added in 1888 to store the bodies of those who died during Iowa’s cold winters when the ground was too hard to dig. They had to wait until the spring thaw to bury them. I don’t know how many bodies it held, but it looks fairly large to me.
Within Woodland Cemetery is St. Ambrose Cemetery, which was relocated from the south side of Des Moines in 1866. It is on the back side of Woodland and we did explore it a little. Emmanuel Jewish Cemetery, founded in 1871, is also within Woodland and an an Independent Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery.
To the right of the front gates, you will find Woodland’s World War I Gold Star Memorial. The area contains the graves of about 40 Iowa soldiers who were originally buried in France after the war but later moved for burial in their home state.
Woodland has the honor of being the final resting place for a Medal of Honor recipient. The son of the Rev. Elias Jenison Pike and Catherine Ricketts Pike, Emory Jenison Pike was born in 1876 in Columbus City, Iowa. In 1902, he married Ethel Fowler Trigg in Manhattan, N.Y. They would have five children who lived to adulthood.
A graduate of West Point in 1901, Pike served with the Second United States Cavalry in Cuba and the U.S. In 1914, he was a Distinguished Service Graduate from the Army’s School of the Line, and in 1915 completed the Army Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.
In World War I, Lt. Col. Pike earned the Medal of Honor for rendering aid to a wounded soldier during heavy artillery shelling on September 15, 2018 near Vandieres, France. He was severely wounded when another shell burst near him. While waiting to be brought to the rear, Lt. Col. Pike continued in command, still directing the reorganization until the position could be held. He later died of the wounds he received.
Major General J.M. Wainwright, Assistant Chief of Staff, 82nd Division, wrote to Lt. Col. Pike’s mother to inform her of his death: “He has been recommended for the Medal of Honor…When my time comes I only hope I can die as gallantly as did your son…” His youngest son, Zebulon, was only four when Lt. Col. Pike died.
Buried close to Lt. Col. Pike is Captain Edward O. Fleur. A native of Eksjo, Sweden, Captain Fleur was the son of C.J. Fleur and Mary Swanson Fleur. Born in 1876, Capt. Fleur had taken a three-year course in the Royal Swedish Military School in Stockholm before his arrival in America in 1890. He married Minnie Lawson in 1903.
Captain Fleur was active in the Iowa National Guard and served in various places during the first decade of the 1900s, including two years at Fort Yellowstone in Wyoming (the military managed the national parks in their early days) and the Philippines. He had attained the rank of Captain by the time he left Iowa for France in November 1917 with the Machine Gun Company of the 168th Infantry.
On May 27, 1918, Capt. Fleur was severely gassed at Village Negre and taken to the hospital in Baccarat. He died shortly thereafter and was buried in the cemetery at Baccarat, but his remains were sent home to America in 1921 for burial at Woodland.
As far as I know, Capt. Fleur and Minnie never had any children. Because women were not allowed to be buried with the soldiers, they buried Minnie across the lane from Capt. Fleur when she died in 1930. That was as close as they could get.
Near the Gold Star Memorial is the impressive Hubbell family mausoleum. One of its unique features is a casket elevator, which is used to lower remains to the lower level where all the family members have been laid to rest. I would love to get a look at that!
Born in 1839 in Huntington, Conn. to Francis and Augusta Church Hubbell, Frederick Marion Hubbell left Connecticut with his father and arrived in Fort Des Moines on May 7, 1855. Hubbell found work at the U.S. Land Office. During the 1860s and 1870s, Hubbell began building his Des Moines real estate empire by buying property in the downtown area and in a valuable industrial district known as the Factory Addition.
Hubbell was also instrumental in many early Des Moines industries. He partnered with three others to start Des Moines’ first streetcar line in 1866, helped found Equitable Life Insurance Company of Iowa in 1867, helped establish the Des Moines Water Works in 1871, and created the Narrow Gauge Railway Construction Company in 1880.
Hubbell married Frances Cooper in 1863 and they had three children together. The marriage of their daughter, Beulah, to Swedish Count Carl Axel Wachtmeister in 1899 at the Hubbell mansion (Terrace Hill) was reported in many newspapers across the country. Count Wachtmeiser and Frances had one son, Frederick. The three of them are buried together in Sweden. Frances Hubbell died in 1924 and Frederick Hubbell died in 1930.
Originally the home of Des Moines’ first millionaire, Benjamin Franklin Allen, Terrace Hill was designed by Chicago architect William Boyington and completed in 1869. Allen sold it to Hubbell in 1884. Hubbell loved Terrace Hill and added many of its most well-known features such as the stained glass window and stunning chandelier.
A Hubbell lived in Terrace Hill until the family’s youngest son Grover’s death in 1956. It stood empty until 1971 when the Hubbell family donated the home to the State of Iowa to be used as the official residence of Iowa’s first family. (Note: Kind reader Beth Jordan let me know that F.M. Hubbell’s great-great-grandson, Fred Hubbell, is currently running for governor. So there may be a Hubbell back in Terrace Hill after all. The current governor is Kim Reynolds.)
By contrast, the Allens are not interred in a fine mausoleum. As F.M. Hubbell’s fortunes were rising, B.F. Allen’s were plummeting.
B.F. Allen’s uncle, Captain James Allen, one of the founders of Fort Des Moines in 1843, was instrumental in his nephew’s start in Iowa. In 1846, Captain Allen left for a new post, but died en route leaving all of his business holdings and land to his 18 year-old-nephew.
Over time, Allen became a a pillar of Des Moines society. He was a director or president of insurance companies, railroads, banks, the gas company, and various industrial firms, and even served a term in the Iowa Senate. Unfortunately, a series of poor business decisions resulted in charges of fraud and graft, along with a financial downturn in the market in the 1870s, led to Allen selling Terrace Hill to the Hubbell family in 1884.
When Allen died in 1914 in Hollywood, Calif. (his stone incorrectly says 1912), he was barely scraping by. A friend had to buy Allen’s burial plot for him, right next to the plot of his wife, Arathusa, who died in 1874 (some say from the stress of losing their fortune). I did not see their markers myself but am using an online picture so you can see the simplicity of them.
I’ve barely gotten past the front gates so I’ll have much more to share next time about Woodland Cemetery.