Oakland Cemetery

Just three blocks east of Rice Street lies, very quietly, one of St. Paul’s loveliest, most serene, and most interesting greenspaces – the Oakland Cemetery. Founded in 1853, Oakland is St. Paul’s oldest public cemetery. It is also a relatively early exemplar of the American “garden cemetery” style, which grew up, starting in the 1830s, as a public alternative to the traditional (and very small) church cemeteries.

The design belongs to Horace Cleveland, one of the great landscape architects of the 19th century. Just in the Twin Cities area he did the University of Minnesota campus, Lakewood Cemetery, and Minnehaha Park, and the Grand Rounds of the Minneapolis park system.

Amongst Oakland’s gentle contours and beneath its towering hardwoods rest the bones of pioneers, magnates, heroes, nameless poor (acres were set aside as the “county plot”), the first immigrants to the city and the most recent. Among the permanent residents: Henry Sibley, fur trader, congressman, first state governor, and military leader of the 1862 Dakota Conflict; Alexander Ramsey, first territorial governor, second state governor, and U.S. Senator; Norman Kittson, magnate of the oxcart trade and an early mayor of St. Paul; schoolteacher and early settler Harriet Bishop (see the Lower West Side guide), and of course Henry Rice; merchant Amherst Wilder and 3M stalwart Archibald Bush -- the Wilder and Bush Foundations today still reinvest their founders’ fortunes in the community.

There is a plot for war veterans, going back to the Civil War. St. Paul firefighters who lost their lives on duty are also honored by a touching monument here. A striking feature of Oakland is the large number of new black tombstones erected by people from the Hmong community; the remains of the city’s pioneers lie as neighbors to those of its most recent immigrants. And for those interested in Rice Street there is a plot on the cemetery’s east side, near Jackson and Jenks, which is exclusively Romanian.

No place in Saint Paul more deserves an hour of the visitor’s time than Oakland Cemetery.

Images

Oakland Cemetery Entrance

Oakland Cemetery Entrance

Founded in 1853, the Oakland Cemetery is St. Paul's oldest public cemetery. It is designed by Horace Cleveland who also designed the University of Minnesota campus, Lakewood Cemetery, Minnehaha Park, and the Grand Rounds of the Minneapolis park system. Date: Approximately 1910 Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Firemen's Memorial

Firemen's Memorial

Honoring the Saint Paul firefighters who lost their lives on duty. Photographer: A.F. Raymond Date: 1936 Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Henry Mower Rice

Henry Mower Rice

Henry Rice was brought to St. Paul by the fur trade in 1849 and quickly made a fortune in real estate. Later, he served as a Territorial representative to Congress, and as one of Minnesota's first U.S. senators. He died in 1894 and was buried at the Oakland Cemetery. Photographer: Matthew B. Brady Date: Approximately 1863 Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

George Quincy White Monument dedication

George Quincy White Monument dedication

Major George Quincy White entered the American Civil War and served as a member of Smith's battery of Chicago in 1861 until 1862 when he was honorably discharged after being wounded in battle. In that same year, he was appointed by President Lincoln as captain and acting quartermaster of the United States volunteers. He died on March 28, 1897 and was buried at the Oakland Cemetery. Date: May, 1898 Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Oakland Cemetery

Oakland Cemetery

Present day photo. Date: June, 2013 Photo by: Kimmy Tanaka View File Details Page

Oakland Cemetery

Oakland Cemetery

Present day photo. Date: June, 2013 Photo by: Kimmy Tanaka View File Details Page

Oakland Cemetery

Oakland Cemetery

Photo by: Tony Andrea, East End Productions, 2013 View File Details Page

Oakland Cemetery

Oakland Cemetery

Photo by: Tony Andrea, East End Productions, 2013 View File Details Page

Oakland Cemetery

Oakland Cemetery

Photo by: Tony Andrea, East End Productions, 2013 View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Paul Nelson, “Oakland Cemetery,” Saint Paul Historical, accessed June 23, 2017, http://saintpaulhistorical.com/items/show/100.
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