Digital Exhibits Beautifying the Cemetery

After the initial clearing and plotting of the land, the cemetery didn’t get much attention.  It was up to the individual lot owners to take care of their spots.  Mrs. Sherwood continued,

“When the ladies thought it was time again for them to do something, we decided on a day for work on the cemetery grounds and invited the men to help us.  We were to give them their dinner and supper.  Early in the morning of the day appointment one could see men and women working, the women driving stakes, holding chains, picking up brush and burning it.  The dinner and supper were served across the street in the yard belonging to William Crane.  Austin certainly looked like a deserted village that day, and the work which the ladies begun has been kept up till now we have one of the most beautiful resting places for one’s loved ones ‘gone before’ in Minnesota.”

1884 Mower County History Book

Early in the morning, men went to the cemetery armed with axes and spades to clear hazel brush.  Mrs. Sherwood and Mrs. Frederick King were the refreshment committee.  They collected food in a democrat wagon and carried it to the Crane house.  Mrs. Crane’s stove was used to heat food.  Rough tables were spread in the yard and a big dinner was served at noon.  After lunch, everyone worked together to mark the lots with stakes. “Men of the village came with saws and axes.  The women came along to make dinner.  They transformed a piece of land, overgrown with brush and timber, into a fitting burial ground.”

(Later accounts about the day tend to minimize the women’s role.  They suddenly “just came to bring food.”  But, earlier newspaper articles talk about how women were the main instigators to get the cemetery cleaned up.)

The editors of the newspaper lamented the state of the cemetery in this May 12, 1864 article in the Mower County Register.
The August 4, 1864 edition of the Mower County Register provided all the details from the clean-up day at Oakwood Cemetery.

In 1895, the renamed Oakwood Cemetery Association bought 160 acres from the Adler Farm adjoining the cemetery to expand.  Anton Friedrich was also elected superintendent of the cemetery at this time.  Under his care, the cemetery was graded, “unsightly” grave mounds were leveled, flower gardens were laid out and each year the cemetery was more made more beautiful.

A group of women posing in front of Oakwood Cemetery, ca. 1920. Mower County Historical Society, 94.500.1097
The Abrahams family grave plot show off the beautiful grounds of Oakwood Cemetery. Mower County Historical Society, 92.107.0025

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