History of

Oakwood Cemetery

Address: 1800 Fourth Street N.W., Austin, MN

Austin was a village of 400 people before a move was made to have a place to lay its departed. The dead were laid away in the vacant lots of the platted city. The body of Chauncey Leverich, who was murdered, was buried near where the Swen Anderson building now stands on Chatham Street. Near the banks of the Cedar near the South Bridge the bones of Don and Jack Fleming molded. They came here from New England for their health, as they were both suffering with consumption. It was not until 1862 that a move was made to secure a cemetery. A few of the ladies of the city got talking about the needs of the city and a meeting was called February 1, 1862, at the home of J.L. Davidson, for the purpose of organizing a society for the purchase of suitable lands for a burial ground. At that first meeting Mrs. J.L. Davidson was elected president and Mrs. Ormanzo Allen secretary.

The name adopted for the society was, "The Mite Society and Cemetery Association", and the meetings were to be held every two weeks at the homes of the members in alphabetical order. Each member was to pay 10 cents at each meeting. The attendance at the meetings was between eighty and 100, for there was little doing in the pioneer village in those days.

The first regular meeting was held at the home of Mrs. J.L. Clark. Here it was voted to have the men buy the land and the Mite Society promised to build the fence. A subscription paper was passed among the businessmen and twenty agreed to take lots at $5 each. On March 15, 1862, the men met and organized the cemetery association. Solomon Snow was chairman of the meeting and Ormanzo Allen secretary.

The following trustees were elected: For one year, L.N. Griffith and Ormanzo Allen; for two years, John S. Lacy and Oliver Somers; for three years, Solomon Snow.

A committee had been sent out to secure land and on the suggestion of the Mite Society looked over the Baudler farm. The committee found the land suitable evidently, for it purchased five acres at the cost of $100. D.B. Johnson surveyed the land, laying it off in lots twenty feet square, and Squire Griffith made a map. The $100 was raised by twenty men, each of whom bought a lot at the cost of $5.

The story of the cleaning up of the grounds by the ladies, assisted by the men, is told elsewhere by Mrs. L.A. Sherwood. Mrs. Sherwood says that the first body buried in the cemetery was that of Katie, the eight year old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.L. Clark. The little girl died of diphtheria and Mrs. Sherwood assisted in the care of the little girl. That was the first case of diphtheria that appeared in the little village of Austin.

Having bought the land and laid it out as a place to bury the dead, the cemetery seems to have received but little attention, each lot owner being supposed to care for his own lot. In 1895 the Oakwood Cemetery Association bought 160 acres of land of the Adler farm adjoining the cemetery. They sold about 30 acres lying east of the river to D.B. Smith. D.H. Stimson was one of the prime movers in this purchase. Anton Friedrich was elected superintendent of the cemetery and has been in charge from that day to this. The cemetery was graded, the unsightly grave mounds all being leveled, flower gardens were laid out and each year saw the place still further beautified. Now it is one of the most beautiful resting places for the dead in the state.

On March 7, 1904, the trustees were authorized to erect a chapel and vault, not to exceed the sum of $5,000, and this beautiful building was dedicated in the fall of the same year.

William Baudler had opened up a private cemetery on the northern line of his farm adjacent to the Oakwood Cemetery and the lot owners of this cemetery wanted those lots taken is as a part of beautiful Oakwood. This petition was presented by Mrs. Hiram Smith at a meeting held November 12, 1904. She stated that $430 had been subscribed and guaranteed that $70 more would be raised, making the amount $500 for the purchase of the unsold lots in the Baudler Cemetery. On December 3, 1904, a meeting of the cemetery association was held to consider the proposition. At that meeting the Baudler Cemetery lot owners were ready to pay $500 to the Oakwood Cemetery to secure possession of the Baudler lots so that the two cemeteries might be united. The board of trustees offered to take over the Baudler Cemetery, lots, alleys, streets, etc., on the payment of $2,000. N.F. Banfield said he would be responsible for the amount and the proposition was accepted.

Soon after, the old fence was torn down, both cemeteries were made one, the Baudler Cemetery being graded and beautified to conform with Oakwood.

On August 23, 1905, the cemetery association purchased four rods of land adjoining the old Baudler Cemetery on the east, paying for it $75. On March 2, 1906, McIntyre Post G.A.R. exchanged their old lot for a lot in center of section 3 of the new cemetery and the bodies of the dead heroes were removed to their new sleeping place. On this lot a beautiful soldier's monument was erected and dedicated in 1907.

From "History of Mower County, 1911"

Transcribed and submitted to MnGenWeb by Kathy Pike, Nov. 2006