Did you know that North Omaha has at least eight historic cemeteries? Serving religious and ethnic populations as well as the general public, these are the final resting places of thousands of people from the 1840s through today.
1. Golden Hill Cemetery
Golden Hill Cemetery is a Jewish cemetery that was founded by Chevra B’nai Israel Adas Russia in 1888. Located at 5109 North 42nd Street, it is one of the oldest cemeteries in Omaha. Originally located in the farmlands far outside of Omaha, today its surrounded by neighborhoods. The cemetery is very full and hasn’t accepted new burials for decades. It looks beautiful though, and walking through it is a nice experience.
2. Temple Israel Cemetery aka Pleasant Hill Cemetery
Established in 1871, this is the oldest Jewish cemetery in Nebraska. Its located at 6412 North 42nd Street. The cemeteries there are actually distinct from each other, and include Temple Israel, B’Nai Jacob and B’Nai Sholem. Many of Omaha’s notable Jewish leaders are buried here, including Emil Brandeis, the only Omahan to go down on the Titanic. The cemetery is active, well-maintained and respected by the surrounding neighborhood.
3. Springwell Danish Cemetery
Located at 6326 Hartman Avenue, the Danish Springwell Cemetery opened in 1887. Once located in the rural farmlands surrounding Omaha, today it is one of the rare urban Danish cemeteries in the U.S. It is an active cemetery, and is well-cared for. There are several tombstones in Danish, and signs of Denmark throughout the cemetery.
4. Forest Lawn Memorial Park
Located at 7909 Mormon Bridge Road, Forest Lawn was opened in 1885. The home to many of Omaha’s leaders throughout the last 125 years, Forest Lawn is the largest cemetery in the city. There are many thousands of burials there, including whole sections of the cemetery that are owned by the G.A.R., the Freemasons, and the Omaha Typographical Union. Part of Forest Lawn was also made into a national soldiers’ cemetery. There are also many notable Nebraska politicians and business leaders buried here, as well as regular families. Anne Ramsey, a Hollywood actress who stared in Throw Mama From The Train and other films, is buried at Forest Lawn, too.
5. Mormon Pioneer Cemetery
Located at 3301 State Street, the Mormon Pioneer Cemetery is one of the oldest continuously occupied plots of land in Nebraska. In the winter of 1846-47, the Mormon settlement of Winter Quarters was located in rough cabins, shacks and soddies by the Missouri River in the present-day Florence neighborhood. Of the 5,000 Mormons who lived at Winter Quarters, hundreds died and many were buried here. The graves are unmarked. The cemetery is maintained by the Church of Latter Day Saints; and there have been no burials there since 1953.
6. Potter’s Field
Located near the intersection of Mormon Road and Young Street in North Omaha, Potter Field is actually a traditional graveyard for the poor. Formally used from 1887 to 1957, the Potter Field was for people who didn’t have money to afford a proper burial; the unknown, unnamed; wards of Douglas County; and others. Neglected from the 1960s through the 1990s, it was rehabilitated as a meditation garden by the Florence Historical Foundation and the North Omaha Commercial Club in the mid-90s, and today is maintained by the neighboring Forest Lawn. The reclaimed burial site of Will Brown is here, along with many others who have been forgotten by time.
7. Shipley Cemetery
Located in the heart of the Ponca Hills where County Road 49 meets the Washington County Line, the oldest known burial at Shipley Cemetery was in 1861. There are more than 25 burials with the Shipley name, out of almost 200 total burials. The cemetery is restored and maintained by the Washington County Historical Society, its across the road from the Ponca Hills Fire Station.
8. Mount Hope Cemetery
From the time it was founded, the Town of Benson needed a cemetery. Located outside the scope of my interested at North 78th and Military Road, I’m including them here because it was Benson’s cemetery. Opened in 1888, there are more 50 acres with several of the old Benson families buried there.
9. Bird-Ritchie Cemetery
This is a private family cemetery started in 1856. With at least 40 burials, there may only be one grave marker left on private land. It is located one half mile south and west from North 60th and Northern Hills Drive.
10. Prospect Hill Cemetery
The Prospect Hill Cemetery was formally opened in 1858 at 3202 Parker Street, near the intersection of North 30th and Lake Streets. Omaha mayor Jesse Lowe set aside 10 acres of land for burial purposes that year, and the next year, 20 acres was added. In 1890, five more acres were added when the Prospect Hill Cemetery Association was founded. However, after a few court cases and a ban by the City of Omaha around the turn of the century, Prospect Hill Cemetery couldn’t grow further, and today it has a total of 17 acres. There are more than 12,000 burials there, including many of Omaha’s historical leaders and more. The cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
11. Cutler’s Park Cemetery
In 2017, it was confirmed that a Mormon pioneer town called Cutler’s Park had a cemetery on the site of the Omaha Home for Boys Cooper’s Farm at 8502 Mormon Bridge Road in North Omaha. A private group restored the site, including locating the burials and installing a granite monument, landscaping and fencing. Approximately 70 people were buried here in 1846 before the town was moved to become Winter Quarters.
In reality, there are surely many other burial areas in North Omaha. Dozens of family farms dotted the hillsides north and west of Florence, and many of them had private family cemeteries. Similarly, people died in the Town of East Omaha and in the area of the Missouri River bottoms, including Bungalow City and Beechwood.
Finding all of those places may be impossible – but keeping the memories of those who’ve come before is not. Remember North Omaha and the people who built it.
You Might Like…
- A History of North Omaha’s Missing Cemeteries
- A History of Prospect Hill Cemetery
- A History of the Potter’s Field in North Omaha
- A History of the Woman in White in North Omaha
- Marta Dawes’ Graveyards of Omaha – This is the definitive source of information for any cemetery in Douglas County, Nebraska. Marta is the expert, and I defer to everything she knows anytime I can.
- Danish Springwell Cemetery official website
- Forest Lawn Memorial Park official website
- Golden Hill Cemetery official website
- Temple Israel Cemetery, aka Pleasant Hill Cemetery, official website
- Mormon Pioneer Cemetery official website