Duluth’s Cemeteries

From True North: Alternative and Off-Beat Destinations in and Around Duluth, Superior, and the Shores of Lake Superior, copyright © 2003, Zenith City Press, Duluth, Minnesota. Available at the Duluth Public Library.

Most people don’t think of cemeteries as spots for outdoor adventures, but if you’ve ever taken the time to look around while you remember your lost loved ones, you’ve probably noticed what beautiful places they can be. If you don’t find cemeteries morbid, you’ll find a natural and architectural (not to mention historical) treat in Duluth’s cemeteries.

Take Oneota Cemetery, for instance. Established in 1895 in what was then Oneota Township (just above Spirit Valley in West Duluth), the cemetery includes some wonderful old markers, a variety of hardwood trees, and—because of its location next to Skyline Parkway—a great view of St. Louis Bay. Among the notables buried in Oneota are George Stuntz (and his dog Kayuga), the surveyor who mapped out most of Duluth and Superior, and environmental politician Willard Munger (for whom the Munger Trail is named). To get to Oneota Cemetery, take Central Avenue north from I-35 to Highland Street and turn left— Highland runs right past the cemetery before connecting with Skyline Parkway.

Forest Hill Cemetery, which can be accessed through the gate at Woodland and Carlisle Avenues, is the final resting place for many Duluthians. It is also a sprawling park filled with trees, ponds, nesting geese during the summer, and some very interesting grave markers. The names on the markers in the older portion of the cemetery read like a who’s who of Duluth and Northeastern Minnesota history. You’ll find markers and mausoleums for Congdons, Alworths, Denfelds, Hibbings, Chisolms, and enough Hartleys to fill the Kitchi Gammi Club (and even some with last names such as Munger-Hartley and Hartley-Congdon, reflecting the past social circles of Duluth’s elite). The resting place of Captain Charles S. Barker, for whom Superior’s Barker’s Island is named, is marked by a large stone cube graced with a round, bronze relief of the Captain’s profile. Some of the markers even reflect the region itself, such as the Walbank mausoleum, laid in 1890 and made of Lake Superior Brownstone. A stone obelisk dedicated to those of Scottish descent who have passed stands near a cannon memorializing Duluthians who died in the Civil War.

Park Hill Cemetery, located behind Forest Hill on Vermilion Road, also contains some historic grave sites, though the folks buried here didn’t enjoy the financial success of those in Forest Hill. Most notable among Park Hill’s interred are lynching victims Isaac McGhie, Elmer Jackson, and Elias Clayton , who were once buried in unmarked graves. A few rows away lies Olli Kinkkonen, a Finnish immigrant lynched for his political views.