May at Historic Topeka Cemetery
May is the month to be at Historic Topeka Cemetery. Tour the grounds under the full moon, learn about the history of the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office and the Grand Army of the Republic, and hear the stories of loved ones lost before their lives had a chance to get started.
May 20 – Dedication of marker for Shawnee County’s fifth sheriff and opening of special sheriff display
May 21 – Keep America Beautiful cleanup day at the cemetery
May 28 – Sons of Union Veterans annual program in the Civil War section
May 30 – Vietnam Veterans memorial program
Memorial Day weekend – Presentations about Remember Me, the Friends program to mark the graves of infants and children in the oldest sections
Memorial Day weekend
The cemetery office will be open throughout Memorial Day. If you would like a flag to place by your loved one’s grave, they can be picked up at the office on the northwest corner or in the Garden Chapel (covered patio) on the southeast corner of the cemetery.
Honoring Shawnee County Sheriffs
Friends of Historic Topeka Cemetery are launching a new memorial program this year to introduce visitors to the two dozen sheriffs and undersheriffs who made this their final resting place. Posters will be placed at the individual graves starting May 20 and remain up through Memorial Day weekend.
To kick off the display, a marker for Jehial Tyler, the fifth sheriff in Shawnee County will be dedicated. The grave was bare until a researcher tracked down his location and helped the cemetery apply for a Civil War marker. A benefactor provided a headstone for Tyler’s wife, Cynthia, as well.
The dedication will be at 11 a.m. Friday, May 20, at the Tyler grave site, which is in Section 42 above Mausoleum Row.
This sheriffs program is similar to the one launched in 2014 to commemorate the beginning of World War I by marking the graves of those who died in service during that conflict. The WWI posters will be together on Mausoleum Row, and maps are available to individual graves.
Keep America Beautiful returns on Saturday, May 21, for the annual spring cleanup.
Volunteers of all ages are needed to clean up tree debris, remove woody plants from around monuments, refill planters, pick up litter, paint, mow, and more.
We ask that volunteers to bring rakes, shovels, loppers, garden/work gloves, mowers, weed eaters, personal water bottles, and hats/sunscreen/bug spray as needed. Remember to wear old, comfortable clothing.
Volunteers will work from 9 a.m. to noon with a light lunch to follow.
So KAB can plan for lunch, please RSVP to (785) 224-0446 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join the Garden Club
The Friends are organizing a garden club to help add beauty to the cemetery by planting and caring for several large garden plots and planters around the grounds.
Join us in the office at 12:45 p.m. Saturday, May 21 (after the KAB cleanup), to learn more about the needs and exchange contact information with other interested gardeners.
This will be a loosely organized group. Members may meet to plan garden spaces, or you can choose a spot to work on and just come by at your convenience.
Mausoleum Row has two large garden plots, and the area around the Garden Chapel has two areas that need to be developed.
You also can call the office at (785) 233-4132 for more information.
Remembering the Sacrifices
At 9 a.m. Saturday, May 28, the Sons of Union Veterans will have its annual commemoration in the Civil War section, which is marked by the prominent statue of a soldier. Kansas had a central role in bringing the conflict over slavery to a head, and served the Union cause by sending more men per capita to fight than any other state.
The SUV program features a flag raising and other ceremonial renditions, and a visitor from the past will share a personal story about his war experiences.
At 10 a.m. Monday, May 30, the local chapter of Vietnam Veterans will have a remembrance at the Vietnam memorial on the south end of the cemetery.
There is ample parking at both locations.
For the past five years, Friends of Historic Topeka Cemetery has been working to place headstones on the graves of infants and young children buried more than 75 years ago. After that much time, the likelihood of a family member stepping forward to provide a memorial for these hundreds of graves is slim, so the Friends created a donation program to cover the cost.
Throughout the weekend, Friends will be in Section 73, on the north end of the cemetery near the fence on California, to share the stories of these children and their families.
More than 100 stones have been donated so far, but the work is far from finished. More information can be found here.
Historic Topeka Cemetery is a setting unlike any other in Topeka. The grounds offer an eternal view for those who shaped Topeka and Kansas from territorial days into the 21st century. The city skyline, with the Statehouse standing prominently in the center, can be seen from nearly every part of Topeka Cemetery.
On a rolling hillside east of downtown, Topeka Cemetery is an outdoor museum of stunning monuments that help tell the stories of the more than 35,000 people in our care.
We encourage you to visit, to take a stroll among the names familiar to you from street signs and businesses, and from family and friends, to reflect on the beauty of this spot and the lives of those who came before you.
Finding your loved ones
Topeka Cemetery has 80 acres that stretch from SE 10th Avenue to Interstate 70 and from Lafayette Street to California Avenue. Finding family members among the 35,000 souls who rest here can be a challenge.
Whether on your first visit or your 10th, it can sometimes be difficult to get to the right spot.
Enter Walk-to-Site. You can use your smart phone to guide you. Start by clicking on Search Records. Enter the name of the person you wish to find. On some phones, you may need to move the screen left to find the place to enter the last name.
If the person you seek doesn’t come up first, hit the “Next” button. That will scroll through the names that are similar.
If you get no results, try a different spelling or use just a first initial on the first name.
The large map will show you where you need to be, so you can drive to the general area before beginning your walk.
Please keep in mind that not every grave has a headstone. If you find no memorial, Topeka Cemetery is happy to assist you in finding the perfect tribute to your loved one.
More instruction is available on YouTube.
Points of interest
We consider ourselves an outdoor museum with hundreds of beautiful and interesting monuments! EXPLORE!
Friends of Historic Topeka Cemetery
The Friends have a mission to support Historic Topeka Cemetery in its efforts to preserve its grounds and buildings, promote Topeka and Kansas history, and educate Topekans on the legacies created by their forebears – the extraordinary and the ordinary, the famous and the infamous, the entrepreneur and the artist.
The Friends offer tours, including Ghost Tours in October; put on events such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs; and offer opportunities to remember your loved ones in unique ways.