Ten things to know about Columbia Cemetery


The headstones cast long shadows in the late afternoon at Columbia Cemetery

Well-established neighborhood. Notable residents who are quiet neighbors. Located at the highest point in Columbia, boasting impressive views of the city. Very peaceful with walking trails and landscaping is included. Extremely popular, as dozens of new residents move in every year.

Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?  Well, you may want to put off moving here, as the neighborhood I’m talking about is the Columbia Cemetery.

As this Old Southwest landmark celebrates its third anniversary of being inducted into the National Register of Historical Places, we take the time to consider other features that make Columbia Cemetery such a fascinating place.

Consider this list of the Top Ten Things You May Not Know About the Columbia Cemetery, But Should:

  1. The cemetery is located at the highest point in Columbia and is a great place to view the entire city  (but keep in mind, the cemetery closes at dusk, so don’t get caught there after dark).
  2. Many neighbors have discovered that the cemetery has many other uses besides being a final resting place. It serves as a great place to walk and jog. Grant Elementary students use the property for physical education class occasionally and the fifth-graders hold a Civil War scavenger hunt there every year.
  3. This cemetery was established in 1820, the same year the city of Columbia was established.
  4. Walking through the cemetery is a veritable Who’s Who of mid-Missouri. Visitors will recognize names on the gravestone and cemetery street signs as the names belong to some of Missouri’s greatest pioneers.
  5. Two Revolutionary War veterans as well as veterans from every war since the War of 1812 are buried in the cemetery.
  6. In addition to a historically African American area, the cemetery also has a Jewish section, called the Beth Shalom Cemetery. “Beth Shalom” means “Home of Peace” in Hebrew.
  7. The Boone County Historical Society declared Columbia Cemetery a historical site on May 27, 1996, and it was entered into the National Register of Historical Places on February 1, 2007. According to the National Park Service Web site, “Roughly 1,700 cemeteries and burial places in all parts of the country have been entered in the National Register since 1966.”
  8. In 2006, the Columbia Cemetery Association reported to the National Register of Historic Places, “the cemetery has seen over 10,000 burials since 1900 alone.” Today, the cemetery is estimated to be home to more that 13,000 bodies, buried and cremated, and two living people: Tanja Patton, the superintendent of the Columbia Cemetery Association, and Allen Patton, the head groundskeeper and gravedigger.
  9. The Columbia Cemetery Association, a nonprofit organization, owns and manages the land and the graves markers. Tanja Patton sells plots, coordinates funeral services with funeral homes and oversees the landscaping within the cemetery grounds.
  10. The Columbia Cemetery is still active, performing about 45 to 50 burials every year. This includes cremations.

If this list has sufficiently piqued your interest in the Columbia Cemetery, feel free to go check it out for yourself.

The Columbia Cemetery Association has recently started its own online newsletter.  You can subscribe by clicking here.

Information compiled with the help of Tanja Patton and the Columbia Cemetery Association Web site.


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