Lakewood's History & Founding


Minneapolis was only a riverfront outpost when Colonel John Stevens built the first permanent dwelling in the 1840s. By 1857, the town had only rough wooden buildings and rutted dirt roads. But in the next 20 years, Minneapolis grew fast.

Lakewood was founded in 1871, four years after Minneapolis was incorporated and 13 years after Minnesota achieved statehood. That year, Minneapolis boasted 13,000 residents and the city’s southern edge was where Franklin Avenue is today.

In July of that year, Colonel William S. King, local businessman and newspaper publisher, proposed to community leaders that they work together to establish a cemetery in Minneapolis. A month later, a group of 15 held a meeting to choose the site and determine how to finance it.

A Garden Cemetery

Lakewood’s founders chose a site out in the country between Lakes Harriet and Calhoun owned by Colonel King at the time. They planned to model the cemetery after other “rural” or “garden” cemeteries that were growing in popularity along the East Coast. Visitors would travel to Lakewood by horse and buggy on an unpaved road.

Original Cost

Colonel King agreed to sell the land for $21,000, to be paid back over a year at 7 percent interest. During a time in which a home in Minneapolis could be purchased for $500, the new trustees voted to raise $25,000 for the purchase of grounds and improvements. The money was raised by selling 250 shares of stock at $100 a piece, two-thirds of which was purchased by the trustees themselves. The remaining balance was solicited by a committee and sold to other residents of the city.

A Nonprofit Association

The public dedication of Lakewood was held on September 16, 1872. The following month, the Association reacquired all stock from the original investors. Roughly three years later, the Association submitted its first annual report to the lot owners of Lakewood, which stressed the cemetery’s nonprofit status. Since 1872, Lakewood has continued to exist as a public, nonprofit, nondenominational cemetery providing services to the families of Minnesota.

Learn More

Visit Lakewood's bookstore to order a copy of Lakewood's 143-page, full color history book and download free self-guided tour brochures.


Historical photos courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.


Lakewood's Founders

George A. Brackett
George A. Brackett (1836-1921), moved to Minnesota from Maine in the 1850s. He helped organize the Northern Pacific Railroad with William Washburn, Col. William King, and Dorilus Morrison in 1869. He helped establish the Minneapolis Free Dispensary, which later became the University of Minnesota Medical School. He was elected Minneapolis mayor in 1873. Brackett built an estate on the Lake Minnetonka peninsula now know as Brackett’s Point.

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Colonel William S. King
Colonel William S. King (1828-1900), a businessman and newspaper publisher, had the idea for Lakewood Cemetery in July 1871. He and 14 others formed the Lyndale Cemetery Association, named for King’s father, Lyndon King. (The cemetery name was later changed to Lakewood.) An outspoken abolitionist and lifelong champion of Minneapolis, King was dubbed “Old Thaumaturgus,” a Greek word meaning miracle worker.

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Charles M. Loring
Originally from Maine, Charles M. Loring (1832-1922), spent 35 years developing the Minneapolis Park System. In 1890, the city’s Central Park was renamed Loring Park in his honor. Loring’s efforts to bring the beauty of nature to all citizens of Minneapolis made him known as “Father of the Parks.”

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Thomas Lowry
Land developer Thomas Lowry (1843-1909) created Lake Street in the 1870s. In 1886, he consolidated the transit systems of Minneapolis and St. Paul into the Twin City Rapid Transit Company, which eventually became MTC. In private life, Mr. and Mrs. Lowry were the toasts of Minneapolis society. Rumors abounded they spent $100,000 on their house, which was located at the top of Hennepin Hill, now called Lowry Hill (The house is no longer there).

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Richard J. Mendenhall
Surveyor, banker, land agent, botanist and entomologist Richard Mendenhall (1828-1906) was a businessman with a passion for science. Minneapolis’ first florist, he built an enormous greenhouse on First Avenue and Eighth Street, where he conducted botanical experiments and cultivated a multitude of plants. His wife, Abby (1832-1900), helped establish the Bethany Home for unwed mothers in 1876.

Dorilus Morrison
Dorilus Morrison (1814-1898) was a merchant and successful Maine lumberman before the great pine forests of Minnesota drew him here in 1855. An enthusiastic supporter of Minneapolis, he served in the Minnesota State Senate in 1864 and 1865, and when Minneapolis became a city in 1867, he was elected its first mayor. In the early 1870s, he was president of Northwestern National Bank (which became Norwest Bank and merged with Wells Fargo in the late 1990s).

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William D. Washburn
William D. Washburn (1831-1912) moved to Minnesota from Maine in 1857. He built a fortune in lumber, flour milling, and railroads, before turning to politics and going on to the U.S. Senate. In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Washburn Surveyor General of Minnesota. His brother, C.C. Washburn, joined him in Minnesota and founded the Washburn-Crosby Mill, which is now General Mills.

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Historical photos courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

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3600 Hennepin Ave.  Minneapolis, MN 55408  |  info@lakewoodcemetery.org

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