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Join us in preserving Des Moines' history!

Project: In 1848, five local farmers donated 5.5 acres of land to create Woodland Cemetery. Originally known as Fort Des Moines Cemetery, the first burial in this historical cemetery happened in 1850 and the City of Des Moines took ownership in 1857. In 1864, the City added 36.5 acres and was expanded to 69 acres later. Designated in 1986 as a local historic landmark, efforts are underway to protect and preserve the memories and stories of the 80,000 buried within this unique location. Over the years, dirt, lichens, mold, and mildew have taken a toll on the stones and some that are porous (sandstone and limestone) have broken them down.

The stories told by the monuments and headstones combine to form the history of the city as it has passed through civil and world wars, epidemics and natural disasters as well as the normal course of birth, life, and death. Passing through the narrow drives of the cemetery, you see stone etchings of the names of many citizens from our past who helped build Des Moines. Names part of everyday life in our city's landscape, street, parks, schools, and building like Savery, Kenworthy, Ingersoll, Hubbell, Kaplan, Perkins, Teachout, Fleur, Redhead, Polk, and Sherman.

Maintenance of stones typically is the responsibility of the owner but in this cemetery, many of the families have moved away or are long since passed. A generous gift from the community is allowing staff, contractors, and volunteers to restore stones and protect the memories and history within this cemetery. The first phase of the project is lifting, straightening, and securing stones that have shifted over time. Now, volunteers and staff will work together in small groups to clean the stones.

COVID-19:
In order to comply with emergency proclamations by the Governor or Mayor, as such may be amended from time to time, and as public health guidelines evolve, for the safety of staff and the public, the Parks and Recreation Department reserves the right to cancel at any time. In addition, the Department reserves the right to change the registration requirements at any time. The Department will contact the volunteers as soon as reasonably possible with such cancellation or changes.

The City of Des Moines cannot guarantee that the volunteer or any of the event attendees will not become infected with COVID-19. Volunteers and attendees use the City’s facility at their own risk.


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