Step back over 150 years into history with a visit to Olathe Memorial Cemetery in Olathe, Kansas. Those buried here represent all walks of life—doctors, lawyers, politicians, Civil War soldiers, gunfighters, desperados, and early pioneers who came looking for opportunity and a better life.
The Olathe Memorial Cemetery was established in 1865 when Watts Beckwith joined with the Olathe Mirror newspaper and other concerned citizens to put forward the idea of a public burial ground for the citizens of Olathe.
The Civil War was officially coming to a close, although the Border Wars between Kansas and Missouri continued for several years after. These Border Wars produced many upstanding and patriotic citizens who gave their lives for the cause of freedom during the Civil War. They rebuilt the town of Olathe from ashes after it was burnt to the ground by bushwhackers.
It took citizen leaders to stand up and unite the community in rebuilding Olathe, holding onto the spirit of community partnerships and public involvement in decision-making. It was this spirit of community involvement and volunteerism which spurred the idea of opening a public cemetery and which still exists today in the continual maintenance, growth, and groundbreaking ideas that are used in the operations of Olathe Memorial Cemetery.
Over the years, Olathe Memorial Cemetery has laid to rest many of these leading citizens including the Mahaffie family, who operated a stagecoach stop and farm along the Santa Fe Trail and were instrumental in rebuilding Olathe, the Judy brothers who were killed in 1862 defending Olathe against the onslaught of Quantrill’s Confederate Bushwhackers, two Kansas governors, Olathe mayors, council members, community leaders, and many everyday citizens who gave their time and energy to make Olathe an outstanding community in which to live.
Olathe Memorial Cemetery also holds over 300 Civil War soldiers as well as over 400 other citizens who also served their country in the armed services. These brave men and women have been honored through the construction and dedication of a Civil War monument and the Soldier’s Circle and monument recognizing and providing veterans with free burial spaces and honoring them for their service. Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs are held each year through a partnership with Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and the American Legion.
Olathe Memorial Cemetery’s heritage is expressed through unique areas throughout the cemetery including Memory Lane, erected in 1934 and dedicated by the Daughters of the American Revolution. The Daughters planted 48 hard maple trees to commemorate each of the 48 states, and placed a granite memorial boulder surrounded by various plantings of shrubs and flowers.
The stone chapel is another unique cemetery structure. It was erected in 1937 by unemployed citizens as a WPA project during the Great Depression. Each limestone block was hand cut from a nearby quarry and carefully placed to form the walls of the chapel which now serves as the cemetery’s main office.
738 N. Chestnut
Olathe, KS 66051