Pioneer Cemetery

Pioneer Cemetery, on KU’s west campus, is available for cremation burials of qualified individuals. KU Endowment now manages the cemetery, first known as Oread Cemetery. It was Lawrence’s original burial ground, but it was neglected and forgotten for much of its existence.pioneer cemetery

Some early burials were the consequence of violence, first between proslavery sympathizers and free-state adherents during the “Bleeding Kansas” period. Later, some 70 of the 200 men and boys killed Aug. 21, 1863, by Confederate William Clarke Quantrill and his raiders were buried in Oread. All but six of the bodies of the raid casualties were soon removed and re-interred in the city’s new Oak Hill Cemetery. Established in 1865, Oak Hill soon replaced Oread as Lawrence’s primary cemetery.

In 1928, Lawrence’s mayor renamed the burial ground Pioneer Cemetery and assigned crews to clean it up. By the early 1950s, however, it was again heavily overgrown. Chancellor Franklin Murphy took a personal interest in it and persuaded KU Endowment to consider acquiring it. In 1953, the city deeded Pioneer Cemetery to KU Endowment for one dollar.

The first burial there in 86 years was that of Elmer McCollum, a KU alumnus, eminent scientist and discoverer of Vitamin A. He spent most of his career away from Kansas, but he retained fond memories of Lawrence and KU and wished to be buried in Pioneer Cemetery. On May 6, 1968, his ashes were interred there, and a new chapter in the cemetery’s history began.

Since then, Pioneer Cemetery has become the final resting place for more than 450 members of the KU community. It remains an active cemetery, with new interments each year and frequent visitors, who wish to stop by the graves of loved ones or explore the history of Lawrence and KU.

For questions about interment or to make a gift, contact Monte Soukup at msoukup@kuendowment.org or 785-832-7435. To learn more about the history of Pioneer Cemetery visit kuhistory.com.