A Public Cemetery
In 1861 the Kalamazoo Township Board
of Health appointed a committee with the task of purchasing land for a new
public cemetery. They had determined that the old South West Street Cemetery was
no longer sufficient for the needs of the growing community and that a new,
larger site was needed. Twenty-six acres were purchased from Jeremiah P.
Woodbury and were surveyed and laid out for use by 1862. The new cemetery was
named Riverside and is located on what is now the corner of Gull Road and
Riverview Drive on Kalamazoo's east side. This area was particularly important
to the history of Kalamazoo. It is the location of a good ford in the Kalamazoo River, where
several Indian trails converged, and was the primary reason why the village was
established here instead of some other location.
Riverside has always
been a public cemetery, so it has always been accessible for the average
Kalamazooan. The original 250 lots sold for as little as three dollars. Some
of the oldest graves in Riverside are people who were originally buried in the
old South West Street Cemetery and then were moved to Riverside after the old
cemetery closed. Well-known names like pioneer missionary Leonard Slater, war
B. Westnedge and his brother Richard do grace the stones in the cemetery
by the river, but for the most part, Riverside is the burial place for
Kalamazoo's farmers, merchants, and factory workers.
An interesting feature of Riverside Cemetery is its Civil War
Memorial. The Kalamazoo Chapter of the GAR dedicated the memorial in 1901. It
stands 25 feet tall and is topped with a granite sculpture of a Civil War
soldier. A section containing the graves of Civil War veterans is located
nearby. In 1962 the Civil War Centennial Commission obtained markers for 88
unmarked graves in this area. Others were still unmarked as late as 1997 when
the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, identified about 50 graves and
began procuring headstones for them.