After Sherman County was organized and Goodland became the County Seat, the cry went up to have a cemetery. From The Adviser, July 15, 1886, “The fact that there are over 3,000 persons of all ages now residing in Sherman County demands that some place be prepared in which to bury the dead. Where there are so many people, deaths may be expected frequently, and yet there is not a burial place in the county. It is not advisable to take some step in this important matter?”
However, it was not until 1893 that the city fathers answered the cry by purchasing 20 acres north of town in the NE¼ of 18-8-39 for a cemetery. Up until this time, the unprotected plat had been repeatedly invaded by herds of cattle and loose horses, so the directors wisely concluded to enclose the grounds by a good, strong fence.
In 1899, the grounds of the cemetery in north Goodland which had remained unkempt and allowed to retrograde were to be groomed, the grass watered, trees planted and other beautifying improvements made. Enough money had been raised by popular subscription to put down a well, erect a windmill and tank, and complete all the improvements. A great deal of credit was due to Mrs. C. E. Swartz, who was instrumental in raising the necessary money and getting the people interested in the matter. Additional improvements were made in 1900 by setting out 100 shade trees.
Head stones for five ex-union soldier’s graves were received in 1902, by Wallace Filer, quartermaster of the local G.A. R. post, from the quartermaster’s department of the United States Army, and they were put in place by a detail of the G.A.R. Then in 1925, Jennie Copeland, president of the Goodland W.R.C., was able to obtain headstones for the five remaining unmarked graves of Civil War soldiers buried in the Goodland cemetery. The stones were shipped from St. Louis to Mrs. Copeland, who saw that they were erected over the graves.
Also in 1925, an association was formed to plan and secure money for the cemetery. A large steel gate for vehicles and two smaller gates for pedestrians were installed at the entrances, which added materially to the improvement and appearance of the cemetery. The gates swung from brick pillars, which also went to adorn the grounds, and a new steel fence was also built on the east front of the grounds. The money to defray the expenses of the improvements made was once again raised by popular subscription.
In January 1935, the Public Works division authorized the city to make extensive improvements at the cemetery. A small chapel was appropriately built and finished so that small services could be conducted in it, if desired. The building was 18 by 30 feet, of white stucco with red tile roof, built in Spanish style, and had quite an artistic looking architecture appropriate to the setting. It was placed near the center of the cemetery and was landscaped.
The chapel was only one part of this extensive cemetery improvement. All of the neglected graves were leveled off and re-sodded; including the entire G.A.R. plot Block 9 (known since 1901 as the Grand Army plot), where headstones and markers were aligned and reset. Other improvements included: Installing additional water lines, removal of dead trees, planting of additional trees, and landscaping of the front of the cemetery. The fence was fixed to keep rabbits out, in an attempt to prevent damage to young trees, and roadways throughout the cemetery were graded and surfaced.
In 1949 the cemetery acquired an additional 300 feet frontage to the south of the main cemetery. With a depth of 90 feet, the additional space was a must, as within five more years the existing cemetery would have been entirely full. As soon as it was possible, the new addition was put in proper order and shrubbery was planted.
A new Cemetery Board formed in 1956 to aid in the improvement of the cemetery. New barrels were placed throughout the grounds so it would be convenient for the public to deposit trash. Water lines were extended and a man was hired to bring the water lines up to date. Long-range plans for the improvement of the cemetery were also established.
In 1967 an additional 22.63 acres of land was purchased adjoining the cemetery to the north. This property is known as Cemetery Site II.
In 1976 chapel restoration was completed with the addition of new carpet and pews. The outside was painted white and the doors were repaired. The cemetery also got an overall appearance update with grass neatly trimmed and benches added throughout the grounds. Bronze plaques were purchased for “hours open” and placed on both east gates. Block 10 in Site II was sold to the V.F.W. and American Legion in May 1976 so that any veteran could be buried in a military cemetery plot if they choose.
1981 saw a major addition to the cemetery when long-time supporter and cemetery board member Doris Soden had a Bell Tower built and placed to the southeast corner of the chapel as a memorial to his late wife, Nelle Soden, who had passed away in 1971. The memorial is made of beautifully polished Carnelian granite, and features appropriate lettering. The structure has a foundation extending 15 feet down from ground level of solid concrete reinforced with steel bars and weighing 35 tons. Above ground level, the granite tower stands 32 ½ feet high and weighs 32 tons. The completed project weighs a total of 67 tons. The Bell Tower is equipped with chimes, which permit various kinds of music to be played, before, during or after a service. During a dedication service on July 20, 1981, the Bell Tower was gifted to the Goodland City Cemetery.
Another beautiful addition added in the 1980’s was the iron and brick fence along the east side of the cemetery. Two new large gates were placed at the entrances on the east end of the Cemetery Site I, and four small matching gates installed as walk-in gates at either end of the large gates. A “Cemetery Map Shelter” was built at the north side of the chapel, and chain link fencing was installed along the west side of the cemetery. In the middle 1980’s the flagpoles were installed along the road, between Site I and Site II, for the parade of flags on Memorial Day, and the old door on the chapel was replaced with a new solid core hardwood door in 1982.
Newer additions to the Goodland Cemetery include two separate Eagle Scout projects. The first project, by Scout David Russell was a memorial for Unborn Children dedicated in July 2001. It is located to the west of the All Faith Chapel, and includes a bench to allow people to pause and seek solace or to simply enjoy the beauty of the monument and the quiet. The second project, by Scout Jacob Erickson was the addition of three metal benches at the Veterans Memorial. The project included a level concrete area and sidewalks for wheel chair accessibility. It was dedicated in April of 2003. Both young men should be commended on the fine job they did on their projects and on improving our cemetery.
In the fall of 2005 and spring of 2006, the Chapel once again underwent another major facelift. This included: a new roof, new vinyl windows, stucco repair, chimney and soffit repairs, filling in the basement windows and dirt work around the building.
In 2019, an Ossuarium was installed at the Goodland Cemetery which was the first of its kind in northwest Kansas.
Over the years, there have been several Caretakers responsible for the upkeep of the Goodland Cemetery. Under their expert care it has become no secret that the Goodland Cemetery is one of the best-kept cemeteries in this area and the people of Sherman County are very proud of it.
There have been many, many changes to the Cemetery in its more than 100-year history. Through grit and determination, it was forged from a simple cow pasture and has evolved to a well-manicured oasis on the Kansas prairie. It has endured through hardship and prosperity. We are so very fortunate to have such a place of beauty and tranquility, and we honor and thank all of the people, both past and present, which have made this small plot of land their labor of love.