Jefferson City's Woodland-Old City Cemetery was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places, which city officials hope will promote historic preservation and awareness of those buried in the cemetery.
The Jefferson City Cemetery Resources Board learned Friday that the National Park Service had approved its application. The board began pursuing the designation in November and submitted the application in April after months of research.
"It's really exciting because we want to continue to raise the public's awareness of what an important piece of history this is right here in our backyard," board chair Nancy Thompson said Friday. "It (lets) people know that this is not only important to us here in Jefferson City, but it's recognized on the national level as being part of our important history — for the state and the city."
The cemeteries rest on 6.6 acres of land and are the two oldest in Jefferson City, according to the application. Old City Cemetery, 1000 E. McCarty St, was established in 1822. Woodland Cemetery, 1022 E. McCarty St, was established in 1838.
While the two cemeteries were established independently, they are considered a single entity.
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The application contains a history of the Woodland-Old City Cemetery, along with maps, photos of the area, and descriptions of the architecture and people buried there.
It notes several of Jefferson City's and Cole County's earliest settlers are buried in the Woodland-Old City Cemetery, including some of the 31 original families who lived in Jefferson City.
"Many of the people buried here occupied the first homes, opened the first businesses, established the schools and built the first buildings," the application states. "A portion of Old City Cemetery also served as a resting place for black individuals who were enslaved, everyday citizens, professors, and soldiers."
A few people buried in Woodland-Old City Cemetery include Gen. Gustavus Parsons — who served as a personal secretary to President Thomas Jefferson — and some of his family members; Daniel Colgan, who opened the first general store; William Meredith, the first Jefferson City police chief; and William Scott, who served as a 9th Judicial Circuit and Missouri Supreme Court judge.
The Woodland Cemetery also includes the state lot, which contains the burial sites of former Govs. John Sappington Marmaduke and Thomas Reynolds.
"This is truly is a historic burying place for Missouri and for Jefferson City," Thompson said. "It's a piece of our history."
Getting a cemetery into the National Register is difficult, Thompson said, since the application can't focus solely on the people buried in the cemeteries.
"In order to get this nomination through, we had to show how the people are the history and they're not just the famous people," Thompson said. "It's a cross-section of all levels of people. We've got the laboring class, we've got the government people, we've got the wealthy merchants. We've got all walks of life buried out there, and I think that's a good representation of who the people were who lived here 200 years ago."
While the cemetery remains intact, it has experienced neglect and vandalism. The application notes newspaper articles dating back to the 1870s describe the "dilapidation, decay, (and) neglect" of the cemetery.
The National Register is an honorary designation, so the cemetery will not receive special protections from it.
Woodland-Old City Cemetery, along with the adjacent Jefferson City National Cemetery, were designated as Jefferson City local landmarks in 1994.