Union Cemetery in Kansas City is listed on historic register – Kansas City Star
By: Matt Campbell
July 21, 2016
Kansas City’s Union Cemetery, the resting place for some of the city’s founding giants, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Names such as John Calvin McCoy, Alexander Majors, George Caleb Bingham and Johnston Lykins mark the stones in the peaceful 27 acres now surrounded by the heart of the city, just south of Crown Center. Union Cemetery was founded before the Civil War and may contain the mass graves of people who died in that conflict.
The cemetery was recognized this spring by the National Park Service as being among the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation.
“The listing of Union Cemetery is an honor for the cemetery and the city,” said Susan Jezak Ford, a local historic preservationist who researched and wrote the nomination. “Listing the cemetery in the National Register can raise awareness of the history of the site. It can also encourage Kansas City citizens and visitors to take a moment and appreciate this physical connection with our city’s past.”
Union Cemetery was founded in 1857 in the area between the City of Kansas, whose southern limit was 20th Street, and Westport, an outfitting stop on the California, Oregon and Santa Fe trails.
“The cemetery’s name established it as a joint venture between the two growing municipalities,” according to the nomination. “Kansas City’s population and boundaries grew to surround Union Cemetery and absorb Westport by 1897.”
The original entrance to the cemetery was on a toll road that connected Kansas City and Westport.
Union Cemetery contains about 55,000 graves dating from 1857 to the mid-1980s, including unmarked Civil War era graves, according to the nomination. The northeast portion may include mass graves from the Civil War and relocated graves from previous cemeteries. Four tombstones have Chinese inscriptions.
In addition to Civil War dead, Union Cemetery includes graves of veterans from the War of 1812.
McCoy platted the town of “West Port” in 1834 and sold supplies to westward pioneers. Majors founded the Pony Express and is said to have been Kansas City’s first millionaire. Bingham was a famous painter of the American frontier. Lykins was the first legitimate mayor of the Town of Kansas.