Protecting Midwest Pioneer Cemeteries through Cemetery Preservation Reform


Author/Creator ORCID



Type of Work



MA in Historic Preservation

Citation of Original Publication


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Pioneer cemeteries are enduring, physical landscapes which display community antiquity and cultural heritage. Their loss through deterioration and destructive practices erases historical and archaeological fabric that cannot be reproduced. This thesis examines the preservation of pioneer cemeteries in the Midwest. It asks three questions: What are the activities groups undertake when preserving a pioneer cemetery? What resources are accessible for groups to restore and maintain pioneer cemeteries? Does Midwest state legislation assist or hinder pioneer cemeteries from abandonment and destructive practices? A brief glimpse of cemetery history and preservation in the United States introduces the research. The discussion details a case study of five pioneer cemeteries in differing Midwest states (Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska). Through comparisons of abandonment and restorative activities, observations offer an understanding of available resources and areas of impediment volunteers confront to initiate and maintain pioneer cemeteries. The case study further evaluates each state’s legislation and its assistance or hindrance to protect burial grounds as well as its promotion of public awareness in regarding cemetery preservation. In conclusion, I advocate that pioneer cemeteries in the Midwest require numerous resources, particularly funding and educational programs, combined with robust legislation to ensure their longevity. Preserving these cemeteries will ensure their landscapes can be recognized as a historical commodity previously abandoned by their descendants and forgotten by their communities.