Union Cemetery Association articles of incorporation were submitted on May 15th of 1889. The meeting to create the cemetery was held at the First Swedish Baptist Church. According to an article in August of 1889 in the Saint Paul Globe, another meeting was held at the Swedish Methodist church to discuss the location of the Cemetery, and to also pre-sell lots to help purchase the piece of land for the cemetery. The pastors of the Swedish Lutheran Church, and the Swedish Methodist church spoke at this meeting. Also according to that article the Swedish people of the entire state are interested in the venture of a cemetery for Swedes. It is believed that the name “Union” came from the fact that all of these various Swedish churches came together to create the cemetery, thus creating a union.
The 40 acre tract of land that was proposed as the site for Union Cemetery lay just outside the Saint Paul city limits, between Minnehaha and East 7th Street. The price for this tract of land was $18,000, translated to today’s cost would roughly be $500,000. A survey of the land was completed, and a day of dedication was set for Sunday, September 29th of 1889. 2,000 circulars were printed for the dedication, and were given out at all the Swedish Churches in Saint Paul at their Sunday services. Round trip street car fair to the event and from 7th and Duluth ave. was 25 cents.
During the day of the dedication, it rained all morning and into early afternoon. The rain did not deter the Swedish immigrants from coming though. It was reported that at 2:30pm there were about 1,000 people gathered at East 7th and Duluth Ave. to get on the street car to the new cemetery. Not everyone rode the street car, others rode in their own buggies and wagons.
At 4:00pm the dedication started, and the rain had stopped. The audience took part in singing of a psalm, and heard a scripture reading from the Pastor of the Swedish Baptist Church. After the reading, the choir from The First Lutheran Church sang. Then Reverend Sward from the First Lutheran Church gave a dedication address. He used as his text Abraham buying his final resting place, referring to his attitude for a sacred rest in those days. He also referred to Christ who also had to enter his grave and rise again to proclaim, “I live, ye shall also live”. Finally Reverend Sward blessed the grounds in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
After the dedication, Reverend Ongman from the Swedish Baptist Church gave a sincere message on the importance of the new venture, mentioning the fact that most of those gathered would find their last resting place in these hills until the day the Lord may appear. Then Reverend S.W. Sundberg of the Mission Friends of First Covenant Church gave a benediction followed by the singing of several songs by the audience.
When the service was over, the impressed crowd again took to the wagons, buggies, and street cars in the fading light of the day heading back into the city.
On October 2, 1889, the first person was laid to rest in Union Cemetery. Alved Anderson, a 9 year old boy from 708 LaFond Ave. Alved is interred in Block 3 Lot 157 Grave 1 of Union Cemetery. Block 3 is right in front of the main gate (east entrance) of the cemetery.
Union Cemetery 1900’s
Union Cemetery held its offices at the store of Wallblom & Thoorsell on 327 E. 7th Street. This is where Interstate 94 and East 7th come together today. The cemetery was run by one superitendant, Mr. Carl Anderson, and in 1887 Hired their first employee Abel Anderson.
A question we get often is who is our oldest burial. Well, as you already read our first burial was in October of 1889, however you may see older death dates than 1889 in our cemetery. In 1858 a small cemetery was erected by the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. The site was located at Orchard and Victoria Streets in Saint Paul. Germans were interred in the southern half of the cemetery, and Swedes were interred on the north side. By 1900 the cemetery was abandoned and the Germans were moved to Elmhurst Cemetery on Dale and Nebraska St, and the Swedes were moved to Union Cemetery. Thus Union Cemetery has death dates in the cemetery prior to it’s opening in 1889.
In the early 1900’s Union Cemetery had its own bus that would pick up visitors from East Saint Paul, and bring them to the Cemetery. A photo of this wagon is posted. In an add posted in the St. Paul Globe paper it states that two busses woud leave Cook street and Payne avenue at 9:00am; and also at 2:00pm. Also the busses would leave Seventh and Minnehaha at 1:30pm, and at 2:00pm. And yet another stop at Bedore and Minnehaha at 9:00am and 2:00pm on decoration day.
There was a chapel erected in the middle of Union Cemetery. This chapel was where our Loving Memories upright columbarium is located today. Services were held in the chapel, and bodies were stored in its basement during the winter months awaiting the ground to thaw for burial. According to a former pastor of Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Gethsemane used this chapel for their services from Apri of 1938 to June of 1939 for their church.
In 1942 an additional 10 acres were approved by our board for purchase to expand the cemetery, and again in 1952 they approved the purchase of another 10 acres. This 60 acre plot of land is where our current cemetery sits.
Union Cemetery Today
Union Cemetery started as a Swedish cemetery, however today we are the cemetery of the east side. For proof that we are a Swedish cemetery at our heart, there are over 1600 Johnson’s buried in our cemetery, with 70 of those individuals being a John Johnson.
Currently we have just under 27,000 interments in Union Cemetery. We offer many various options for interment reflecting the changes to the funeral industries through the years. We offer above ground columbariums for cremated remains, and above ground crypts for full size burials. We also inter in the ground cremated remains, and also the historical traditional method of burial with a full casket in ground.
We still have many open graves, and as of last estimate have about 150 years of available spaces in the cemetery. We have adapted, and will continue to adapt through technology and trends. We are proud to offer online memorial pages for each and every burial in our cemetery. A website where you can see any memorial associated with a burial, ability to post photos, write memories, and post obituaries.
The cemetery today sells Monuments, markers, urns, and vaults along with cemetery property.