In 1928, Lawrence’s mayor renamed the burial ground Pioneer Cemetery and assigned crews to clean it up. By the early 1950s, however, it was again heavily overgrown. Chancellor Franklin Murphy took a personal interest in it and persuaded KU Endowment to consider acquiring it. In 1953, the city deeded Pioneer Cemetery to KU Endowment for one dollar.
The first burial there in 86 years was that of Elmer McCollum, a KU alumnus, eminent scientist and discoverer of Vitamin A. He spent most of his career away from Kansas, but he retained fond memories of Lawrence and KU and wished to be buried in Pioneer Cemetery. On May 6, 1968, his ashes were interred there, and a new chapter in the cemetery’s history began.
Since then, Pioneer Cemetery has become the final resting place for more than 450 members of the KU community. It remains an active cemetery, with new interments each year and frequent visitors, who wish to stop by the graves of loved ones or explore the history of Lawrence and KU.
Pioneer Cemetery Regulations
Recognizing that space in Pioneer Cemetery is quite limited, KU Endowment in 1994 developed the following regulations for those who would be buried there.
- Burial plots (administered by KU Endowment) are available to eligible faculty, staff and administrators, and to the spouse of any eligible employee.
- Eligibility typically requires 15 years of service to the university, or those individuals who have given distinguished service to KU, KU Alumni Association, Board of Directors or KU Endowment Board of Trustees.
- All costs, such as cremation, inurnment and actual interment, as well as purchase and placement of markers, shall be borne by the families or estates of the deceased. The operation and maintenance is funded entirely by private donations.
- Pioneer Cemetery will not be expanded outside its present bounds.
- Plots for persons not yet assigned a specific plot will be 2′ x 2′.
- The plots for individuals already assigned a specific plot may remain at 4′ x 4′.
- Markers for single plots shall be 10″ x 20″. Markers for double plots can be 12″ x 36″.
- Interment must be administered by a licensed mortician.
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