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Forest Hill Cemetery, Madison, Wisconsin

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In 1857, the City of Madison purchased a tract of land with a lovely view overlooking the entire city and the surrounding lakes. Even today, this tree-lined cemetery, located on Speedway Road, retains an original park-like atmosphere with winding roads and flowerbeds.

Since the cemetery was created at the time of the Civil War, one of the most interesting areas for visitors are the two military burial plots for Union and Confederate soldiers. Many Confederate soldiers were held prisoner at nearby Camp Randall. One hundred forty of them died and were buried at Forest Hill. In a nearby plot, 240 Union veterans were buried. Forest Hill Cemetery is one of the first U.S. National Cemeteries in Wisconsin.

In an even earlier time, Native Americans used this high ground as a burial ground, evidenced by an Effigy Mound Grouping, where noble warriors are buried. This mound, in the shape of a goose, is located on the southeast side of the cemetery. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The entire cemetery is filled with a sense of history and a reminder of the families who have played a significant role in the area's development. A brochure (free of charge) that features a map and self-guided walking tour or a publication by Historic Madison, Inc. entitled "Forest Hill Cemetery; A Biographical Guide to the Ordinary and the Famous Who Shaped Madison and the World" ($20.00) can be obtained at the Cemetery Office or the Parks Office.

For more information on burial services or to inquire about the availability of burial plots, please call (608) 266-4720.

City of Madison Parks

Forest Hill Cemetery is located in Madison, Wisconsin, and was one of the first U.S. National Cemeteries established in Wisconsin.

After the first permanent European-American settlers arrived in Madison in the 1830s, the first non-native burials occurred on the current University of Wisconsin–Madison campus, near Bascom Hill. In the following years other areas within the area were established as informal burying grounds and the first official village cemetery was established in 1847 near what is now Orton Park.

In the mid-1850s, a committee was formed to search for another appropriate site in the area to form an official Madison cemetery. The committee members chose the current site, then on the far west side of the city and subsequently bought the original 80 acres of land for $10,000 from John and Mary Wright. The Wrights had obtained the land from land speculator James Duane Doty, who had obtained it from Alanson Sweet, a territorial council member from Milwaukee.

In 1863 the city sold a portion of land from the original purchase to the Roman Catholic Societies for $170. They in turn developed that property into a Catholic cemetery, now known as Resurrection Cemetery.

In the 1860s a receiving vault was built on site. During and following the Civil War, the Soldiers Lot and Confederate Lot were created and in 1865 a well was dug near the plot of Governor Harvey and a windmill was erected over it. In 1878 a chapel was built following a contribution by the family of John Catlin.

In 1928, another 80 acres were purchased, 60 of which are part of the Glenway Golf Course directly behind the present cemetery.

The cemetery protects seven precontact effigy mounds, dating from 700 to 1200 CE. The earthworks are shaped like a goose flying down a slope toward Lake Wingra, two panthers, and a linear shape. Three more linear mounds have been destroyed by cemetery development and the goose's head was destroyed by grading for the railroad. The mound group is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

A section of the cemetery is known as Confederate Rest. On it lie about 140 Confederate prisoners of war who died while in confinement in a Union camp in Madison, Camp Randall, in 1862. A stone marker or cenotaph lists the names of 132 of the prisoners who died in custody. In October 2018, the Madison City Council voted 16 to 2 to remove the marker with the list of buried prisoners, overturning the Landmarks Commission, which had denied a permit to remove the marker, which was built in 1906. The eradication of the cenotaph was seen by some in city government as a "reparation," and was supported by the Equal Opportunities Commission of the city government.

The removal of the cenotaph was opposed by the Dane County Historical Society. The editorial board of the Wisconsin State Journal, noting Confederate Rest is the northernmost Confederate graveyard in the nation, also opposed the removal.,_Wisconsin)

This cemetery is located on 1 Speedway, Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin.

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