Tour & History
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Pioneers in this area from the early 1850s used a plot of ground, about 250 feet wide, between what today is Sixth Avenue Southeast and Seventh Avenue Southeast, and Center Street and Third Street Southeast, as a burial ground. No written records were made of those early burials, but those buried were transferred to Oakwood Cemetery soon after it was laid out. Identifications were made whenever possible.
It was a local newspaper, the Rochester City Post, that first printed "a call to select a prominent place to bury the dead of Rochester," on December 1, 1860. Three years later, the Rochester Cemetery Association was formed as a nondenominational, nonprofit, lot owner operated corporation.
The association elected Colonel George Healy president and chose the name Oakwood Cemetery for the burial ground located on high ground along the eastern bank of the Zumbro River. Col. Healy surveyed the land and laid out the first lots.
The Cemetery Association established a method of providing perpetual care, and Oakwood Cemetery became a peaceful haven for interment of Rochester's citizens. Since that time, more than 19,000 burials have taken place in a cemetery recognized as one of the most beautiful and well-maintained in Minnesota.
In 1912, trustees built a magnificent chapel to recognize Colonel Healy's diligent work and monetary contributions to the perpetual care fund. The fully restored chapel serves the same needs today as when it was built almost 100 years ago. The lovely chapel is available for small funerals and holds a columbarium. Colonel Healy was one of the best-known Rochester residents of his time. He was born in Cayuga County, New York, in 1812 and was one of the chief engineers of the New York and Erie Canal. He belonged to the New York State Militia and was colonel of a regiment. He and his wife had two biological children and one adopted daughter, all of whom died before Colonel Healy, he passed away on Aug. 14, 1896. Col. Healy arrived in Rochester in 1859 and worked as city surveyor for many years. He left generous donations to various charities. The Healy Memorial Chapel restoration was completed in 2000, returning this historic chapel to its full elegance and grace.
There are still many choice lots available at the downtown Oakwood Cemetery as well as Chapel View and interior chapel columbariums. Please contact the cemetery office for availability of lots.
Oakwood East Cemetery was established in August 1999 to extend the tradition of a nonsectarian, nonprofit cemetery for Rochester area residents, and is governed by the same board of trustees. Located 3/4 of a mile east of Century High School on County Road 2, Oakwood East features a gently rolling terrain and an attractive reflection pond. A stonework seating area and columbariums were added in 2008.
With more than 50 acres, Oakwood East promises to offer beauty and tranquility, as well as perpetual care, for years to come.