Images provided by Bradford Wilcox.

The Story of Evergreen Cemetery

The Evergreen Cemetery Association was founded on North Main Street in Fort Atkinson on Jan. 24, 1863. It began as a small property of two or three acres and has expanded over the years to about 25 acres.

The original burying ground for the city was on the west side of Janesville Ave. about across from the old James farm, but nothing remains at the site.  The bodies having been removed many years ago when that cemetery was abandoned, and are now at Evergreen or Lakeview cemeteries.

The original Evergreen board of directors in 1863 consisted of Milton Snell, W. J. Barrie, Newton Snell, Jesse Dodge, Rufus Dodge, and Stephen A. Rice.

The first family to arrive and settle in what became Fort Atkinson was the Dwight Foster family on Nov. 10, 1836. Dwight’s father, Edward Foster, Sr. was the first person to die in the village, on Oct. 13, 1837.

Apparently, the first Memorial Day service, which honored the veterans of the Civil War, was held in 1868, and it was sponsored be the G.A.R.

An unusual burial in the cemetery is that of Sarah Ruggles, the first white European born in the Hawaiian Islands.  She was born in 1820 and is buried at Evergreen along with her parents, Samuel and Nancy Ruggles, and her husband, George Stafford.

Many of the Fort Atkinson’s early community leaders are buried at the cemetery.  Former Governor William Dempster Hoard is buried here.

In 1886, a sexton was hired to take care of the cemetery grounds.  He was paid an annual salary of $250.00 and was provided a house and barn. Over the next century the sexton’s house became a sort of storage house and became quite run down.  In 1997, the board of directors decided to tear it down or burn it down and replace it with some type of mausoleum.  That spurred many “letters to the editor” of the Daily Union and caused quite an uproar in the community.  The matter was settled to everyone’s satisfaction when Mark Kerschensteiner stepped forward and offered to pay for the complete restoration and remodeling of the house.

In June, 1898, several thousand people attended the dedication of the large Memorial monument located in the circle to honor the local Civil War soldiers who were killed in battle.  It was dedicated as the “Soldier’s Monument.”  It was again sponsored by the G.A.R.

A war marker, located neat the “Soldier’s Monument”, was erected in 1970 to honor a Daniel Dobbs, the only soldier killed at Fort Koshkonong during the Blackhawk War of 1832.  It is believed he was probably shot by an Indian while fishing in the Rock River near the fort.

In 2002, Mrs. Margaret Buending, the daughter of John and Katherine Bellman, made a generous gift to the Evergreen Cemetery to honor her parent’s memory.  It was to become a carillon tower that was named “The Bellman Carillon Tower.”

The 42 foot high tower was completed and dedicated on October 30th, 2004.The tower includes 90 columbarium niches for cremated remains and its carillon bells can play 150 different songs.

In 2007, a Court of Honor adjacent to the Carillon Tower was completed.  The site is appointed with five flag poles each representing a branch of service and one larger flag pole displaying the American flag.  Engraved paver bricks were sold to the public and form a large courtyard fronting the flag poles.  They serve as lasting tributes by the donors to friends, family, and loved ones.

In 2009, a beautiful Columbarium Niche Wall was constructed east of the Carillon Tower and Court of Honor. Landscaping adjacent to the wall was completed in 2010. The purpose of the wall is to provide additional options for the interment of cremains at Evergreen Cemetery, complementing the Carillon Tower and Court of Honor.