Hometown Icon: Oak Grove Cemetery

Oak Grove Cemetary

Tribune file photo

The historic Oak Grove Cemetery in the heart of La Crosse is known as “The Silent City” where more than 30,000 are interred, including some of the city’s some influential leaders.

The cemetery was founded in 1852 at 1407 La Crosse St. by the city’s founding fathers and today spans 80 acres, said Trish Grathen, executive director of the cemetery association.

Local attorney and civic leader Joseph Losey in the early 1880s led the cemetery’s beautification efforts after it fell into disrepair, Grathen said. It was his vision that visitors would spend time enjoying the grounds and exploring its history.

“We still encourage people to enjoy the cemetery like a park and to continue what Joseph Losey wanted,” Grathen said.

The cemetery’s entrance features a massive stone arch erected in 1901 to honor Losey. It’s now considered a local, state and national Historic Landmark.

La Crosse icons Gottlieb Heileman, Cadwallader Washburn, Gideon Hixon, James Trane and members of the Gund and Cargill families are buried on the grounds. Washburn’s monument is the ground’s tallest at 45-feet.

The site also includes a Civil War monument memorializing La Crosse area veterans and a marble and concrete mausoleum built in 1912 to hold 590 burial sites. A garden mausoleum featuring a waterfall and garden beds opened in 1999.

Visitors can take self-guided walking tours of the grounds from dawn to dusk daily.

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