While Fairmount Cemetery isn't the oldest cemetery in Davenport, Iowa, it still has a long and illustrious history.
It started as the West Davenport Cemetery in 1881, and was located on the high bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River Valley west of the city.
That same year, a 33-year old carpenter named John Dibbern became the first person interred there. The beautiful, peaceful scenery made it a lovely place to be buried in, and soon several others joined the young carpenter there.
In 1891, the West Davenport Cemetery Association, the governing board of the cemetery, allowed a crematorium to be built on the grounds.
Erected in 1891, the Crematorium at West Davenport Cemetery was only the second one built west of the Mississippi River.
It is an elegant brick building, containing colorful stained-glass windows and surrounded by well-maintained grounds. A flight of stairs go up to a set of double doors, which led into a large central room that served as a chapel.
Although it was considered a taboo in some circles of Western society at the time, the practice gradually gained momentum and acceptance. Several hundred people would eventually be cremated here, including such notables as L.P. Best, a prominent Davenport businessman.
In 1900, the board of the West Davenport Cemetery decided to change the name of the cemetery. Instead of just choosing for themselves, they decided to make it more democratic and made the selection process into a contest. The person to come up with the chosen name would win a free burial spot in the cemetery.
After some time and deliberation, the winner was the name that the cemetery is known by today - Fairmount.
In 1927, the Fairmount Cemetery Board decided to look into building a community mausoleum.
While individual or family mausoleums can be found in several large cemeteries across the country, a community mausoleum provides a beautiful, clean place to inter your loved ones without burdening families with the cost or effort of annual upkeep.
The public loved the idea, and construction began in 1928. Situated with a commanding view from the top of the river bluffs, the building was made from concrete with a stone and marble exterior.
Inside, electric lighting illuminated marble floors and spacious walkways, while stained glass windows added a reverential effect.
By March of the following year, the Fairmount Cemetery Mausoleum was completed and the general public invited to view it.
Today, the Mausoleum is still there, carrying on its eternal vigil from the bluffs above the Mississippi. The crematory is also there, standing with the distinction of being the ninth oldest crematory in the United States.
While we have experienced our successes and failures over the past 137 years, Fairmount Cemetery has endured, and is fully ready to serve the public for many years to come.