MANKATO — Cemeteries are great places to visit not only to pay your respects but to see the monuments that represent the people and their stories.
Calvary Catholic Cemetery is on 40 acres of land along Goodyear Avenue. The cemetery serves four local parishes — SS. Peter and Paul’s Catholic Church, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church and Holy Rosary Catholic Church. People who weren’t members of those parishes also can be buried at Calvary.
Its serene setting is popular with walkers, bikers and runners.
However, this is not Mankato’s first Catholic cemetery. The town’s first Catholic cemetery was started in 1857 along North Sixth Street. Before long, that cemetery became overcrowded. In November 1885, 40 acres were purchased for a new cemetery. At the time of the second cemetery’s founding, its location was on the outskirts of town.
Quite the change today.
The first funeral in Calvary Cemetery was for Frank Salfer. He was killed Nov. 3, 1886, when he was struck by the beam of a falling derrick while working for the Cannon Valley Railroad.
Over the time that followed, many of the burials in the first cemetery — now called Pioneer Cemetery — were moved to Calvary.
Calvary Cemetery’s chapel was completed in 1895, about 10 years after the founding of the cemetery. It is made of Mankato limestone. According to the cemetery’s website, when the chapel was consecrated, an imposing procession from the two Catholic churches downtown made their way up the hill to the chapel.
The two statues at the front of the chapel were added a year later. The marble altar was carved by Mankato’s Joseph Masberg.
The chapel’s bell, it is said, had been destined for a church farther West, but the steamboat it was on sunk in the Mississippi River. After being salvaged from the river, the bell was purchased and used at the Winnebago Agency. It was also used as a school bell and at SS. Peter and Paul’s before coming to the cemetery chapel.
Under the chapel is the crypt. It was here where 12 Jesuit fathers and brothers of the Society of Jesus were laid to rest. In the 1920s, the bodies were removed and buried outside, near the chapel. The vault of Brother Valentine Oser has been left open to show what these burials were like. The Jesuits are each honored with two markers at the cemetery — the original ones still in the crypt and the newer markers outside. Most of the markers are in German and include not only their birth and death dates, but also the date when they entered the church.
Calvary Catholic Cemetery’s history was recently highlighted in BECHS’ Ghosts From the Past program.
For more information about historical topics, contact the Historical Society at 345-5566 or visit: BlueEarthCountyHistory.com.