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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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MOUNT OLIVET CEMETERY. The Key West Burying Ground cemetery authorities announced in 1897 that ten acres had been fenced in, platted, consecrated, and ready for burials. (1)

The cemetery was renamed in April 1901. The Mt. Olivet Cemetery Association, led by a board of eleven trustees, was given the responsibility of removing bodies from the THIRD STREET CEMETERY behind ST. RAPHAEL'S CATHEDRAL to the new cemetery. If funds were available, a monument dedicated to the Catholic pioneers of Dubuque was to be erected after the grounds were leveled, planted, and laid out with sidewalks. Perpetual care at Mt. Olivet was available in 1903 for eighty dollars. (2)

In 1901 O. C. Simmonds, superintendent of Graceland Cemetery in Chicago and a widely recognized landscape gardener, was hired to improve the cemetery grounds. The cemetery had previously been inaccessible to anyone not walking.

Concerns about the lack of water supply to the cemetery were solved in 1902. The old system had traditionally given out in July or August with the result that the grass and flowers could not survive. The new system began with a 500 barrel reservoir installed on ground one hundred feet above the cemetery. One-fourth inch diameter pipes were then laid to all parts of the cemetery. Water was secured from a 250-foot deep well. (3)

By Memorial Day, May 1903, over one hundred vehicles drove into the cemetery for the first time. Visitors found that shade trees and shrubs had been planted. A new feature noticed by many was that graves located in the pauper's field were kept up as well as those in the rest of the cemetery.

When the THIRD STREET CEMETERY was first closed in 1867, all the known burials were moved to Mount Olivet. (4) In 1901 C. W. Dwyer, sexton of Mt. Olivet, had a group of men at work cutting weeds at Third Street to allow those wishing to move the remains of relatives to find the graves. (5) In the 1940s, at least 11 graves additional were discovered during the construction of St. Dominic's Villa as were two sets of remains disturbed in the 1970s and four discovered in 1994. Between 600-700 graves were archaeologically excavated from the Third Street Cemetery between 2007 and 2011. (6) The remains of these individuals were also reburied in the Third Street Cemetery section of Mt. Olivet.

The northwest corner of the cemetery is the location of St. Joseph's Chapel MAUSOLEUM built in 1989 and later expanded. This building offers crypts for mausoleum entombment, columbarium niches and a small chapel for the final ceremonies.

Photo courtesy: The Witness

In October, 2017 an "Angel of Hope" statute to commemorate babies and young children who have died was dedicated at the cemetery. Angel of Hope statues became an international phenomenon after the publication of the book “The Christmas Box.” The 1993 novel is about a woman who mourns the loss of her child at the base of an angel statue. The angel has the word “hope” on one of its wings.

Parents who had lost a child in Salt Lake City, Utah, asked for a monu­ment matching the description of the angel in the book. Author Richard Paul Evans paid for the project. By 2010 the statues were located in over 120 cities worldwide. The Dubuque area statue was sponsored by members of the Dubuque Tri-State Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss organization and Compassionate Friends, two groups that help families who have lost children. (7)



1. "More Room for the Dead," The Dubuque Herald, December 12, 1897, p. 7

2. "Name is Changed," Dubuque Daily Telegraph, April 5, 1901, p. 3

3. "The Water System," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, May 19, 1902 p. 8

4. Nevans-Pederson, Mary. "Graveyard Buries Development," Telegraph Herald, September 15, 2009, p. 1

5. "Briefs and Digests," Telegraph-Herald, November 14, 1901 p. 3

6. Nevans-Pederson

7. Russo, Dan. "Angel of Hope Statue to be Dedicated at Mt. Olivet Cemetery October 1," The Witness. Online: https://www.thewitnessonline.org/around-the-archdiocese/angel-of-hope-statue-to-be-dedicated-at-mt-olivet-cemetery-oct-1/