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Willmar State Hospital--Oak Knoll Cemetery

Replies: 10

Willmar State Hospital--Oak Knoll Cemetery

Cheryl Johnson (View posts)
Posted: 23 Jun 2003 11:00PM GMT
Classification: Query
I have a copy of a list (from the Willmar library) of names of people buried in the Oak Knoll Cemetery.

The list basically gives names and grave numbers. Only a couple of names have dates.

E-mail me if you would like me to check the list for a name.

To reach me, use the following e-mail address(es):

Generally in the summer and specifically--June through MOST of August 2003:

During the rest of the year:

Oak Knoll Cemetery
Section 1, Willmar Township
Kandiyohi County

West of Highway 71 and County Road 90 immediately south of its juncture at Swan Lake

Year of incorporation: 1926
Approximate number of burials in cemetery: 869
Lester E. Johnson, Administrator
Willmar State Hospital

Information from the library:

April 17, 1946 p. 4:

"20 years ago (1926)
The Willmar State Asylum may have its own cemetery according to action which may be taken within the next few days. Of the twelve who die on an average in a year, several are sent to the State University for medical experimentation, and some are buried at Willmar in Fairview cemetery. Very few are sent to relatives for burial in the home localities. The state owns a triangular strip along Willmar Lake and the trunk highway No. 4 near the asylum. Here a space will be reserved and prepared for use of graves."


"The Willmar State Hospital Cemetery, now known as Oak Knoll Cemetery, has served Willmar State Hospital for many years--since December of 1926 at which time one, Alma Marsh, was buried. The services have continued until the most recent interment in June of 1973, a Mr. Victor Berdan. Now to think back, the Willmar State Hospital was established in 1907, when the property of N. Tallman was acquired for the establishment of an inebriate residential farm. First patients came to Willmar State Hospital in December of 1912. In 1917, it was adjusted to include the services for the mentally ill. In examining history, it shows that there were several smaller parcels of land purchased. The land that we are most interested in is that west of now Highway 71 and County Road 90 immediately south of its juncture at Swan Lake. It is my understanding that about 1923 a Mr. Sampson was manager of the farming functions here at Willmar State Hospital. Either by formal training or by avocation, he was a surveyor. Records show that he re-surveyed the land of all of the State Hospital properties. More specifically, he laid out on a formal basis what is currently the Oak Knoll Cemetery establishing plots in units of 10 with the appropriate dividers and cart ways. The cemetery itself overlooks Swan Lake and the area is quite grassy with a pleasant oak grove. The cemetery was divided into an area primarily for those of the Catholic faith and the balance for Protestant faith in general. Thus far, 675 lots have been used in the Protestant area and 194 in the Catholic area, constituting a total of 869 burial sites. The cemetery itself was expanded in about 1962 for the third addition. The current usage of the cemetery is held in abeyance even though space still does exist. It is a contemporary phiilosophy that families and counties are responsible for the disposition of the deceased. Public funds and contractual arrangements for funeral arrangements are quite common now and we have not had a burial here since June of 1973. The presumption is that in the event of a devastating economic situation, we might be called upon to continue its use.

Hospital farming was ceased in the early 1960's. Land was deeded to the City of Willmar on the north of the campus itself. To the west side of Highway 71, the title to the farm land, with the exception of the cemetery properties, was transferred to the Department of Transportation, ostensibly for a rest area for the highway system and possibly a roadside park arrangement overlooking Swan Lake. The cemetery is expected to be under the custody of Willmar State Hospital and/or the State of Minnesota indefinitely.

Lester E. Johnson
January, 1979

SubjectAuthorDate Posted
Cheryl Johnson 24 Jun 2003 5:00AM GMT 
Jeanne Opstein 31 Dec 2003 5:29PM GMT 
Cheryl Johnson 4 Jun 2004 5:51AM GMT 
Cheryl Johnson 8 Jun 2004 4:13AM GMT 
Jody 9 Mar 2004 5:51PM GMT 
mmpsjohn 30 Sep 2009 12:18AM GMT 
MNGenWeb 12 Oct 2009 2:13AM GMT 
cejohnson1947 14 Sep 2012 2:05AM GMT 
Shari_holzsch... 23 May 2012 8:38PM GMT 
cejohnson1947 14 Sep 2012 2:00AM GMT 
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