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These final resting places were not so final after all. We track the course of the dead and displaced.

East Side Potter’s Field

Site: Present day Site of Maryland Avenue School

Years used: 1849-50

Who? Used for Cholera victims who died during the 1849-50 outbreak

Number of Interred: Unknown, although about 300 people died in the outbreak

Removed: Many remains were moved in 1887, when a school was built on the site. But construction work in 1950 turned up still more bones.

Note: For unknown reasons, some of the remains found in 1950 were buried under as little as 18 inches of soil.


Second Ward Cemetery

Site: North 13th Street and West Juneau Avenue

Years used: Circa 1848-61

Who? This was a predominantly German burial ground.

Number of Interred: Unknown

Removed: The Common Council ordered the cemetery removed in 1874 to make way for an extension of North 13th Street. The bodies were mostly relocated to Forest Home and Union cemeteries, although work in the site in 1905, 1964 and 2015 uncovered many remains that had not been removed.

Note: Because of the great fear of being buried alive while in a comatose state in the mid-1800s, many tombs at this cemetery were outfitted with bells that could be rung with a cord that ran into the casket, allowing an unduly buried person to signal the living world.


Elizabeth Street Cemetery

Site: Bound by West National Avenue, West Pierce Street and South 12th and 16th streets

Years used: Circa 1845-60

Who? Many prominent citizens were buried here, including politicians and business leaders.

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Number of Interred: Over 1,000

Removed: Most of the interred were moved to Forest Home Cemetery beginning in 1864, although remains were found there in 1875, 1881 and 1926.

Note: The cemetery was in sickening disrepair by 1864, when it was moved and many of the caskets crumbled apart as they were being removed. The men who did the work were paid some of the highest laboring wages in the city at the time and rewarded with a keg of beer at the end of each day.


Milwaukee County Farm Potter’s Field

Site: North 87th Street and West Wisconsin Avenue, near Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa

Years used: Mid-1850s-1929

Who? Poor and indigent county residents who died at the nearby public hospital and almshouse

Number of Interred: At least 1,300

Removed: The remains were recently removed for an expansion to the Froedtert facility and given to the UW-Milwaukee Anthropology Department.

Note: This site came into use after burials were stopped at the East Side Potter’s Field.


Spring Street Catholic Cemetery

Site: West Wisconsin Avenue and North 22nd Street.

Years used: 1844-57

Who? Many of Milwaukee’s most prominent early Catholic citizens

Number of Interred: Unknown

Removed: The site had become too small by the late 1850s and the interred were moved to the new Calvary Cemetery in 1857.

Note: Solomon Juneau, co-founder of Milwaukee and the city’s first mayor, was buried here along with his wife, Josette.


Pioneer Cemetery

Site: Southeast corner of East Wisconsin Avenue and Broadway

Years used: Prior to 1850

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Who? Unknown

Number of Interred: Unknown

Removed: In about 1850, the remains at this site were removed to Forest Home Cemetery.

Note: Little is known about this burial site, which was the first to be dedicated in Milwaukee. There is even no clear indication the place had a proper name. Still receiving burials shortly before it was moved, it was likely one of the last active cemeteries in the city east of the Milwaukee River.


‘Unsolved Mysteries & Hidden History’ appeared in the May 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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