March 2022 Fort Pierre Mayor's Report
One of my favorite landmarks in Fort Pierre is Cedar Hill Cemetery. Built in 1894 on beautiful wooded hills just a few miles west of the city (south of the water storage tank on Verendrye Drive) Cedar Hill is the final resting place of a variety of early residents, including outlaws, fur traders, military veterans of the Civil War, WWI and WWII, prospectors, Native American residents, suffragettes, murder victims and historic leaders. It also holds a great many children who succumbed to multiple epidemics.
Shortly after taking office as mayor almost 8 years ago, I received a complaint about the condition of the Cedar Hill Cemetery. I checked it out, and the complainant was right – maintenance of the cemetery had been neglected. So, in the spring of 2014, members of the Masonic Lodge, city employees, inmates from the women’s prison, City Council members and other volunteers spent a weekend trimming bushes and trees, mowing and trimming grass, and righting tipped headstones. That same year the City installed solar lighting for the American flag so it could remain flying 24 hours a day.
Every year since, the Masons, Doug Runge, and other volunteers have faithfully improved and provided maintenance of the cemetery. The city parks crew does a great job keeping the area mowed and trimmed.
The City Council made the decision a few years ago to cease selling burial plots until we could make sure the records were accurate. We hope to reverse the decision soon. We also want to offer self-guided walking tours of the cemetery to historians and the general public.
To address the need for updated historical records and to make sure the cemetery gets the attention it deserves, I decided to reinstate the Cedar Hill Cemetery Board, which had been inactive for a decade or more. Last fall, the Council approved the appointments of Doug and Jeff Mortenson, Steve Likness, Jody Heemstra, Ken Stewart, Carl Rathbun, and Doug Runge. The Board meets monthly; it has organized, elected officers, adopted bylaws, and established priorities. I agree with Ken Stewart’s description of the board members: “fun people, passionate about Fort Pierre and Cedar Hill.”
I am so grateful for dedicated individuals in this community who volunteer their time and talents to preserve our rich history for generations to come.