A look at what's known about the Nymore Cemetery

A headstone for Cora Swenson is one of seven in the Nymore Cemetery. Submitted photo.

Editor’s note: The Beltrami County Historical Society is partnering with the Pioneer on a series of monthly articles highlighting the history of the area . For more information about the Historical Society, visit .

Driving by the large open plot on Fourth Street Southeast in Nymore, one might wonder about the vacant-looking block. With a closer look, one would see it has a sign reading Nymore Cemetery.

It’s an abandoned cemetery with only six tombstones remaining. It looks a lot better than it did 50 or even 75 years ago since it now has a fence and a sign and the area is neatly mowed. It’s located between Fourth and Fifth Street, on the block between Scott and Lincoln Avenues.

Who used this cemetery and why was it abandoned for over 60 years?


The Nymore Cemetery is located between Fourth and Fifth Street, on the block between Scott and Lincoln Avenues, in Bemidji’s Nymore neighborhood. Submitted photo.

The village of Nymore was incorporated in about 1902 and existed as a separate entity until it was annexed to Bemidji in 1916. The first burials preceded the actual purchase of the property by the village. According to the death records at the Beltrami County Administration building, the earliest burial in the cemetery was that of one-day old Freddie Nolan in February 1904.

On July 28, 1906, the village of Nymore purchased the property for the Nymore Cemetery. The property is not within the original village plat but is part of the first addition to Nymore. The village paid $200 to Fitz and Mary Nye and to James and Inez A. French.

The cemetery was surveyed and platted by M. D. Stoner and officially designated the Nymore Cemetery. In September 1907, O. J. Tagley, President of the Village Council and Fred Hammond, village clerk, signed the official document saying that “the village of Nymore, owner and proprietor of the above described land, have and do by these present, cause the same to be laid out in accordance with the plat contained on this page and dedicate to the public and for the public use forever, all driveways and walks as thereon shown.” The plat divides a little over one acre into blocks, lots, driveways and walks. The plat contains six sections (A-F) with 124 lots of varying sizes with a large open area and a pump site in the center.

Confusion started in the early years when “buried in Nymore” or even “buried in Nymore cemetery” did not unequivocally mean burial at the cemetery on Fourth Street.

Among the early settlers in Nymore was the family of Matthew Larson. Larson owned and operated a store on the corner of what is now Central Avenue and South Fourth Street.

The Larsons began conducting Sunday school classes for the Norwegian children of the area early in 1905. The Nymore Norwegian Lutheran Church was formally organized on December 5, 1907. The Larson family donated land for a cemetery along Roosevelt Avenue, and the first burial was Julius Larson in 1909.

Any burial listed as “Larson’s Cemetery” indicated that the burial was in that cemetery which is now known as the Calvary Lutheran Cemetery. However, a simple statement that the deceased was buried in Nymore meant that the person might be buried in either cemetery.


In reading the Register of Deaths for Beltrami County, both John Melhus and Marie Larson Melhus are listed as buried in the Nymore Cemetery. John Melhus, who died on June 5, 1910, was the second burial in the new Calvary Lutheran Cemetery and Marie Larson Melhus followed within a year on Nov. 4, 1911.

It became even more confusing when the village of Nymore was annexed by Bemidji in 1916. From that point on, there was often no distinction in the register of deaths between Nymore and Bemidji. One can be grateful to the doctor or person who filled out the death record if he stated clearly Larson’s Cemetery, Nymore Cemetery, Greenwood or the Poor Farm as the place of burial.

Although most of the burials in this cemetery occurred between 1904-1919, there are later burials as well. One example is Christine Rosby Ridgway, who died in 1934. Christine was a pioneer in Beltrami County. Her stepfather, T.N. Rosby, became the first Probate Judge of the newly organized county in 1897. She developed much of the Nymore real estate called Ridgways Addition with her husband after 1902.

Incidentally, Mr. Ridgeway was arrested and charged after setting fire to his brush piles when it was dangerous due to extremely dry weather on June 14, 1909. The fire sprang up the next day and required the work of between 15 and 20 men to prevent the burning of the Nymore Cemetery. Mr. Ridgeway was taken before Justice J. B. Hook of Nymore and was found not guilty. The Justice noted that Ridgeway had worked very hard along with the others to extinguish the blaze.

Although the records of the Nymore Cemetery Association were turned over to the Greenwood Cemetery Association on June 25, 1917, these records have since been lost. Normally, this would have been a bound ledger noting all the burials in the cemetery.

A headstone for Albert E. Brewer is situated near the fence in the Nymore Cemetery. Submitted photo.

A petition signed on May 31, 1922, by 70 residents of the Nymore community requested the vacation of the old Nymore Cemetery. They asked that the bodies buried there be moved to a more suitable cemetery. It was stated in the petition that the cemetery was already in a neglected condition. The petition was referred to the Greenwood Cemetery board.


Through death records, scattered notes at City Hall, a skimpy number of funeral home records from that period and some newspaper obituaries, the historical society has compiled a reasonable list of 118 burials at the cemetery and these have been posted to

The problem with converting the property for other purposes is that nobody knows what portions are used and what portions are not used. As of 1985, because of the ambiguous state of the ownership, the county was maintaining it as an abandoned cemetery.

Bruce Atwater did considerable research on the Nymore Cemetery and his notes were very helpful in trying to determine who purchased lots and has family buried there. Since no official ledger exists, his notes from the 1970s and his research at City Hall were very beneficial.

There are only seven headstones that still exist in the cemetery. During World War II, some churches, as part of the war effort, moved the headstones off local graveyards and planted corn. These gardens were called Victory Gardens. Around one-third of the vegetables produced by the United States during the war came from victory gardens. Citizens believed that the produce from their gardens would help to lower the price of vegetables needed to feed the troops. Eleanor Roosevelt led the movement by planting a Victory Garden on the White House lawn in 1943.

Perhaps there was a plan to use the ground of the Nymore Cemetery for that purpose. In 2011, Donna Froyd told Beckie Thole, a museum volunteer, that she recalled a time when the stones were all moved to the east edge along Grant Avenue. One day she drove by and the piles of stones were gone, and she wondered what happened to them.

Sometimes tombstones were carried away and put to practical use as doorsteps or weights. It would seem disrespectful now, but for a period of time, many cemeteries suffered serious neglect.

Glenna Dearholt recalled the year when she delivered the Duluth News Tribune as a fifth-grader in about 1949 in Nymore. Her paper route took her past the cemetery nightly, and she always kept as far to the opposite side of the road as she could. The cemetery was overgrown and only a few of the stones were visible.

October and November meant spooky nights when the wind blew through the underbrush. In winter, the snow was deep and wind swept over the area. Glenna stopped there years later with her sister Janie in about 1969. It hadn’t changed a lot. It was still a neglected area.


From 1995-2000, the Minnesota Cemetery Project made a concerted effort by volunteers statewide to identify every lost or abandoned cemetery in Minnesota, as part of a national movement to do the same. There are many unmarked graves in all cemeteries. The few headstones left in this cemetery are scattered on the grounds without knowing if they are anywhere near the original grave.

In 1978, Clarence Smith broached the subject of locating the actuarial records of burials in the old Nymore Cemetery. This was in regard to trying to get the disinterment from this old cemetery into some other cemetery that was being maintained.

In 1985, the city attempted to contact relatives of people buried there. Martin Holbrook’s daughter reported that he was buried there in 1915 and that there was also a baby Holbrook. They were buried along the west side near the fence about two-thirds of the way back from the street. Her brother Joe Holbrook had his left foot severed in an industrial accident and this was buried in the family plot in 1932.

A family member identified Emil Gustafson as his mother’s first husband. Emil died of spinal meningitis at St. Anthony's Hospital in Bemidji in 1915 and was buried next to his daughter Ester who had died in 1913.

A headstone for a baby is one of seven in the Nymore Cemetery. Submitted photo.

The only other stones remaining are those of Melvin Swanson (1915), Albert E. Brewer (1916), Baby -- born and died Sept 4, 1911; Cora Swenson (1911), and Ludvig Loe (1914). Without a paper trail, the undertaking to find living relatives was just too difficult to accomplish.

In about 2012, a group of volunteers met on a chilly fall day to map out a small section of the cemetery. After marking out one area, a technician used ground-penetrating radar to create a two- or three- dimensional image of the subsurface. By cordoning off just one section of the cemetery, the hope was to gain an unofficial estimate of the number of burials. Other volunteers walked the cemetery looking for depressions and other indications of past burials. By the end of the day, it was apparent that there were a large number of burials and that it would take a great deal of money and time to map them all out. Since there were no funds for this, the project had to be dropped.


Consequently, the cemetery has been left undisturbed. It is unlikely that we will ever know just how many people found their final resting place in the Nymore Cemetery.

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