The Topeka Cemetery is the oldest organized cemetery in Kansas. The Topeka Cemetery Association was formed 2 February 1859 when legislation passed by the Legislative Assembly of Kansas Territory was signed by the territorial governor. Soon afterward, the directors decided that Franklin L. Crane owned the most appropriate land in the vicinity of Topeka, and they prevailed upon him to establish a cemetery. That location is now 1601 Southeast 10 th Avenue, Topeka. On 8 December 1859, the directors of the Association transferred ownership of the organization to Dr. Crane.
During the preceding four years, the nearly 100 people who died in Topeka had been buried outside the platted area of the town in a graveyard on what is now the east side of South Kansas Avenue south of Southeast 10 th Avenue. When Topeka Cemetery began operations, the City of Topeka and Topeka Township purchased an area within the new cemetery and moved the remains to the new location.
The corporation reorganized in 1877 and received a new charter on 19 October of that year. Dr. Crane, fearful of the possible fate of the Cemetery after his demise, re-formed the corporation as a stock company. Following Dr. Crane's death in 1884, his son, David Orville Crane, managed it.
For many years, Topeka Cemetery was the burial place of the city's most notable citizens, and many of the older monuments and memorials stand in testament to that fact. "Mausoleum Row," a group of large family monuments, is on the National and Kansas registers of historic places. There is one War of 1812 veteran buried there, John Logan. Others interred include executives of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe (ATSF) (now Burlington Northern Santa Fe) Railway; Vice President Charles Curtis; Cyrus K. Holliday, a founder of both the ATSF and the city; Kansas Governors Samuel Crawford, George Anthony, Thomas Osborne, Arthur Capper, John Martin, and Territorial Governor Hugh Walsh; Edward P. McCabe, the first African American statewide officeholder in Kansas or any Northern State; seventeen mayors of Topeka; one Confederate soldier, John Spivey; and about 250 other veterans from all American conflicts since the War of 1812.
Within the Topeka Cemetery is the community's Jewish cemetery, and there were originally separate sections for people associated with the Topeka Orphans Home, Odd Fellows and Elks lodges, the Topeka Typographical Union, St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas.
One of the Cemetery's ongoing problems was the lack of a permanent maintenance fund. The first attempt to relieve this concern was the institution in 1909 of the Perpetual Care Plan where ten per cent of the proceeds from lot sales were invested and the interest used to care for the Cemetery.
In 1928, a pet section was added, the first one of its kind in this area.
The cemetery remained in the Crane family until 1959 when it was sold in error to William Weber; he sold it to William Barr in 1968. On 9 March 1976, the error was corrected and the Cemetery resold to the Topeka Cemetery Association. It is now owned by the lot owners. They elect a seven-member Board of Directors who, in turn, elect officers to govern the Association.
In recent years, a community-wide effort has been made to increase the Cemetery's endowment for perpetual care.