Forest Hill Cemetery – History
Hundreds of years before the city of Madison decided to use this land as a cemetery native inhabitants considered the land something special and built effigy mounds here. Only a pair of panther-shaped mounds, what’s left of a flying goose mound, and a linear mound remains.

The high elevation made for a magnificent view of Madison. In early days before tall buildings were blocking the scenery you could easily see Lake Mendota, Lake Wingra, and the Capitol building.

When the city bought the land in the mid-1850s the choice was ridiculed, or considered “folly”, because it was so far out of town. Later the city would add trolley service for mourners and picnickers to access the site. The Forest Hill stop ironically acquired the nickname of “the end of the line” because it was the last stop on the route. The trolley waiting station, along with a small addition, is today’s cemetery office building.

When the city decided to close and move the Village Cemetery because the site was too small the deceased were moved to Forest Hill. Many of the graves at Village Cemetery had no markers so they were buried here as unknowns, most ended up in Section 26 where there are 144 “Unknowns”. Since some of the remains in the Village Cemetery were moved there from the Sandhill Cemetery, some of the deceased here have been moved twice.

The deceased in financial plight wound up in Forest Hill's section 13, or “potter's field”. The city accepted 346 bodies for burial in unmarked pauper's graves between 1914 and 1920. Most came in 1918, when the Spanish Flu Pandemic killed so many it resulted in horse carts stacked with bodies passing through Madison streets.

A fire in 1894 destroyed all the cemetery records.

  • Darwin Clark – Helped select and name Forest Hill and served for many years on the Forest Hill Committee.
  • Deming Fitch – Madison’s first Cemetery Superintendent.
  • William Hough – Prepared plans for, and started the platting the cemetery before his death.
  • John Catlin – His birth year, Aug 26, 1770 is the oldest date listed on any marker, although he is not burried here.
  • George Gorham – Birth year Oct 22, 1770
  • James Sinclair – Although not inscribed on his marker, the earliest birth year of anyone in Forest Hill - 1767
  • Josephine Rodermund – First Person buried at Forest Hill.
  • Winifred Bright – Second Person buried at Forest Hill.
  • Cyril Brackett – Third Person buried at Forest Hill.

    A gate and a partial fence built in 1858, more added in 1860. Some of the fence was removed in the 1960s, only remaining at the main enterence. Some of the old fence was moved to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens.