forest park cemetery

A Brief History of Forest Park Cemetery

May is Preservation Month! As such, we’re sharing brief histories of Joplin, Missouri’s four city-owned cemeteries; this is part three of four in the series.

Forest Park Cemetery is unique among Joplin’s municipal cemeteries in that it has a long history of changed ownership and is the most recently acquired city cemetery. Jeremiah Turk, an early citizen of what would become Joplin, donated land to Shoal Creek Baptist Church (No. 1) to establish a church and develop a cemetery. The church had recently split into two factions (No.1 and No.2), with the Joplin faction acquiring the land at Central Street and Range Line Road in 1884. Jeremiah Turk himself laid out Forest Park cemetery in 1888. Prior to that time, the church cemetery was referred to as Old Baptist Cemetery, Turk Cemetery, or, as in one newspaper account, Kirk Cemetery.

About 1913, another early citizen, T.C. Clary, laid out cemetery tracts alongside the Forest Park tract. Unfortunately, Clary made a bad deal with some “promotors” from Chicago in 1917 and, after going to court, his cemetery tract was put into foreclosure and purchased by the Forest Park Cemetery Association to become one Forest Park Cemetery.

Due to rapid growth, the Forest Park congregation moved to another location in 1948. Since that time, Forest Park Cemetery has changed ownership over the years, with the City of Joplin acquiring it in 1988.

In 2018-19, a subcommittee of the Joplin Historic Preservation Commission conducted an architectural survey of all four of Joplin’s city-owned cemeteries. Also, they researched and wrote nominations for the cemeteries to be included on the city’s Local Landmark/Historic Sites list. Although the nominations were submitted in summer 2019, the commission awaits a fresh survey of one of the cemetery sites before the nominations can move to the next phase of the Local Landmark nomination process. Click HERE to view the nomination in its entirety, including supporting documentation.

Mausoleum in Joplin’s Forest Park Cemetery. Photo: Paula Callihan

Contributed by Jill Sullivan, Post Art Library Director, Joplin Historic Preservation Commission Chairperson, and Missouri Preservation Board Member