History of Greenhill Cemetery
During the early days of Muskogee the City Cemetery was located at the corner of Sixth Street and Martin Luther King Blvd., in the parking lot directly across the street (West) from the old Baptist Hospital. It was known as the Muskogee Burial Association Cemetery. In the latter part of the 1890's City leaders could see the need for a larger cemetery and began making plans to obtain the acreage necessary. There was a parcel of land available at the Northeast corner of York and North Street which included eighty acres that belonged to the Creek Nation and was purchased by the City of Muskogee for $1639.00 dollars. Some civic minded businessmen of the area then donated the rest of the land, which was approximately 160 acres. As best we know, the men who donated the land were William S. Murphy, James A. Patterson, Captain F.B. Severs, Clarence W. Turner and Samuel Sondheimer, all of these men are buried here in the cemetery. In 1901 this parcel of land became the City Cemetery, known as Greenhill Cemetery although there were some burials on this property prior to it becoming the city cemetery.In 1904 all the bodies and available grave markers were removed from the old cemetery and relocated in Greenhill by Chapman and Johnson who were the low bidders, and moved the bodies for $1819.50.
As you enter the front gate of Greenhill Cemetery, immediately to the right is the Catholic section known as the St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery. In 1907 the Catholic Church purchased 5.2 acres for this purpose. Straight on back, in the Southeast corner of the cemetery, is the Jewish section of the cemetery, which is known as Beth Ahaba Jewish Cemetery and is about the same size as the Catholic section, purchased also in 1907. An agreement was met between the representatives of these religious establishments and the city at that time to address the maintenance and interments within these two sections that remain in tact still today. Located in the far most eastern section of the cemetery is the old county burial grounds. Few records of individual locations were kept at that time which prove often to make it difficult in pinpointing exact burial sites.
At the present time approximately 90 acres of the cemetery has been plotted and is being maintained, with 40 acres to be developed later. The remaining portions of property that was originally set aside for cemetery use have been utilized for other purposes such as the fire station that adjoins the cemetery to the north. There were 53,000 burials in the cemetery,according to a count made by the local Historical Society completed in 1987, this count may be incorrect though.With new technology and an ongoing survey, the numbers as of May of 2015 appear to be just under 41,000. The oldest being Lizzie Nevins who died in 1867. Lizzie is believed to be a part of the Nevins family which ran the ferry boat across the Arkansas River from about where the City Water Plant is today, to a point between the Verdigris and the Grand River.
There is a great deal of history here in the cemetery. The first Governor of Oklahoma, C.N. Haskell who served from 1907 - 1911 is buried here. The first and thrice mayor of Muskogee was a man by the name of Patrick Joseph Byrne, born in Ireland in 1843. Alex Posey, outstanding news paper man and poet laureate of the Creek Indians. Alice Robertson, Missionary teacher and the first U.S. Congresswoman from Oklahoma who began what is now known as Tulsa University. If you have lived very long in Muskogee, a walk through the cemetery will bring back memories of old friends and neighbors; and if you haven't, then your visit will at least give you an idea of the tenacity the members of this community displayed when Muskogee was young. An attribute still present among many who reside in the Muskogee area today.