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Looking back at the history of Prospect Hill Cemetery

Posted at 11:04 PM, Sep 13, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — We recently brought you a story about how volunteers are needed to help clean up Prospect Hill Cemetery. In doing that story, we found some interesting pieces of Omaha history. Those who help maintain Prospect Hill say they're amazed at how many don't even know about the location or the people and events that helped shape Omaha.

"It is one of Omaha's best-kept secrets," said Shannon Lewis of History Walks, LLC. Lewis gives tours of the cemetery. "When you consider that it's been around just about as long as the city has, I think that's quite an accomplishment to keep that hidden."

Back in 1858, Cedar Hill was Omaha's first cemetery. Over time it became Prospect Hill, and now in 2020, it has more than 150 years of history to share.

One of the main stops on Lewis's tours is a mass gravesite called "The Four Boys." It's where the remains of William Abney, William Mallus, Jack Stitt, and Christian Madsen are buried. They all died after an explosion in Omaha back in 1884.

"It literally shook the entire city when the building exploded. The people of Omaha thought that there was an earthquake because the impact was so massive," said Lewis.

Some speculate the boys were out hunting and lit a fire to smoke out an animal from underneath a building that turned out to be a gun powder factory.

"Folks of Omaha did attempt to separate the remains, but at the time they thought only three boys had been on-site when they had learned that there had actually been four boys there. They could not separate the remains, and so they were placed in the only mass grave at prospect hill cemetery," said Lewis.

Not far from that site is where Anna Wilson is buried. Lewis says Wilson donated a lot of money to charities and opened a brothel in Omaha while being a prostitute herself.

"She was known as the queen of the underworld. She had a very gentle nature about her, but she was also known to be quite a ruckus she enjoyed a good time," said Lewis.

Wilson died in 1911, but her name and gravesite are just among the many that stand out. You'll also see some of the Buffett family. Levi Carter, one of Omaha's first industrialists and many others.

There's no way we can fit all the history into this news piece, which is why Lewis encourages you to stop by.

"It really is a gem that is worth exploring," said Lewis.