Elmwood Cemetery, founded in 1852, is the oldest active cemetery in Memphis. Fifty citizens put up $500 each to purchase and develop a 40-acre parcel of land. Another 40 acres were added later.
The name Elmwood was selected by a drawing from a list of proposed names. Elm trees had to be planted afterwards.
This non-denominational cemetery is the final resting place for over 70,000 people of all races, occupations, and social statuses. Former mayors and generals rest alongside gamblers and gentlemen, grocers and steamboat captains, and hundreds of nameless yellow fever victims.
Elmwood was part of the so-called rural cemetery movement of the 19th century. Cemeteries with open public spaces, elaborate monuments, and statues of the dead were considered beautiful places. They accommodated the rituals of mourning and relaxation in a setting that was designed for both. Families came by carriage and streetcar to visit the departed, picnic, and meet friends.
Elmwood is open daily. Self-guided and guided tours are offered.