|The Highland Cemetery, originally
named St. Joseph's Cemetery, was established in 1868 at the same time the
first St. Joseph's Catholic Church was built at the intersection of Dodd
and Pilot Knob Roads. In 1880, a cyclone destroyed all of the church but
the bell. The church was rebuilt in Rosemount, its location today.
Traveling back to the country cemetery proved a hardship so in 1885, the
parish started a new cemetery in town across the street from the church.
At that time, the old cemetery was renamed the Highland
The original cemetery records have been
lost. Gerald Mattson, voluntary cemetery caretaker during the 1970's
and 1980's, re-created records for the Highland Cemetery. Mr. Mattson
believes there are at least 260 people buried at the cemetery. Most were
Irish or Irish-American and over half died before reaching the age of
The cemetery has been neglected for most
of its existence. In 1998, the cemetery owner,
St. Joseph's Catholic Church,
"clean-up" which included the removal of the front fence and gate, the
palings at three family plots, and dozens of gravestones. The removal
of the historic features and the loss of gravestones dismayed many
|Postcard of Highland Cemetery, ca.
1912. Insert: Father Lawrence Cosgrove. From Church on the Seven
Mile Prairie by Gerald Mattson. Used with permission.
By 2000, the cemetery faced new dangers
as the Twin Cities suburbs reach this part of rural Dakota County.
In 2001, Pilot Knob Road in front of the cemetery will be rebuilt as a four
lane divided highway. The cemetery parking on Pilot Knob will be
eliminated. By 2005, the farm fields and sand quarry surrounding the
Highland Cemetery will be replaced with hundreds of housing units and a strip
Dermot O'Mara who owns the shop,
Irish on Grand in St. Paul, stopped
by the Highland Cemetery on Easter Sunday 2000. He, too, was dismayed
by the changes at the cemetery and the encroaching suburban development.
Mr. O'Mara began organizing for the preservation of the Highland Cemetery.
His efforts were successful and on June 15, 2000, cemetery supporters met
and voted to form an organization, the Friends of the Highland
The goals of the Friends of Highland Cemetery
To honor, in a respectful manner, the
memory of those buried here in both marked and unmarked
To provide a means of communication and
support between involved families and those who care for the
To protect the site by seeking the
installation of a fence, which we consider this the most urgent priority
that needs to be addressed.
To raise public awareness of the historic
significance of the site through educational and commemorative
To restore headstones and other traditional
features of the cemetery landscape where
During summer 2000, members of the Friends
of the Highland met with representatives of St. Joseph's Catholic Church,
the cemetery owner, to explore ways in which we might work
The cemetery was documented as it is today.
A videotape was made showing the perimeter.
Existing gravestones were
photographed by two volunteers.
Members who live in the Twin Cities area
have begun cleaning lichens and dirt from the cemetery monuments.
A historic walking tour was presented October 14,
Members have contacted local historical
and genealogical societies. Organizational representatives from the
Dakota County Historical Society, the Lakeville Historical Society, the Rosemount
Area Historical Society, the Dakota County Genealogical Society, the Irish
Genealogical Society and the Sacred Places Initiative of the Preservation
Alliance of Minnesota have joined our e-mail list. We thank them for
thier interest and support.
Membership is open to anyone who desires
the preservation of the Highland Cemetery. To join our e-mail list,
Funds are needed for 1) supplies for cleaning
and repairing gravestones, 2) printing a brochure and flyers, and 3) a historic
marker noting the role of the Irish in the history of Minnesota. You
may specify how you want your donation spent. Send donations to:
Friends of the Highland Cemetery, c/o Susan Bedor, Crowder & Bedor, 555
West 7th Street #201, St. Paul, MN 55102-3009.
For more information about the Friends
of the Highland or to arrange a historic walking tour, e-mail