The earliest settlers in La Crosse buried their dead in a former Indian burial ground located near the intersection of 3rd and Badger Streets. The first person buried on that site was a child of pioneer and city founder Nathan Myrick.
By the early 1860s, the condition of the cemetery had deteriorated. No landscaping was attempted and there were reports of domestic animals roaming the grounds. A local newspaper called the cemetery a disgrace.
In 1872 a nonprofit citizens group acquired the 47-acre cemetery and incorporated as the “Oak Grove Cemetery Association of La Crosse” with the resolve to restore and improve the cemetery grounds.
By the early 1880s, attorney and civic leader Joseph W. Losey was president of the cemetery board and actively involved in the beautification efforts. In the early 1870s, he helped design “Cemetery Park”; a broad, tree-lined, one block long boulevard that led to the entrance of the cemetery. (Cemetery Park is seen today as the short, diagonal Forest Avenue that leads to the Losey Arch.)
As the cemetery grounds improved through the 1870s and 1880s, La Crosse emerged as a major transportation, mercantile and industrial center. La Crosse was the self-touted “Gateway City” and was home to numerous wealthy and influential families. Many of those late 19th and early 20th century financial and civic leaders are buried here.
In fact, the cemetery is considered “The Silent City” where many individuals are interred.