Memorial Day, which was formerly known as Decoration Day, has been a part of the official American experience since at least 1868. Oakland Cemetery, which is on the Register of Historic Places, pre-dates the observance.
Although created to honor Civil War veterans, Memorial Day now marks the unofficial start of summer and is used by many people as a time to remember loved ones, regardless of whether they served in the military.
Oakland Cemetery was designed in 1857, but it was officially established in 1866.
-Messenger photo by Barbara Wallace Hughes
Many of the graves at Oakland Cemetery include markers denoting military service or membership in a veterans organization or auxiliary as well as lineage groups. Markers at Oakland include the Grand Army of the Republic, American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary and the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The cemetery's design is the work of Egbert Bagg and was created during the 19th-century rural cemetery movement. Burials had previously been restricted almost exclusively to church grounds, but growing urban populations - and concerns for public health - spawned the creation of park-like cemeteries, full of nature but close to the cities.
As evidence of the success of the movement, it wasn't unusual for families in the 1800s to spend their Sundays picnicking among trees and paths at the new burial grounds.
Oakland Cemetery is the final resting place for a diverse cross section of people. There are the well-known and the obscure; the wealthy and the not-so-well off; those who lived long, fruitful lives and those whose lives ended soon after they entered this physical world. Monuments tell their stories - some in elaborate detail and a few in single words.
Each stone is a testament to the fact that someone cared about the person buried beneath it.