WHO'S BURIED IN TOPEKA'S TOMBS?
Burton Hill, founder of Hill Packing Company, was born in 1880 in Wabaunsee County, and moved to Topeka when he was eight. He started his rendering business in 1907, processing tallow, hides and meat meal. The Hill Packing Company was organized in 1930 and continued rendering work, but also began manufacturing pet food. Hill packing plants are now in major cities all over the nation, and Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. is still a major employer in Topeka. Mr. Hill is buried in Rochester Cemetery, Section 11.
Gov. Alf Landon was former governor of Kansas and Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency in 1938. Although soundly defeated by FDR in that election, Landon remained a nationally respected politician. Born in 1887 in Pennsylvania, Landon became independently wealthy in the oil industry in the 1920s. He was Kansas Governor from 1933 until 1937. Landon’s daughter, Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker, served Kansas in the U.S. Senate for three terms, 1979-1996. Alf died soon after celebrating his 100th birthday in 1987 and is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.
Dr. Charles Sheldon served as minister of Central Congregational Church in Topeka from 1889 through the early 1900s. He wrote his serialized best-selling novel, In His Steps, in the garden study of his home at SW 17th St. and College Blvd. This study is now displayed at Historic Ward Meade Park. Though his work has sold over 30 million copies, he never received royalties. Sheldon coined the phrase, “What would Jesus do?” and is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.
Chief Abram B. Burnett was a full-blooded Potawatomi. He was born in 1812 in Indiana, educated at Choctaw Academy in Kentucky, and was forced by the U.S. government to travel with his people to Kansas in 1838 where they settling near what is now SW 29th and Fairlawn. He made several trips to Washington D.C. as a representative of his tribe, and is reported to have personally met President Abraham Lincoln. He died in 1870 and is buried on the south side of a tributary of Shunganunga Creek, southwest of SW 29th and Wanamaker Rd.—not on Burnett’s Mound, as many residents of the city mistakenly believe.
Mrs. Martha Ransom, lovingly called Granny Ransom, was an ex-slave freed by the great Emancipation Proclamation. She was born in 1827, immigrated to Kansas, and died October 1, 1917 at the age of ninety. She is buried in Richie Cemetery, a five-acre Topeka cemetery on a bluff just south of Shunganunga Creek, at SW 27th St. at Boswell. The cemetery is believed to contain the graves of early Black settlers, at least four black National Guardsmen who served near the time of the Spanish-American War, and perhaps Native Americans. John Jefferson Scott, one of Granny Ransom’s great-grandsons, was born in 1919. John was destined to continue the fight for freedom by becoming one of the architects of Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education. John shares a headstone with his great-grandmother in the Old Ritchie Cemetery.
U.S. Vice President Charles Curtis was born in 1860. He divided his early life between two worlds: the reservation home of his Kanza grandmother in Council Grove, KS, and the North Topeka home of his white father. He attended, but did not graduate from, Topeka High School. A good student, he was noticed by local attorney Hib Case, who helped Curtis study law. Curtis entered politics as Shawnee County attorney, then state congressman. In 1907 he was elected to the US Senate, serving 34 years and serving eventually as Majority Leader. Curtis served as U.S. Vice President during the Hoover presidency (1929-1932). Upon defeat in the 1932 election Curtis retired, remaining in Washington D.C. where he died four years later. The Curtis home, 1101 South Topeka Blvd., is a local Topeka landmark. Curtis is one of many famous and interesting people buried in the Topeka Cemetery.
Cyrus K. Holliday, was the founder of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad and is known as the Founding Father of Topeka. In 1854 he moved to Kansas, leaving his wife behind in Pennsylvania to follow later. On December 10, 1854, after helping to find a location for the new town site of Topeka, he wrote a letter to his wife saying that he was “assisting in starting a new town…on the best landing and most eligible site for a city in the entire country.” Here, he said, he would “make their home with God’s kind permission.” Holliday was named a director and president of the new Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad on September 17, 1860. Holliday is buried in the Topeka Cemetery.
Charles, Karl and Will Menninger, co-founders of the world renowned Menninger Clinic, are all buried in Mount Hope Cemetery. The Menninger Clinic represented the first group psychiatry practice. “We had a vision,” Dr. C.F. said, “of a better kind of medicine and a better kind of world.” The three founders created a national psychiatric hospital with staff dedicated to helping people who were struggling with difficulties and disorders that interfered with quality daily living. Menninger Clinic stood as a symbol of hope around the world by those who adopted and practiced m
any of Menninger’s innovations and approaches to the care of the mentally ill and to psychiatry.