McCulloch Park’s past

It used to be Broadway Cemetary

People gather at the grave of Gov. Samuel Bigger in McCulloch Park during summer of 1924. courtesy of the Allen County Public Library Digital Collection

In July 1859, it became apparent to Fort Wayne city officials that an additional burial ground was necessary. A civic group organized purchasing 157 acres of marshy wilderness west of town. We know that beautiful setting today as the Lindenwood Cemetery.

The Broadway Cemetery had served the community from 1837 to 1885, when it was closed with many of the remains reburied in Lindenwood. It’s now known as McCulloch Park for Hugh McCulloch, who came to town as the cashier and manager for the Fort Wayne Branch bank and a director of the Indiana State Bank, and was later named by President Abraham Lincoln to serve as the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury in 1865. He told the story in a Dec. 10, 1885 Fort Wayne Journal article.

When McCulloch first arrived here, he found no public burial ground, “either in the town or near it.” Further, “Interments . . . were being made in a lot to which the town had no title with no assurance that the bodies buried there would remain undisturbed.” The Journal noted he was referring to burials, stating they should be “removed from the sand bank near the St. Marys River.”

About the year 1837, McCulloch bought land from Judge Sam Hanna. He enclosed the four acres with a handsome fence and laid land off into burial lots. Some lots he said were set apart for the poor; others were offered for sale. Proceeds from the sales were used to reimburse the money spent on the original purchase and grounds improvement. McCulloch asked for no compensation.

Revenue likely paid a wage to an Irishman named Jimmy Richey, who was put in charge of the grounds and burying the dead. He was described as very accommodating, honest and faithful to his trust. However, upon the removal of graves to Lindenwood, Jimmy lost his identity and usefulness, as did the Broadway Cemetery. With many of the bodies removed to the new graveyard and lot sales coming to a halt, McCulloch concluded a lack of revenue meant funds were no longer available for keeping the grounds in good order.

Because Hugh McCulloch intended the place for burials only, his agreement with the city meant the property was to revert back to him. Finally, McCulloch offered to relinquish his right to the grounds for the City of Fort Wayne to enclose, beautify and maintain it as a public park.

Not all the graves were removed. One marker can be found for Samuel Bigger, who became Indiana’s seventh governor, serving from 1840 to 1843. He has the distinction of being the last of the Whig party to be elected as Indiana’s chief executive. Bigger died Sept. 9, 1846, at age 45 with his grave well marked. His wife, Ellen, who died 33 years after him, is allegedly buried in Greensburg. A second marked grave can be found near Gov. Bigger’s resting place.

First appeared in the April 2017 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.

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