Unanswered Questions Surround Local Cemetery

I live on a street just off of Mt.Vernon Road in Cedar Rapids (Mt. Vernon Road was once known as the Oldbrockman Lincoln Highway). The neighborhood is like any other, until you turn the corner at 14th Avenue and onto Brockman Drive. Then it gets kind of creepy.

Every day I take my dog, Bindi, for a walk around the block, and though I have become accustomed to the blank space midway through the block between Brockman Drive and 38th Street, I sometimes stop and wonder about it.

A sign sits just off the road naming the space as “Brockman Cemetery.” I have always thought it odd that a cemetery would be placed mid-block in a residenti.al area like that. But that wasn’t the oddest part; from what I could see, there weren’t any tombstones.

I thought about venturing up the short hill to see if maybe the tombstones were thebrockman2 flat variety, but decided against it, just in case it was a real cemetery. (I might come face-to-face with a restless spirit.)

The other day as I was strolling past the cemetery, I decided to snap a photo and ask Mark Stoffer Hunter about it. (Mark works at the History Center and is an expert on the history of Cedar Rapids.)

I told him I looked up the Brockman Cemetery online (iagenweb.org), which stated, “Very little is known about this old cemetery.  Nestled among a quiet Cedar Rapids neighborhood, there are no stones visible and only a little wooden sign indicating the presence of a cemetery. 

“According to records in the Linn County Recorder’s office, the land was originally part of the property owned by W. L. & Ellen Brockman who in 1855 transferred 1 acre to Andrew F. Brockman, William F. Steward, Warren F. Brockman and John Robb to be used as a cemetery. It was recorded officially in the Linn County Recorder’s Office on September 1, 1862. 

As of 1954 the only identifiable stone visible appears to have been that of two wives of Wm. Stewart:  Ann Stewart, who died Mar. 23, 1847 at the age of 51 years; and Phebe Stewart, who died July 20, 1848 at the age of 31 years.”

Dairy Dale School

Edina Donohue stands with her students at the small red-brick Dairydale School. At the time, Dairydale was in the country but the location was at the northeast corner of what today is Mount Vernon Road (Mount Vernon Rd.) and 34th Street (34th St.) SE. Front row, from left: Carl Van Antwerp, Beryl Wood, Marie Kaylar, Allan Nelson, Lumir Stolba, Pluma Terrill, Harold Bean. Middle row: Ernest Wood, Joe Nelson, Walter Woolridge, Ferman Clark, John Grow, Frank Pachta, Marvin Nemecek, Viola Kaylar. Back row: (only six students in this row are identified): Ronald Prior, Lucille Manson, Mae Woolridge, Mae Zrudsky, Mable Van Antwerp, Elmer Nemecek. 1920. (Photo courtesy of Dorothy Nemecek, wife of Marvin Nemecek). (Gazette Article)

Mark wrote back: “Not too much more is known about this beyond what you found already. I did a little more digging on it and found a connection to the cemetery with the old Dairydale School and Church which were both once located at the NE corner of Mt. Vernon Road and 34th Street SE (where Little Caesar’s Pizza  is now). Apparently folks buried in Brockman were members of the Dairydale Church and went to the school.

Mark continued: “I wrote up some of this history and sent it to Linn County Conservation (which owns and oversees care of Brockman Cemetery) and they told me they were going to put up a new sign there with more history. I haven’t seen it put up yet so I will need to get back to them.

Always got the impression that Brockman Cemetery was essentially abandoned by the Civil War era but I love that the site is still preserved.

There were several of these little ‘family graveyards’ In what are now parts of Cedar Rapids, but many of the others were forgotten over time and new development was built where they once existed.”


Bever Park part of Cedar Rapids heritage

Bever Park sits on a fairly quiet street on the SE side of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It’s a popular park for local residents of the southeastern quadrant of Cedar Rapids, but some people will travel across town to visit the “Big Rock”.

The Rock

The Rock

There has always been speculation about where the “Big Rock,” came from; a meteor that fell from the sky was one theory, but most people agree it was just left over from the Ice Age. The rock protrudes from the Earth and as kids, we would climb on top and dare each other to jump to the other side of the creek.

I grew up in Cedar Rapids, a few blocks away from the park. A menagerie of animals-lions bears, monkeys, birds, and farm animals-called Bever Park their home for several decades.

I was a little girl, maybe 4 or 5, when I remember laying  in bed on hot summer nights, listening as an echoing roar filtered in through the open windows, courtesy of the resident lion, Leo, who reigned over the park during the ’60s and early ’70s. The peacocks joined in and I would fall asleep to their lullaby.

As the years passed, the animals found other homes, leaving just the small farm with a few animals as it appears today. You can still walk through and see a cow or two, donkey, goats, and ducks.

The fire pole at Bever Park. The photo was taken at Bever Park. (Courtesy of CR Rec. Dept.)

The fire pole at Bever Park in the 1950s. (Courtesy of CR Rec. Dept.)

A concession stand sits at the top of the hill by the playground, where my sister made extra money when she was 15. Snacks, such as ice cream, soda, hot dogs, popcorn, and candy were sold. Once in a while you could get cotton candy, but the machine was so unreliable, they finally quit selling it all together. The park’s attendance dwindled int he ’80s and soon they only had the stand open occasionally, then eventually, not at all.

The cement wading pool is still there by the main playground,where I would spend hours running in and out with my friends, alternating the playground, the pool, then the playground again. The water was cold as ice if you jumped in too soon, but once the afternoon sun warmed it, it was free fun that entertained us for hours. It sits empty, summer after summer, with doubts that it will ever be filled again. Maybe they’ll build a splash pad in its place.

The playground had an old fire truck, wings, and a fire pole, one of my favorites. You had to climb up and then you could slide down the pole or a slide. A little neighbor boy missed the pole one time and fell to the ground breaking his arm. My dad had to carry him home and explain to his mom what happened.

There are three entrances to the park; two on Bever Avenue, and one from the other side from Grand Avenue. The entrance on the other side of Bever goes past the big swimming pool and up the hill where there used to be a small playground, but they took that one out years ago.

Bever Park in Cedar Rapids once was the home to lions, bear, and monkeys.

Bever Park in Cedar Rapids once was the home to lions, bear, and monkeys. (Courtesy of CR Rec. Dept.)

The Grand Avenue entrance takes you the back way through the park, up the hill past the tennis courts, past the farm, to the “Aquatic Park” they built a few years ago. I haven’t been this new version of swimming pool, and I think they just added water slides, but now that my grandkids are older, I’m sure I will.

My junior high summer days were spent at the pool, when it was only 50 cents for admission. Once again, fairly cheap entertainment for a generation who had no idea what video games and computers were.

I took my grandkids to Bever last week and told them stories of when Grandma was a little girl. Lennox (who is 3) didn’t really care but Lily wanted to know more. I told her about the animals, the playground, the picnics, and all the fun I had with my friends.

For a minute I was taken back to my earlier days; running around the cement pool, climbing on the fire truck, and listening to the occasional roar of the lion. I know Lily can’t possibly know what it was really like, but maybe someday she will make her own memories at Bever Park. And then she can share them with her own grandchildren.

Creating new memories at Bever Park (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

Creating new memories at Bever Park (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)