Byron Reed was born in New York State. He moved to Omaha in about 1856, and became one of the wealthiest of the early Omahans through real estate sales and management. He was, and still is, internationally known for his collection of rare coins, historic documents and other priceless items. Today the Byron Reed Collection is housed in the Western Heritage Museum here in Omaha, in a wing constructed solely for the display of this treasure. Along with the coins and documents, there is a multimedia presentation and myriad other exhibits.
Mr. Reed was instrumental in the inception of Prospect Hill, and he eventually owned all the land the cemetery resides on, after buying out the other owners. He supervised it for over 25 years. When Forest Lawn Cemetery was proposed in 1885, Reed offered management of Prospect Hill to the Forest Lawn trustees, for what reason no one seems to know, but it could be that in his advanced age he couldn't manage the cemetery anymore. Reed still retained ownership of the land, should all the burials be removed to Forest Lawn. For about a year this system worked, but Forest Lawn soon deliberately mismanaged Prospect Hill, and it fell into its first period of neglect.
By 1890 it was a total disaster; with no fence up, cows wandered in and grazed in the tall grass. The relatives of the influential people buried inside took matters into their own hands. They formed the Prospect Hill Cemetery Association and took back the management of the cemetery from Forest Lawn. This engendered the cemetery's second period of prosperity.
For the next four or five decades Prospect Hill was well taken care of. However, the original lot owners association began having problems in the 30's, with the advent of the Depression, and the cemetery slowly slid downhill. By the early 60's it was a mess; litter and weeds everywhere, and no money to take care of it. Finally, in the mid-70's, media attention to the pathetic plight of the cemetery rallied a host of volunteers, and the cemetery emerged once again from obscurity. It was designated an historic site in 1979, and the cemetery has only gotten better in the intervening years.