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Wyuka was established in 1869 by an act of the Nebraska Legislature as the State cemetery. This was practically unheard of in the United States.
The name “Wyuka” was an americanized version of the Sioux or Dakota indian word, “wanka”, which means “he rests or he lies down”.
The cemetery was designed with the idea of a public park in mind, based on the English school of landscaping which was all curving vistas and green lawns. There were no enclosures allowed around lots or graves, no trees or shrubs, and all planting had to be approved by the sexton. Curbings and raised lots were not allowed after 1893, and very few exist today. Private vaults were also restricted to a certain area. There was a nursery, also, on the grounds, to grow the necessary plants and flowers.
Between 1908 and 1914, many improvements were done at the cemetery. A gate house was built, which spanned the entrance road and acted as a office, caretaker’s house and entrance all in one. This was a distinctive, beautiful building, and was torn down in the mid 60’s. I wish it were still there. They also added fountains, ponds, and bridges during this time, as well as swans and ducks. A chapel was added in 1938.
In the late 60’s, the lake was drained due to complaints and mosquito control. The pictaresque views in the cemetery were altered with no water and no pretty gatehouse. Part of the land around the gatehouse was sold to the US postal service, and a postal substation was put on the corner. This was decried by the citizens, but was the only way for the cemetery to make any money to put back into improvements. The cemetery still retained it’s parklike appearance, but not as it was originally intended. But this has been rectified. Wyuka has again built a beautiful lagoon with a small island right by the main entrance, and have built a brand new building at the front gate, as well as a new front gate. These improvements are in keeping with the original personality of the cemetery.