Somewhat down the list of meanings for “shade” is a literary intention common among 19th century authors: a ghost, apparition, phantom, or spirit. From Homer to Dante, shades have offered advice to the living. Indeed, relocate just one letter in “shade” and you have hades, classical mythology’s underworld inhabited by those departed souls.
τεθνήκαμεν. σώζετε δάκρυα ζώσιν
An inscription in ancient Greek at the entrance to the cemetery advises “We are dead. Save tears for the living.” To understand its meaning and apply that to the cemetery itself, I need a framework, a skeleton of sorts, to guide its evolution. What might be the key dates in its timeline?
ca1859 — A portion of land was set aside for a pubic burial ground. W½ of the SW¼ of the NW¼ Sec — Twp — (approximately twenty acres). It was called Agincourt Cemetery in the deed records at the Fennimore county courthouse.
1861—1865 — Though there had been a few burials in 1859 and 1860, several important interments were related to the Civil War.
1862 — The SE¼ of the cemetery plat was sold to St Ahab’s Roman Catholic parish as a burial ground (five acres).
1871 — Established originally as a private for-profit enterprise, Agincourt Cemetery Co. was acquired by a non-profit association of local citizens. The name was changed to “The Shades” and improvements were undertaken using a plan which may have been advised by landscape architect H.W.S. Cleveland [Cleveland subsequently designed Elmwood Park in Omaha].
1873 — New entry gates incorporated an office/waiting room and maintenance garage.
1898 — An Agincourt Outlot (150 feet by 300 feet) adjacent to The Shades was acquired by Temple Emanu-El and called the Hebrew Burial Ground.
1904 — Northwest Iowa Traction Co. extended its track about 750 feet eastward along James Avenue NE to serve all three cemeteries.
1918 — The influenza pandemic of 1918 required a special section for both symbolic and public health reasons.
1933—1961 — Agincourt native Neil Klien served as caretaker/gravedigger.
1941—1945 — A special military section for WWII veterans.
1960s — The westward spread of Dutch Elm disease reached northwestern Iowa.
1970s — Burials related to the Vietnam conflict.
2005 — Section set aside for burials according to Islamic tradition.
Peppered through this timeline, there were certainly specific interments of note. Mayor Edmond FitzGerald Flynn’s unexpected death in 1896 and hasty construction of a family mausoleum. Or the only son of Amos and Sissy Beddowes, killed in the Civil War.