1861 - 1936

Civil War Period

Although the Civil War brought division among families, the Lexington Cemetery Company maintained a position of political neutrality. Sympathizers of each side owned lots in the cemetery, and Lexington soldiers died for both the Confederacy and the Union. Separate "soldiers' grounds" were set aside for the burial of Union and Confederate troops.

The first soldier to be buried in The Lexington Cemetery was Captain Cary G. Gratz, U.S.A. of St. Louis who was buried on September 11, 1861 in the lot of his father, Benjamin Gratz.

A note posted in the front of the interments book states that between October 4, 1861, and July 26, 1865, buried in The Lexington Cemetery were 828 "U.S. Vols white," 40 U.S. Vols col," and 97 "Disloyal," and a total of 965 Union dead. In the Confederate and private lots there were 102 Southern burials during the war, and 88 of these men died in hospitals in Lexington.

After the war, the cemetery company donated the Union lot to the United States government, which purchased an adjoining 16,111 square feet on July 1, 1867. The entire area was designated as a national cemetery, and the bodies of federal soldiers from several central Kentucky counties were brought here. Servicemen and veterans of later wars were interred in this tract, and by 1932 it was filled. When the government decided not to buy additional land, the trustees set aside an adjacent lot containing 102 grave spaces that could be purchased for the burial of eligible men and women.

The Southern section was turned over to the Confederate Veterans Association on June 6, 1891, for the token payment of one dollar, and the C.V.A. on February 2 of the next year bought an adjoining lot of 510 square feet for fifty dollars. When that space was filled, the association purchased two more lots totaling 853 square feet.


TITLE OF VIDEO CLIP Confederate Veterans Association Monument
TITLE OF VIDEO CLIP Confederate Veterans Memorial


Acquired Land

The cemetery trustees made several important purchases throughout its history in order to expand its grounds to its current 170 acres, enabling the cemetery to have room to bury people for at least two centuries.

In 1884, the trustees purchased a few acres on the south side of Leestown Pike. This land was used for greenhouses and to build a residence for the cemetery general manager. This property was later sold.

In 1887, the cemetery company made the largest purchase of land in its history, 106 acres. This tract adjoined the cemetery on the northeast and extended to Georgetown Street, increasing the company's holdings to approximately 180 acres. The trustees, however, by a deed recorded in November 1890, sold 53 acres of the Lee property to the Forest Hill Land Company. Part of that tract became Greenwood Cemetery for blacks, and the remainder was subdivided into streets and building lots.

Subsequent purchases have brought the total amount of land that makes up The Lexington Cemetery to 170 acres.

Main Office Building

The old entrance to the cemetery was razed in 1890, and a stone chapel and office structure which forms the main part of the present administrative quarters was built by 1891. This not only provided larger office space but a chapel seating 125 which was used primarily for services for persons brought from out of town. A new gateway, with entrance and exit drives and heavy iron gates, was erected, too, and is still in use.


Second General Manager, James Hay Nicol


 James Nichol

On March 1, 1891, James Hay Nicol was named assistant general manager to help the aging Bell. Nicol, like his superior, was a native of Dumfriesshire, Scotland. He had come to the United States as a youth, living first in Frankfort, where he had relatives, and then in Lexington, where he entered the lumber business. By 1895, Nichol had taken over much of the direction of the cemetery. Bell's health was failing, and by 1900 he had lost his sight because of cataracts. Bell was, however, officially retained as general manager until his death on July 29, 1905, when Nichol succeeded him.

Nichol's appointment as the next general manager was a simple choice. The August 5, 1905 edition of the Lexington Herald stated: "Mr. Nicol possessed all the qualities that Mr. Bell wished for a pupil, and soon learned to carry on the work in a systematic way. For the last ten years he has done practically all the superintending of the work in the cemetery as Mr. Bell planned it, so that he will have no difficulty in carrying out the landscape plans of Mr. Bell."

Nicol remained the general manager of The Lexington Cemetery for nearly 31 years, retiring on December 1, 1936, at the age of 75. The population of Lexingtonand Fayette County had increased during his tenure at the cemetery from approximately 43,000 to 73,000 and the "population" of the cemetery from 10,500 to 28,929.


1848-1860 |1861-1936 | 1937-1996 | 1997-PRESENT