A Storied Past

South Bend City Cemetery

Approach the black iron-clad gates of the South Bend City Cemetery and you’ll step foot inside one of the most historic locations in South Bend. Believer of ghosts or not, an early morning visit can lead to a spooky sensation; a layer of fog rises from the soft ground, while a layer of dew covers many of the headstones.  

There’s no gossiped ghost stories or haunted encounters, but these historic grounds can make anyone feel a slight eerie chill within its 23+ acres.  

Perhaps it’s the whitewash gravestones from the those living in the 1800s or the mausoleums towering above the ground marking the wealthiest of those buried within our city. If you listen closely as you walk the gravel pathways, each gravesite can gently whisper their untold tales. 

The City Cemetery was founded in 1832, even before the city of South Bend itself. It’s one of the few from the 1800s to never be segregated by race, religion or manner of death, making it one of the most inclusive cemeteries in the region. Those among the buried are evidence of this, including the Powell family. Despite laws of segregation, they can be found amongst everyone else as the cemetery did not let race affect burials. The Powell Family became a sign of progress and success within South Bend, uniting in times of segregation. 

A portion of the cemetery land was donated by Alexis Coquillard and Lathrop Taylor, most notably instrumental in mapping out the town of South Bend and establishing it. Both reside within the cemetery. 

“If these grounds could talk…”said Historic Preservation Commission member, Adam Toering. “They would certainly tell some incredible stories of our past.” 

The grounds hold so many more historical notables including former United States Vice President to President Grant, Schuyler Colfax. Not only was he Vice President to Ulysses S Grant’s first administration, Colfax served on the House of Representatives and presided over the abolition of slavery. The Studebaker family, known for their Studebaker cars back in the early 1900s also hold a plot of land within the grounds.  

Pass by the cemetery every day and you may not know the stories it could tell, which is why recent partnerships have led to upgrades and restorations to the site. Due to its prominent history and visibly aging wear, deteriorating headstones have recently been restored to their former glory; and a digital walking tour which leads visitors through the winding pathways teaching lessons on various dignities.   

“I hope the City Cemetery becomes a site of contemplation and reflection on our history for generations to come,” said Toering.  

To learn more about the South Bend City Cemetery, visit https://sbvpa.org/places/city-cemetery/