Fort Douglas Cemetery

Write-up by: Aija Moore

Placed by: US Army[1]

GPS Coordinates: 40.760521, -111.825279

Historical Marker Text: 

“The Fort Douglas Cemetery was established in December 1862 under the direction of the commanding officer, Colonel Patrick Edward Connor. On 25 February 1863 the first funeral services were held for those soldiers who fell during the battle of Bear River. James Duane Doty, Utah Territorial Governor 1863-1865, was buried on 15 June 1865. General Connor, first commander of Fort Douglas, was laid to rest on 21 December 1891. 
Those officers and men who have died in the service of their country have chosen this sacred and hallowed ground as their final resting place, they represent Civil War, Spanish American War, World War 1, World War 2, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam Conflict. Also interred are 21 German Prisoners of War from World War 1, and 20 German, 12 Italian and 1 Japanese Prisoner of War from World War 2.
The soldier is required to practice the greatest act of religious training – – sacrifice. He must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. We must remember, only the dead have seen the end of war.
Dedicated May 1966.” 

Photograph by Aija Moore

Extended Research: 

In 1862, General Patrick Edward Connor arrived in Utah Territory to establish a federal military presence in the territory. The announced purpose for the military’s arrival was to protect the Overland Mail Route. However, the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, who already lived in Utah believed that the military was there to watch over them. The federal government questioned the loyalty of the Mormons, and having a military presence in Utah would provide the government with a sense of security.[2] When the troops originally arrived in Utah, they camped near a spring and established Camp Douglas. That original camp became the Post Cemetery a few months later.[3] In 1878, the military permanently established the post and renamed it Fort Douglas, at which point they renamed the cemetery the Fort Douglas Cemetery.[4] Today, the cemetery is four acres and is a part of the larger Fort Douglas area.[5]

General Connor was the most influential person in the development of Fort Douglas and its cemetery. On December 17, 1891, about 30 years after the establishment of the cemetery, Connor passed away. He had requested that a burial plot be set aside for him in the cemetery he helped to create and the military buried him there after his passing.[6] There is a memorial to General Connor; the memorial is a plaque placed on a granite boulder over Connor’s grave. The public funded this monument under the efforts of Colonel Howard C. Price in 1930.[7] Many of Connor’s soldiers were also buried and/or memorialized in Fort Douglas Cemetery. 

Photograph by Aija Moore

The first soldier interred in Fort Douglas Cemetery was Lieutenant Darwin Chase, who passed away on February 4, 1863 after being wounded in the Bear River Massacre.[8] The first monument to be placed in the cemetery was in memory of the soldiers who died during the Bear River Massacre on January 29, 1863 and during a battle in Spanish Fork on April 15, 1863. Unlike Chase, none of those soldiers were buried in Fort Douglas but were instead buried at the sites where they died.[9] These soldiers lost their lives while attacking indigenous peoples. When the Shoshone saw the military approaching, the leader of the tribe, Chief Sagwitch, told his people not to shoot first. Without any warning, Connor and his men attacked.[10] The monument at Fort Douglas Cemetery remembers the deaths of the attackers while it ignores the deaths of the 400 Shoshone men, women, and children who were massacred.[11] Beyond that, Connor was promoted following the massacre, which further disregarded the suffering of the Native people.[12] This was the beginning of the complicated history in Fort Douglas Cemetery of who is memorialized and buried there. 

Not long after the Bear River Massacre, the graves of more soldiers were added, including other soldiers who died during combat with Native Americans.[13] However, US soldiers were not the only people to be buried in the cemetery. Many prisoners of war (POWs) from World War I and World War II are also buried at Fort Douglas Cemetery, including German, Italian, and Japanese soldiers.[14] There is a monument in the cemetery to the German POWs from World War I who are buried there. The American legion and German organizations in the US worked in a joint effort to place the monument in the spring of 1933.[15] The history of the POWs in Fort Douglas is complicated. Eight of the POWs who are buried in the cemetery were killed while in a work camp in Salina, Utah. On July 8, 1945, a guard shot a machine gun into the tents where the POWs were sleeping and killed eight people. This became known as the Salina Massacre.[16] One of the headstones for a German POW has been the subject of controversy. That is because the headstone displays a swastika along with an iron cross, which were symbols of the Nazi regime.[17] There has been debate about whether or not the headstone should remain in the cemetery or be removed, but currently, the headstone is still there, further adding to the question of who is memorialized in the cemetery.  

”Sign at Fort Douglas Cemetery,” Fort Douglas Military Museum, https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6np2rks

The other group of historical significance buried in the Fort Douglas Cemetery is a group of Black soldiers. During and after the Civil War, Black units served in the military including at Fort Douglas.[18] When these soldiers—or former soldiers passed away—they were buried in Fort Douglas cemetery. There are 21 headstones that mark the final resting place of Black people who spent time at or near Fort Douglas.[19] These soldiers are not included in the list of people interred in the cemetery on the historical marker nor is there a monument to them. The history of white military members at Fort Douglas receives much more attention than military members of color, including Black soldiers, but that does not mean that Black military members should be completely ignored. 

“Fort Douglas cemetery ca. 1880s (possibly a funeral).” Fort Douglas Military Museum. 1880s. https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s67662hk.

While Fort Douglas Cemetery has a complicated history, including who is memorialized and who is not, the cemetery has long played a role in the surrounding community. When the Post was originally established, most of Utah’s population consisted of Mormons, which left the non-Mormon population isolated. The cemetery provided a location for non-Mormons to bury their loved ones.[20] Though many of the people buried at Fort Douglas Cemetery were buried during or before WWII, people continue to be buried there and the cemetery continues to play an important role not only in community history but also in the present.[21] 

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources:

Cole, Diane. “Even Fort Douglas Cemetery Has Nazi Graves.” Salt Lake Tribune. April 25, 1985. https://universityofutah.newspapers.com/image/613689163 (Accessed March 1, 2022). 

Critchlow, Harry B. “Memorial Day Recalls Duty to Nation’s Dead: Dust of Many Patriots Rest at Fort Douglas.” The Salt Lake Herald-Republican. May 20, 1917. https://universityofutah.newspapers.com/image/689506359 (Accessed March 1, 2022). 

“Fort Douglas cemetery ca. 1880s (possibly a funeral).” Fort Douglas Military Museum. 1880s. https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s67662hk

“Fort Douglas.” National Park Service. Utah National Register Collection. June 15, 1970. https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s62r7fb7/1224431

“Heroic Dead Will Be Honored Today.” Salt Lake Tribune. May 30, 1912. https://universityofutah.newspapers.com/image/75985027 (Accessed March 1, 2022). 

“Interment of the Remains of the Slain Soldiers.” Union Vedette. April 9, 1864. https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s62f911w/21201052 (Accessed March 1, 2022). 

“Military Attache of German Embassy to Unveil Monument at Fort Douglas.” Salt Lake Telegram. May 27, 1933. https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:87278/s6c264h8/16207325 (Accessed February 13, 2022). 

“Obituaries: Kramer.” Deseret News. June 13, 1973. https://universityofutah.newspapers.com/image/596735409 (Accessed March 1, 2022). 

“Sign at Fort Douglas Cemetery.” Fort Douglas Military Museum. https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6np2rks

Stollar (RL) and Associates Inc. Denver Co. “Final Asbestos Sampling Plan, Fort Douglas Environmental Investigation/Alternative Analysis.” Jun 1, 1991 (Accessed March 1, 2022). 

Secondary Sources:

Clark, Michael J. “Improbably Ambassadors: Black Soldiers at Fort Douglas, 1896-99.” Utah Historical Quarterly vol. 46, no. 3 (January 1978): 282-301. https://doi.org/10.2307/45060628

“Darwin J. Chase – Biography.” The Joseph Smith Papers. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 2022. Accessed April 6, 2022. https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/person/darwin-j-chase

Huffaker, Kirk. “Becoming More Conscientious of Utah’s Sites of Conscience.” Utah Historical Quarterly vol. 85, no. 1 (2017): 6–15. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/utahhistquar.85.1.0006.

“Lieut Darwin Chase (1816-1863) – Find a Grave…” Find a Grave: Lieut Darwin Chase. Find a Grave, 2022. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/62181258/darwin-chase

Madsen, Brigham D., and Philip F. Notarianni. “General Patrick Edward Connor, Father of Utah Mining.” In From the Ground Up: A History of Mining in Utah, edited by Colleen Whitley, 58–80. University Press of Colorado, 2006.  https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt4cgn2r.7.

Parry, Darren. The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History. Salt Lake City: Common Consent Press, 2019. 

Pedersen, Lyman C., Jr. “Fort Douglas and the Soldiers of the Wasatch: A Final Salute.” Brigham Young University Studies vol. 8, no. 4 (Summer 1968): 449-462. 

Pedersen, Lyman Clarence, Jr. “History of Fort Douglas, Utah.” Utah: Brigham Young University, 1967. https://login.ezproxy.lib.utah.edu/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/dissertations-theses/history-fort-douglas-utah/docview/288061630/se-2?accountid=14677.


[1] “Fort Douglas,” National Park Service, Utah National Register Collection, June 15, 1970, https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s62r7fb7/1224431

[2] Lyman C. Pedersen Jr., “Fort Douglas and the Soldiers of the Wasatch: A Final Salute,” Brigham Young University Studies vol. 8, no. 4 (Summer 1968): 453. https://jstor.org/stable/43041846

[3]  Lyman C. Pedersen Jr., History of Fort Douglas, Utah, (Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1967), 35. 

[4] Ibid., 90-91. 

[5] Stollar (RL) and Associates Inc. Denver Co, “Final Asbestos Sampling Plan, Fort Douglas Environmental Investigation/Alternative Analysis,” June 1, 1991. 

[6] Brigham D. Madsen and Philip F. Notarianni, “General Patrick Edward Connor, Father of Utah Mining,” in From the Ground Up: A History of Mining in Utah, edited by Colleen Whitely (Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 2006): 79, https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt4cgn2r.7

[7] Pedersen Jr., History of Fort Douglas, Utah, 337. 

[8] Pedersen Jr., History of Fort Douglas, Utah, 57-61; “Darwin J. Chase – Biography,” The Joseph Smith Papers (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 2022), accessed April 6, 2022, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/person/darwin-j-chase

[9] Harry B. Critchlow, “Memorial Day Recalls Duty to Nation’s Dead: Dust of Many Patriots Rest at Fort Douglas,” The Salt Lake Herald-Republican, May 20, 1917, https://universityofutah.newspapers.com/image/689506359

[10] Darren Parry, The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshones History, Salt Lake City, 2019, 44. 

[11] Ibid., 37. 

[12] Ibid., 37. 

[13] “Lieut Darwin Chase (1816-1863),” Find a Grave: Lieut Darwin Chase (Find a Grave 2022), https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/62181258/darwin-chase; “Interment of the Remains of the Slain Soldiers,” Union Vedette, April 9, 1864, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s62f911w/21201052. 

[14] Diane Cole, “Even Fort Douglas Cemetery Has Nazi Graves,” Salt Lake Tribune, April 25, 1985, https://universityofutah.newspapers.com/image/613689163

[15] “Military Attache of German Embassy to Unveil Monument at Fort Douglas,” Salt Lake Telegram, May 27, 1933, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6c264h8/16207325

[16] Kirk Huffaker, “Becoming More Conscientious of Utah’s Sites of Conscience,” Utah Historical Quarterly vol. 85, no.1 (2017): 12-13, https://www.jsor.org/stable/10.5406.utahhistquar.85.1.0006

[17] Cole, “Even Fort Douglas Cemetery Has Nazi Graves,Salt Lake Tribune, April 25, 1985. 

[18] Michael J. Clark, “Improbably Ambassadors: Black Soldiers at Fort Douglas, 1896-99,” Utah Historical Quarterly vol. 46, no. 3 (January 1978): 283, https://doi.org/10.2307/45060628

[19] Ibid., 282-283. 

[20] Pedersen Jr., History of Fort Douglas, Utah, 220. 

[21] “Obituaries: Kramer,” Deseret News, June 14, 1973, https://universityofutah.com/image/596737409

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