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History of Cemetery

Established by an act of the Missouri General Assembly in 1849, Lexington's Machpelah Cemetery is one of Missouri's oldest corporations in continuous existence. Among those buried here are victims of the 1852 Saluda steamboat explosion; one of the founders of the Pony Express; and Civil War soldiers killed in the 1861 Battle of Lexington. Fascinating funerary monuments and ironwork from a local foundry are evident through out the cemetery.

Machpelah Cemetery was originally known as the Waddell Family Cemetery. The first burial there was in 1839. In 1849, William Bradford Waddell donated his family’s cemetery, along with other nearby land, to form Machpelah.

During the Civil War, many soldiers from both sides of the Battle of Lexington were buried at Machpelah. There is also a special memorial to the victims of the Saluda steamboat explosion of April 9, 1952. The Saluda carried Mormon immigrants from England and Wales who were travelling to Utah. Some of the bodies from that disaster are buried in a mass grave at the cemetery.

Among the prominent citizens buried at Machpelah are Stephen Wentworth (founder of Wentworth Military Academy), Ike Skelton (representative to U.S. Congress and chairman of the Armed Services Committee), William Waddell (one of the founders and operators of the Pony Express), and Gilead Rupe (the first settler of the area).