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Machpelah Cemetery

Machpelah Cemetery is a historic site that dates back to just a few years after the founding of the city. It is the final resting place of many notable figures, including victims of the Saluda steamboat explosion and soldiers from the Civil War. The cemetery features unique funerary monuments and ironwork from a local foundry.

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. 

 There is also a memorial for the mass grave of the victims of the Saluda steamboat explosion of April 9, 1852. The Saluda carried Mormon immigrants from England and Wales who were traveling to Utah. 

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 (listed as the first white settler of the area).

Current burial information can be obtained by leaving a message for the volunteer sexton at (660) 232-4231.

In 2022, Machpelah Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places.  For detailed information:

In October of each year, the Lexington Historical Association holds a candlelight tour of the cemetery as their annual fundraiser.  Lexington residents introduce visitors to the ghosts of Lexington's past.

If you're looking for a grave in any of Lexington's public cemeteries, you can now use the electron kiosk located just inside the south entrance drive. It's a convenient and easy way to locate someone's final resting place.  The names are also listed on the Find A Grave website

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On April 9, 1852, the steamboat "Saluda" exploded, causing a tragic loss of life. Many of the victims, estimated to be around one hundred, were buried in a common grave. Most of them were Mormon converts on their way to Salt Lake City from Great Britain. We remember and honor their memory.


The artistic character of Machpelah Cemetery was influenced by the work of the German trained immigrant John Goehner and his apprentice successor Albert Sandring. The Goehner and Sandring businesses were located at the extant building at 901 Franklin Avenue. They were the only monument shops in Lexington during their years of operation.  The building is still standing with monuments in the front of the sidewalk.

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