Cemetery History - Sims

Sims Cemetery
Sims Cemetery, acquired by the city in 1909, sits on a hillside east of the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The only entrance is steep path off University Avenue.  Sims Cemetery was established six years before the Civil War, in 1855. One acre of land was purchased by the Burying Ground Association, represented by John S. Dean, James H. Finch and L.S. Case all of whom are buried at Sims Cemetery.  The cemetery was in Lee Township, outside the city limits of Des Moines.

This Cemetery has been called many different names including: Harris Cemetery, Agency Burying Ground, Four Mile Cemetery and Sims Burying Ground. 

Current records show there are 99 interments, the genealogical society states that there are 131, and Find a Grave.Com states that there are 115 interments at Sims. City staff are not certain which number is correct.   The City of Des Moines

Notable Burials

  • The first burial was an unidentified man who drowned while driving a team of oxen through the Des Moines River on Vandalia Road.
  • The last burial was that of Grover Maplethorpe on August 26, 1967 who died of “natural causes.”
  • The family of a prominent pioneer of Des Moines, John Stewart Dean, who established the first Des Moines Presbyterian Church and the first steam-powered saw and grist mill in Des Moines.  Dean Avenue is his namesake.