Explore the Fascinating History within the Cemetery
Meredith Willson, author and composer of "The Music Man", was a native of Mason City who never forgot his roots. He is laid to rest in the family lot along with his mother Rosalie, brother Cedric, sister Dixie and former wife Rini in the Greenwood section of the cemetery. Nearby are many of his kinsmen and friends that Willson immortalized in his "River City" hometown.
Many City Founders can be found in Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery including James Jenkinson, a native of England, who came to this area as a youth. A Winnebago Indian brave kept Jenkinson from starving during his first winter here in 1853. John McMillin and his wife, Sarah, opened the first store in the county. It was operated out of their home, a 16' x 18' log cabin with two rooms and a loft, located at 110 South Federal Avenue. Their daughter, Margaret, was the first baby to be brought to Mason City. Elisha Randall came here in 1855 to build a saw and grist mill, the remnants of which are located along the Winnebago River in the Lime Creek area. Pioneer John Russell came to the area in 1853 and claimed a farm in the Lime Creek Township. Russell walked to Des Moines to hand file claims for himself and others.
There are many other pioneers, city founders and civic leaders, from the first settlers to the present citizens, all with interesting life stories. It's fascinating to visit the grounds and research them.
The historic Melson Mausoleum was built in 1915 by Joshua Melson, a Mason City contractor-developer who purchased and platted the River Heights area and helped develop Rock Glen-Rock Crest. Melson built the large granite structure for his wife Minnie, a popular school teacher, who died at the age of 54. Minnie is laid to rest under the floor of the meditation/prayer room inside of the mausoleum. Joshua and his second wife, Julia, rest under the flower bed outside the building.
There are Veterans from the Civil War to the Iraq War laid to rest in Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery. Henry I. Smith is the most decorated Civil War veteran in the cemetery, having received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor while serving as a captain in Company B of the 7th Iowa Infantry. Some of the graves of Civil War veterans have been rededicated by The Sons of Union Veterans during cemetery walks as pictured.