History comes alive at Boise's Morris Hill Cemetery

Credit: Eric Turner / KTVB

History comes alive at Boise's Morris Hill Cemetery

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by Bonnie Shelton

Bio | Email | Follow: @BonnieKTVB

KTVB.COM

Posted on October 31, 2013 at 4:11 AM

Updated Thursday, Oct 31 at 11:55 AM

BOISE -- Boise's Morris Hill Cemetery is one of the oldest and most well-known cemeteries in the Treasure Valley.

Several prominent Idaho residents are buried there, and historians told KTVB the cemetery's art and architecture provide a natural history lesson.

"I think Morris Hill is a great example of a beautiful historic cemetery, but it's also one that's currently active and that's used," said Amy Pence-Brown, a death historian.

She told us people visit the cemetery year-round to honor loved ones buried on the grounds, but it's also an interesting place to get a glimpse into Idaho history.

"The symbolism on the tombstones, the beauty of the landscape that the city takes such great care of," she said.

Pence-Brown told KTVB each tombstone tells a story, not just about the person it was designed to honor, but of the religious beliefs and professions of people who've settled in the Treasure Valley.

Morris Hill also reflects changes to Boise's landscape over the last century. The cemetery began in 1882.

"I love how this one has the book closed like you've finished reading it with the spine facing to the right. So, you're not looking at the front of the book, you're looking at the back of the book," Pence-Brown pointed out while showing us one of the older sections of the cemetery.

A closed book on a gravestone often represents a finished life, while an open book can represent a religious text or give insight into a person's biography.

She showed us several examples of headstones carved in the early 1900s.

"This book is an example of an old custom of carving out imagery into the tombstones--by hand the stone cutters did," said Pence-Brown. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, masons cut each stone by hand making many of them unique.

Ornate crosses and open gates adorn many stones throughout Morris Hill. Pence-Brown said a pair of gates opening represents the passing from one life to the next.

No matter where you turn on the cemetery's 70 acres, there's something new to learn. Along with thousands of tombstones, there is also a mausoleum with 32,000 people interred inside.

According to the city, there are more than 2,000 plots inside the cemetery still up for sale.

The cemetery office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and respectful visitors are welcome to visit the grounds.

There's also a self-guided walking tour available on the City of Boise's website. You can check it out by clicking here.

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