To schedule a burial: Fax all discharge documentation to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 1-866-900-6417 and follow-up with a phone call to 1-800-535-1117.
The Rock Island National Cemetery in Rock Island, Ill., performs all administrative functions for Keokuk National Cemetery. Please contact the cemetery staff at the number above.
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Until 1837, the sole inhabitants of the area that is now the town of Keokuk, Iowa, were members of the Sauk and Fox tribes. In 1837, however, the tribes agreed to a treaty that allowed limited settlement of white farmers. Shortly after the treaty went into effect, white settlers began to migrate into the area. But the greatest number of settlers did not arrive until 1842 when a second treaty compelled the Fox and Sauk to move farther west. The treaty would go into effect in May 1842, although white settlers had begun camping along the county border a month earlier. Subsequently, at one minute after midnight on May 1, anxious settlers rushed in to stake their land claims.
By the beginning of the Civil War, Keokuk was home to a population of approximately 13,000 people. Its location, at the confluence of the Des Moines and Mississippi rivers, made an ideal location for the transportation of produce for the war. The first Civil War facility in Iowa was Camp Ellsworth, located near Keokuk, where troops were mustered as early as May 1861. More posts, including Camps Rankin, Halleck and Lincoln were established in 1861 and 1862. As the war progressed, five Army hospitals were established in the area to help care for the thousands of sick and wounded soldiers transported up the Mississippi River from Southern battlefields. Most of the original interments at Keokuk National Cemetery came from these hospitals.
The 2.75-acre Keokuk National Cemetery was originally a part of Oakland Cemetery until the city donated the land to the U.S. government in the mid 19th-century. According to an 1871 inspection report, just after the Civil War there were 627 interments; 600 known Union soldiers and 27 unknown soldiers. Not mentioned in the report were the remains of eight Confederate soldiers buried at the national cemetery, who died in Keokuk as prisoners of war.
In 1908, when the frontier post of Fort Yates, N.D., was abandoned, the remains buried at this post cemetery were reinterred at Keokuk. Similarly, in 1948, 156 bodies removed from the post cemetery at Des Moines, Iowa, were reinterred here.
Keokuk National Cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.
Monuments and Memorials
The Unknown Soldiers monument was erected in 1912 by the Women’s Corps of Keokuk in honor of 48 unknown soldiers buried at the cemetery. The monument is a large granite obelisk topped with the figure of a Confederate soldier standing at parade rest.
The American War Dads and Auxiliaries of Iowa erected a bronze wreath dedicated to Unknown Soldiers. Date of dedication is unknown.
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Medal of Honor Recipients
Private First Class John F. Thorson (World War II) U.S. Army, Company G, 17th Infantry, 7th Infantry Division. Dagami, Leyte, Philippine Islands, Oct. 28, 1944 (Section D, Grave 71).
First Sergeant Columbus H. McCaa, Troop G, 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry -- Date of Death July 6, 1946, (Section H, Grave 1151). First Sergeant McCaa, a member of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders, participated in the San Juan Hill Campaign.
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Cemetery policies are conspicuously posted and readily visible to the public.
Floral arrangements accompanying the casket or urn at the time of burial will be placed on the completed grave. They will be removed when they become unsightly or when it becomes necessary to facilitate cemetery operations such as mowing.
Flowers and containers: Fresh cut flowers may be placed on the gravesite at any time. Temporary flower containers are provided for your convenience and are the property of the cemetery. Please do not remove these containers from the cemetery grounds. Under no circumstances will items be tied, wired, glued, or otherwise attached to the headstone or marker. Permanent flower containers are no longer permitted.
Artificial flowers: Artificial flowers will be permitted on the gravesite during the period Oct. 10 through April 15. (Easter specific artificial decorations will be removed and discarded beginning the 2nd Monday after Easter to facilitate preparations for Memorial Day). Christmas decorations, wreaths, grave blankets (no larger than three feet by five feet), etc., are permitted beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving. They will be removed beginning March 1 each year. Decorations removed from the gravesites will be discarded after 30 days from the pick up date.
Potted plants: While they are not suggested, because of damage to the grass, live potted plants will be permitted on the gravesite for a period 10 days before through 10 days after Easter and Veterans Day. They are permitted the Friday before through the Sunday after Memorial Day. (It is recommended that the family remove potted plants as soon as possible to minimize damage to the grass and/or headstone/marker.)
Unauthorized decorations: The following items are not permitted on the gravesite: Potted plants (except as above), statues, permanent plantings, vigil lights, breakable items (i.e., glass/ceramic vases), balloons, toys, stuffed animals, shepherd's hooks or similar devices, U. S. Flags (except on Memorial Day weekend), other similar commemorative items or markers.
Perpetual care: Guidelines provide for grounds maintenance, cutting the grass and trimming around the headstones/markers, and all areas of the cemetery on a weekly basis. This includes the removal and disposal of unauthorized grave decorations and artificial arrangements (except during periods specified above). Fresh cut floral arrangements will be removed from the gravesite and disposed of by cemetery personnel when they become withered, faded, or otherwise unsightly. Any decorations or floral items that have been displaced from the gravesites, due to wind or other factors out of our control, will be removed from the graves and disposed of by cemetery personnel.
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