St. Mary Cemetery; Garryowen, South Dakota
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member NGComets
N 42° 51.118 W 096° 47.276
14T E 680737 N 4746749
Quick Description: Located near the former town of Garryowen, South Dakota. Elevation 1230. 300 graves
Location: South Dakota, United States
Date Posted: 4/13/2015 5:50:32 AM
Waymark Code: WMNPBA
Published By: Groundspeak Charter Member Max Cacher
Views: 0

Long Description:
St. Mary's Cemetery, known less formally as the Garryowen Cemetery, is located along highway 48, northwest of the intersection of highway 48 and Union County's 471st Avenue ("Old 77"). The cemetery is approximately fifteen miles south of Beresford, SD and is five miles south of Union Grove State park (formerly Union County State Park). It is located within the southeast quarter of section 19 of Spink Township.

The cemetery is well marked with a large sign which reads, "St. Mary's Cemetery, Garryowen." There is a fence with two gates located along the cemetery's south side. The cemetery's west, north, and east boundaries face plowed fields and are marked by rows of young evergreens. The cemetery's north and south borders are 85.8 yard wide; while, the west and east borders are 93.5 yards wide. Four larger evergreens are growing inside the cemetery near the west side. There are no buildings or paved driveways on the cemetery grounds.

The Garryowen community was first settled by the O'Connors, the Mannings, and the Sullivans. The community was named Garryowen; because, members of the community had migrated from Garryowen, Iowa. Between 1860 and 1879, these families attended church in Fairview; and, their dead were buried in the Fairview Cemetery. When the Garryowen community had increased to fifty families, a parish was finally organized in 1879 to form St. Mary's church. Initially, the Fairview priest was responsible for this church.


The five acres of land for St. Mary's Cemetery and the first small church were donated by Pat Mahan. A few years after the church was built, Father Eugene Sullivan built the first rectory at the site. Later, the rectory burned down. When the church became too small, it was moved to the James Casey farm; and, a larger church and rectory were built in 1904. After this second church burned down in 1924, the rectory was purchased by Edward Merrigan in 1927 and moved to his farm. In 1925, the third church was built across the road from the cemetery on land donated by Tom O'Connor.


The first burial at St. Mary's Cemetery was that of Mike O'Connor in lot 54. The grave was dug with the help of Vincent O'Connor, who was sixteen years old at the time. The second grave was that of Jeffery Donahoe in September of 1883.

Following the death of their son, Aileen O'Connor and her husband organized first cemetery board for St. Mary's in 1971. A perpetual care fund was established to insure present and future care for the cemetery.

The permanent closing of St. Mary's church was reported to have occurred in 1993, probably as a result of low church attendance. The third church building was then purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Sykes for the purpose of housing their antiques business in 1995. This store, called Garryowen Antiques, was still in operation during the visit to the site in 2002.


An old church sign still stands at the southeast corner of the cemetery. It reads, "St. Mary's Catholic Church, Sunday Mass..." The time of the Sunday Mass is painted out. An old photograph reveals that this sign was originally located across the intersection, near the church.

St. Mary's Cemetery is well maintained. Generally, the markers are in very good condition. The styles and sizes of the monuments at the cemetery vary greatly.

The cemetery was surveyed by Brian M. Hass on Oct 30, 2001. During the visit to the cemetery, inscriptions on all visible grave markers were transcribed. Genealogical information was considered to be the highest priority. The data was then compared with the 1940 WPA data. Then, the cemetery was revisited by Brian Hass on May 29, 2002 for the purposes of verifying data and measuring the cemetery.

Courtesy of Brian Hass.
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Approximate number of graves: yes

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