Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect that Linda Sandmeyer is the superintendent of the Topeka Cemetery, not Mount Auburn Cemetery. We regret the error.
TOPEKA (KSNT) – A local man is looking for answers at a Topeka cemetery where he says a chapter of the city’s, and his family’s, history has disappeared.
Christopher Blythe reached out to KSNT 27 News for help in his search for his great-grandfather Thaddeus P. Martin’s body at Mount Auburn Cemetery in East Topeka. He claims he cannot locate his great-grandfather’s resting place at the cemetery.
KSNT 27 News reached out to the nearby Topeka Cemetery’s superintendent, Lisa Sandmeyer, for more information. She marked on a map where records point to where Martin’s body lies. However, upon inspection of the grave site, the only marker that indicates where his body might be is a singular stone “M” as opposed to the headstone Blythe said should be there.
“I remember that vividly,” Blythe said. “I left Topeka when I was six or seven, came back several times, and still can remember seeing that headstone vividly in my mind. Now at 37, it can’t be found.”
Blythe said his great-grandfather was a World War I veteran and a well-known physician in Topeka. A photo from the 1920s on the Kansas Historical Society’s website names Martin as a prominent member of St. Simon’s Episcopal Church.
“Considering that my great-grandfather helped establish and build this community,” Blythe said. “Considering that his contributions were so impactful to this community, Topeka as a whole, it’s very discomforting, it’s more than a little heartbreaking, for such a pillar of the community to be cast into the shadows and disregarded.”
For Blythe, preserving the history and memory of those who have died is imperative. He also expressed concern on the point that no one seems to know what happened to his great-grandfather’s headstone.
“Without the foundation, there is no present day,” Blythe said. “I know a lot of people don’t want to hear that, you know, it’s all about the now the next the new, but without the foundation what are you standing on? And the answer is nothing.”
Blythe, who has other family members buried in the cemetery, doesn’t want to worry about the same thing happening to them as well.
Sandmeyer said the Mount Auburn Cemetery is home to a little more than 8,000 graves, with the first burial recorded there in 1909. The cemetery was mostly marketed to members of the African-American community and is home to many important names from both Kansas and national history. The site is being considered for placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
KSNT 27 News reached out to the City of Topeka for comment regarding Blythe’s claims about the missing headstone. Gretchen Spiker, a city spokeswoman, said the city took over responsibility for the cemetery in 1995 and is the sole entity responsible for maintaining the area. She said the Topeka Cemetery Association has responsibility over all administrative matters.
Spiker said if people have any concerns regarding the cemetery, they should contact the City of Topeka’s call center. You can reach the call center by dialing 785-368-3111.