The people of Frankfort used the Old Frankfort Cemetery for almost 50 years, from the early 1800s to the 1850s. Commercial and residential development, which began in the 1870s, started a process that, by the 1950s, had completely removed it from view. Construction workers “rediscovered” it in March 2002.
The Cemetery was one Frankfort’s earliest community graveyards. It started out small, like many other antebellum cemeteries in the capital city. Interments increased in the late 1820s and 1830s, when the Old Frankfort Cemetery apparently outgrew its contemporaries. The Cemetery’s shift to a working class neighborhood graveyard for people of African, European, and mixed ethnic heritage began in the late 1820s. By 1835, almost 60 people had been buried there, in both the Upper Area and the Lower Area.
The Old Frankfort Cemetery exploded in size between 1835 and 1850. Almost three times as many people were buried there during this period than in the preceding decades. This trend mirrors the increase in Frankfort’s population in the 1840s. As the Cemetery grew, the Lower Area saw more use than the Upper Area, but graves cluster in both, suggesting the establishment of family plots that saw long-term use.
After 1844, when the City chartered the Frankfort Cemetery on a bluff overlooking the town, there was a marked decline in the number of people in the Old Frankfort Cemetery. The last people were buried there in the late 1850s. An 1860s eyewitness described the Old Frankfort Cemetery as “neglected and overgrown with briars…” though the “remains of crude stones” were still visible.
In the 1870s, residential, institutional, and commercial development occurred in the middle of the graveyard, disturbing an untold number of burials. These activities began a process of marker removal, cemetery destruction, and obliteration that extended into the following decades.