Sometimes it takes a real kick in the pants to get up off the couch on a winter’s day and do something out in the world, despite the cold, wind and muck that discourage anything beyond watching a movie or football game. When you have to get up five days a week and go to work, there’s often little motivation to be very active on the weekends. But therein lays the choice: sit around and watch a screen all day or live your life. I’m often guilty of submitting to the power of the screen, but I’m trying to fight against it.
Renton probably says it best in Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting: “Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life…But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else.”
Instead of heroin, I chose death.
Not literally, of course, but historic Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee lends a look through time and space at some of the giants of the city’s foundation and economic and cultural growth. Built in 1850, the cemetery is open year round, from one hour after dawn until one hour before dusk, and is located at 2405 W. Forest Home Avenue, Milwaukee, 53215. You will see the final resting places, monuments and mausoleums to those titans, men and women such as:
John Barrick Dousman (1807 to 1868) (Section 19, Block 21, Lot 9)
Dousman helped organize Wisconsin’s early medical system. There’s a street named after him in Riverwest.
General William “Billy” Mitchell (1879 to 1936) (Section 32, Block 19, Lot 6)
Milwaukee’s airport, of course, bears Mitchell’s name. Mitchell is often thought of as the father of the U.S. Air Force. Mitchell was a veteran of World War I who rose to the rank of general, and strongly advocated that the U.S. Army wake up and realize the potential of air power. Fortunately for the United States, it listened to him eventually.
Edward P. Allis (1824 to 1889) (Section 36, Lots 11 and 12)
Allis became one Wisconsin’s early industrialists, and his company supplied water pipes and engines for Milwaukee’s water system.
Francis Edward McGovern (1866 to 1946) (Section 46, Block 19, Lot 7)
McGovern was a district attorney for the city of Milwaukee and eventually was elected as Wisconsin’s governor. He was a big supporter of workmen’s compensation and regulating child labor.
Jacob Best (1786 to 1861) (Section 8, Block 9, Lots 13 and 14)
Best’s brewery eventually became the Pabst Brewing Company. Best Place at the historic Pabst Brewery on Juneau Avenue is named after him.
Valentin Blatz (1826 to 1894) (Section 37, Lot 19)
Blatz helped Milwaukee’s brewing industry become an industrial powerhouse. He produced Milwaukee’s first beer in a bottle in 1874.
Frederick Pabst (1836 to 1904) (Section 40, Lot 16)
Pabst married Phillip Best’s daughter Maria and eventually turned the Best brewery into the Pabst brewing company. Pabst built his brewery into a national power and an iconic brand. He influenced Milwaukee’s culture heavily, and had a hand in building places like the Pabst Whitefish Bay Resort, which had a Ferris wheel and concerts, along with the still-existing Pabst Theater, the Pabst Mansion and others.
(Image: Associated Press)
Joseph Schlitz (1831 to 1875) (Section 36, Lot 1)
Schlitz took over the Krug brewery and eventually changed the name. He developed the company into what was once the biggest beermaker in the world. Schlitz is memorialized at Forest Home Cemetery because he lost his life at sea.
Mathilde F. Anneke (1817 to 1884) (Section 15, Block 3, Lot 2)
Anneke was a strong advocate for women’s rights and voting rights. She founded a school and spent her life writing and teaching on social issues.
While the Beer Barons and General Mitchell probably have the biggest names, these and many others are worth learning about at Forest Home Cemetery, including Arthur, William and Walter Davidson, among the founders of Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company and Byron Kilbourn, co-founder of the city of Milwaukee. Fifteen Milwaukee mayors and five Wisconsin governors are interred there.
A visit to the cemetery is a social activity that will get you out and about and moving. The statues and architecture of the gravestones, monuments and mausoleums are striking and beautiful. Forest Home is a wooded space that also has fountains, gardens, a lake and plenty of space to wander around. There’s also an indoor education center accessible when the office is open. Check it out sometime. A visit is free of charge and the chapel, learning center and other buildings are open Monday through Saturday 8am-4:30pm and Sundays 12pm-4pm. It’s a neat part of Milwaukee’s history and both the cemetery and its chapel are on the National Register of Historic Places. Forest Home is only about 5 miles southwest of downtown Milwaukee.
(Pabst Whitefish Bay Resort. Image: ancestry.com)