When George Murdock died in 1885 and was buried on Prospect Hill, the Great Falls Tribune said it was time the city developed a cemetery.

The few persons who died in 1884 and the first nine months of 1885 were buried in privately owned ground.

Paris Gibson and H. P. Rolfe had selected a cemetery site when they laid out the city, but it had not been developed yet.

By 1888, Highland Cemetery, previously called Sand Coulee, was plotted on 240 acres owned by Gibson and Lewis. The cemetery was incorporated with plans to sell stock, but the financial pinch of the 1890’s ended that effort.

The cemetery was only partially fenced and had no other improvements.

Cascade County took a section for a potter’s plot in 1890 and the Catholic Church bought 12 acres in 1896 for Calvary Cemetery, which lies just south of Highland Cemetery today.

By 1906, the city was clamoring for a city-owned cemetery closer to town. People complained that Highland Cemetery was not maintained and was too far away to visit the graves. They wanted a cemetery accessible by streetcar and near a water mill for irrigation.

They recommended a site bordered by 30th and 36th streets and 3rd avenue south. Gibson objected saying that soon that would be heart of the city. Highland, however, was located in a direction in which the city was least likely to grow.

A committee recommended that the city purchase Highland. Gibson said he would sell the site, but was not an advocate of city ownership. Gibson stated that the legislature had taken management of city parks away city councils, which explains why cemetery management should not be left to the city.

In 1910, Gibson placed an ad calling for a meeting to organize a cemetery association, and in July 1911, they were a chartered non-profit community organization. Dr. Longeway was the president. Bonds were sold to finance the irrigation system.

They set up a system whereby a percentage of proceeds from each lot was set aside in a perpetual care fund.

There was a need for cemetery preservation in a world where heritage was bought and sold.

Lawn statuary that could be seen proved somewhat that gravestones had been sold.