Lowell Manis

Lowell Manis overlooks the grounds of the historic Topeka Cemetery and understands one important fact: Everybody has a story!

Manis came to this realization working for more than 40 years at the cemetery. He is the latest and perhaps the last Manis to oversee these hallowed grounds in one of the earliest parts of our city. His journey started in 1971 when he went to work a summer job with his father, who had began his career at the cemetery in 1954. Forty-one years later, Manis appreciates the historical significance of the cemetery and its past is the key to its future.

“This place deserves respect and it deserves dignity,” he said.

The Topeka Cemetery is the oldest organized cemetery in Kansas. Kansas State Historical records show the Legislative Assembly of Kansas Territory passed legislation creating the Topeka Cemetery Association in 1859. Soon after its creation, Cemetery Association Directors asked Franklin L. Crane to establish a cemetery on land they believed most suited for that purpose. Records show on December 8, 1859, the directors transferred ownership of the organization to Dr. Crane.


The cemetery would become the final resting place for some of Topeka’s most prominent citizens. Vice President Charles Curtis is interred there. The City of Topeka’s founder, Cyrus K. Holliday, also lies in the cemetery. Holliday also founded the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. Many of the railroad’s early executives are buried on the grounds.

 “The people that are here are the people that created this city, this state,” Manis pointed out. He also notes the many soldiers were buried at the cemetery. There are three veterans of the War of 1812, more than 1,300 confirmed veterans of the Civil War and veterans of every war or military action since then.

Manis believes all the soldiers deserve recognition. “A lot of people gave their lives and worked hard in their lives and served their country well,” he said.

Manis’ passion for Topeka Cemetery is deeply rooted in his own family’s history with Topeka and the cemetery grounds. Both of his parents were children of the Great Depression who lived simple and sometimes difficult lives.

His mother, Laverna Rutledge Manis, was a lifelong Topekan who lived through the hardships of the Depression. The daughter of a carpenter, she saw how difficult it was for her father to make ends meet. He often had to leave early in the morning and work until late at night to provide for his family. Laverna took pride in that hard work and in her family’s history. As a direct descendent of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, she knew her family would persevere.

Manis’ father, Harold E. Manis, also grew up during the Great Depression and faced many difficulties. His childhood home burned to the ground and his family of 10 was forced to live in a tent, eating whatever they could find or hunt. He also survived World War II, along with four of his brothers. Following his time in Europe, Harold returned home and worked at the Topeka Cemetery for 35 years, starting a nearly 70 year tradition of Manises caring for these historic grounds.

ManisLaverna and Harold have passed on and are buried at Topeka Cemetery along with other members of the Manis family. For Lowell Manis, knowing they are part of the historical fabric of Topeka and Topeka Cemetery makes his mission to protect the grounds even more imperative.

 “It’s a pure honor,” he said. “My father worked here for quite a few years. I love the place. It is such a uniquely historic place”.

Despite its picturesque grounds and historic significance, Manis understands Topeka Cemetery faces difficult challenges. Its perpetual care fund is underfunded, making upkeep and improvements difficult.

 “That dignity has been deprived of it quite often because of the lack of funds to really keep it going the way it should be,” he said. “That’s what we want to see cured.”

Manis is convinced the history of Topeka Cemetery is the key to its future. He believes that if people understand the true historical significance of the cemetery, they will be more willing to help out with either monetary or volunteer support. Either way, Manis won’t stop until he sees Topeka Cemetery get the dignity it deserves.

 “I’m not going to have a new suit until Topeka Cemetery has one,” he said.


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Contact Info


About  Historic Topeka Cemetery

Historic Topeka Cemetery is operated by its lot owners, each of whom is a member of the Topeka Cemetery Association. Day-to-day operations are overseen by the association’s nine member board of directors and conducted by the superintendent.

As you walk the grounds or visit the website, know that your loved ones rest with ours. As they have been since its founding in 1859, Historic Topeka Cemetery’s caretakers are committed to respectful maintenance and preserving memories for generations to come.

Thank you for your support and patronage of Historic Topeka Cemetery, the oldest chartered cemetery in Kansas.


Historic Topeka Cemetery

1601 SE 10th Avenue . Topeka, Kansas 66607

(785) 233-4132