Ceremony Held for Restoration of Former Iowa Gov. Samuel Merrill’s Mausoleum

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Samuel Merrill was Iowa's seventh governor, serving from 1868 to 1872, and in recent years, his final resting place was in bad shape.

Merrill's mausoleum sits inside Des Moines' Woodland Cemetery. A tree fell on it, loosening bricks and letting in vermin and weather elements.

After decades of disrepair, the mausoleum has been brought back to life. The restoration crew replaced the marble, restored the brick, and cleaned up the damage of animals and vandals.

"Governor Merrill served our nation and Iowa led the way with the highest number of volunteers in the Union Army to help preserve the nation," Governor Branstad said at a ceremony held Merrill's gravesite Sunday. "Not only did he do that, he was wounded and came back and served as governor of this state."

The column brought in thousands more in private donations for attorney Jonas Cutler, former Iowa Senator Dennis Black and others who wanted to see the severely damaged Des Moines monument be saved.

Among them was a $1,000 personal donation from Branstad.

"This isn't the end of the road, what this is the next step," Cutler said. "We're leaving this for future generations to make decisions on what they will do with Samuel Merrill. This will be here for another 100 years-plus."

The mausoleum is among the numerous historic gravesites at Woodland Cemetery.

And until this spring, historians thought Merrill was alone in the mausoleum. However, recently, while working to restore the tomb, Cutler discovered Merrill's wife, Elizabeth, was also buried there.

Historic records have been corrected to note she rests there.