Maeser Building rests on what was once a graveyard, record says

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Statue of Karl G. Maeser stands in front of the Maeser Building. The Maeser Building was built on a pioneer graveyard, from which the bodies were moved to the Provo City Cemetery. (Robyn Christensen)

The plot of land where the Maeser Building now rests was a graveyard before BYU was established.

Brigham Young led members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Utah in 1847, then established Brigham Young Academy and appointed Karl G. Maeser as the school’s second principal in 1875, according to BYU’s website. The Maeser Building was built in 1911 and is the oldest building on campus, the webpage also says.

An article in the Provo City Library’s catalog documents the early pioneers directed by Brigham Young to establish settlements along the Provo River. They built a cemetery called Temple Hill in 1850, located where the Maeser Building now stands. The cemetery was discontinued by 1880 because the soil was too sandy, and all of the bodies were moved to Provo City Cemetery, which became a permanent burial ground and remains so today.

Maeser Building Supervisor Russ Carter said that in terms of sandy soil today, there are no structural problems and that the building has been remodeled several times.

In regards to the building standing on an old graveyard, Carter said he had no opinion.

BYU professors Jennifer Haraguchi, Michael Call and Julie Allen teach at the Maeser building. Each said they had no idea that the building rested on an old cemetery. Call also said he had no “spooky experiences with the Maeser.”

To add to the history of the Maeser building, there was another cemetery nearby Temple Hill called Grandview Hill Cemetery, the Provo City Library article says. Three families buried relatives on the corner of their three land grants. Over twenty years, it grew to be about sixty graves, until the landowners dictated that no more bodies could be buried on their land.

Most of those bodies were moved to the Temple Hill Cemetery in 1879. Grandview Hill Cemetery stood on today’s Columbia Road, according to the article.

This means that the Maeser Building now stands on what used to be a graveyard where corpses were moved not just once, but twice: first, from the Grandview Hill Cemetery to Temple Hill Cemetery, then from Temple Hill cemetery to the new Provo City Cemetery.

BYU students Preston Ciccarello and Sadie Jensen said they had never heard that the Maeser Building was built on a pioneer graveyard, but Jensen and Ciccarello said, “That’s pretty crazy.”

The Maeser Building has been around for over a hundred hears, with thousands of students entering its halls for a higher education. While they may have been haunted by poor grades, it seems no one has been haunted by ghosts.

A map shows where the early cemeteries of Provo would stand today. The Maeser Building on BYU campus stands on a cemetery from which the bodies were moved. (Robyn Christensen)

BYU student John Walton said there might lingering presences from the moved bodies in the cemetery because it’s the oldest building on campus; however, he also expressed skepticism.

“I have spent a lot of late nights here and never seen anything paranormal,” he said.

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