Originally located a half mile south at the old Boise Barracks, the Fort Boise Military Reserve Cemetery was moved to this location in 1906 after a flash flood roared down Cottonwood Creek causing major damage and erosion to the graves. The officer in charge of the move described the new location, about a half mile north, as somewhat "desirable" and somewhat "level." Graves included those of enlisted men, officers, some officers’ families, and civilians.
A short time later, additional graves were discovered at the original site by soldiers using the old cemetery as a target range. Military activity was halted until these graves were disinterred and moved to the new cemetery location. Additional burials took place -- along with disinterments -- through the spring of 1913 when the Boise Barracks were closed.
Shortly after World War II, the Department of Veterans Affairs decided to close many of their small cemeteries due to funding. However, the historic Fort Boise Military Cemetery was left undisturbed by the request of the U.S. Department of the Army. In 1947 the cemetery was deeded to the City of Boise with the understanding that the cemetery would be maintained as an historic site and kept in its natural state, similar to how it looked at the turn of the century.
Three more unknown people were given solders' burials at the cemetery in 1998. The military ceremony conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs took place on Memorial Day, 1998. The three, presumed to be Civil War veterans, were unearthed during flood control excavation in the vicinity of the original cemetery. Today a total 252 enlisted men, officers, officers' family members, and civilians are laid to rest at the Fort Boise Military Reserve Cemetery.
Care and Maintenance
The cemetery's care and maintenance eventually fell upon the city park caretakers, now known as Boise Parks and Recreation. In the early years, the major challenge was to prevent and restore amenities caused by vandalism. The site was somewhat isolated in the late 1940s through the early 1970s. Graves were sometimes used as targets, markers were stolen, fencing and gates painted, and the flag pole was disabled.
The following paragraph was removed from this page because it could not be confirmed in minutes from the Park Board of Commissioners:
In 1978, the 420-acre parcel surrounding the cemetery was named a reserve by the Park Board of Commissioners in an attempt to retain the ecological, natural state of the area. Subsequently, trails were developed, road access improved and more people enjoyed the recreation opportunities in the preserve. Increased use greatly reduced vandalism.
City records show that the patent for the parcel was updated in 1981, not 1978. The Recreation and Public Purposes Act for Military Reserve, which governs the patent held by the City of Boise, allows for development for recreational purposes. Here is a link to the 1981 patent: Application for Land for Recreation or Public Purposes - 1981 (PDF)
Erosion is another major maintenance issue. Although the officer who chose the site described it as somewhat level, the cemetery is actually located on a hillside. In order to curb erosion, native vegetation has been left undisturbed. The area has also been sown with crested wheat and fescue grasses to further establish a strong foothold.
At the site, maintenance is performed to trim weeds around stones, gates, fences and walkways. Markers are righted and repaired, fencing and gates painted as needed, and during weekly visits, debris is picked up and the site is inspected.
Some visitors may get the sense that the cemetery has been abandoned, a solitary resting place of the forgotten. However, the goal of the Boise Parks and Recreation Department is to retain the integrity of the site, respect the land, prevent alienation to the cemetery and most of all, honor the memory of those who rest there.