Before Mrs. Charles (Catherine) Durkee died in 1838, she requested that she be buried at the north end of her husband's property in Southport (now Kenosha). After her death, Senator Charles Durkee donated several acres of land around his wife's grave to the city for use as a cemetery. Although there were prior burials dating back to 1836, and probably before that date, this constituted the first City Cemetery. In 1906 a nine member Board of Trustees was elected and the Kenosha Cemetery Association became custodians of the historic cemetery.
Green Ridge Cemetery is the final resting place for many prominent, famous and infamous Kenosha and Wisconsin residents. Among these individuals are:
MARY D. BRADFORD (1856-1943)
First woman to hold the position of Superintendent of Schools in 1910. Modernized school system, adding Kindergarten, manual and household arts, vocational and summer schools.
CHARLES COOPER (1867-1903), WILLIS COOPER (-1903), HENRY S. COOPER (1858-1924)
Three sons of Samuel Cooper who took over management of Cooper Underwear (now Jockey, International), moving the company from St. Joseph, Michigan in 1900. Charles and Willis were among many Kenoshans killed in Chicago's Iroquois Theater fire. Henry took over operations upon the deaths of his brothers.
REUBEN H. DEMING (1798-1867)
Methodist minister from Bennington, Vermont. He served on the School Commission, working with Michael Frank for better education. He was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, assisting runaway slaves in their escape to Canada through the port of Kenosha on Lake Michigan.
CHARLES DURKEE (1805-1870)
Durkee arrived from Royalton, Vermont with his wife Catherine in 1836. He became the first territorial legislator and first representative in Congress, elected United States Senator in 1855. He lobbied for the harbor at the mouth of Pike Creek and joined Michael Frank in the fight for free public schools. He donated land to the City to establish a cemetery upon the death of Catherine in 1838.
MICHAEL FRANK (1804-1894)
Arrived in Southport (now Kenosha) in 1839; became first president of Southport in 1840 and first mayor of Kenosha in 1850. Established the first free schools west of the Allegheny Mountains, earning him the nickname, "Father of Wisconsin Education."
THOMAS JEFFERY (??-1910)
Founded Rambler Bicycle Company, then switched to automobiles in 1902. Inventor of the steering wheel. Died suddenly in Pompeii, Italy.
SAMUEL CURTIS JOHNSON (1833-1919)
The founder of the S.C. Johnson Wax Company, now called S.C. Johnson, headquartered in Racine, WI, is buried in the family plot.
ZALMON SIMMONS (1828-1910)
Founder of the Simmons Mattress Company, Zalmon came to Kenosha with his father and family in 1842. He formed the Cheese Box Company, and shipped cheese produced on the farm he purchased. He later invested in the Northwestern Mattress Company, changing the name to Simmons in 1899. He started the first library in Kenosha; donated a monument to the memory of Civil War veterans; the family donated Washington Island to the city after his death. It was renamed Simmons Island.
BEATRICE WELLES (1881-1924)
First woman to hold an elected office in Kenosha, she was voted to the Board of Education in 1914. Mother of the actor Orson Welles who was born in Kenosha and went on to become an actor and was most well-known for his radio production, "War of the Worlds" and movie "Citizen Kane."
OSCAR U. ZERK (1878-1968)
Vienna born inventor of the Zerk grease fitting used to lubricate automobiles and other machinery. Zerk's unique monument is constructed of stainless steel.