In 1887, Douglas County purchased this 5 ½-acre field from nearby Forest Lawn to use as a cemetery for poor and unidentified people. It was named Potter’s Field, a traditional title from the New Testament. Of 3,912 individuals recorded to have been buried here, 1,663 were infants. Most of these graves did not have markers. Over time, family and friends claimed many of the bodies for burial elsewhere.
Among those laid to rest was William Brown, a black man lynched in 1919 by a white mob near the Douglas County Courthouse. Though accused of rape, Brown is widely believed to have been innocent. Most historians view his murder as part of that year’s anti-black “Red Summer” violence that claimed hundreds of lives across the country.
The property was closed in 1957, and the County paid for these burials in ordinary cemeteries going forward. Potter’s Field fell into disrepair, tended only by volunteer efforts, until a major community rehabilitation project in 1986. The City of Omaha now maintains the land.