Roadside Iowa · South Central Iowa · Unincorporated Iowa

The Back Roads-Iowa’s Great Pyramids

Hickory Grove Cemetery. Home to one of Iowa’s most mysterious mausoleums.

Avery, IA: Monroe County (Our 24th County)

The things you see when you take the dirt road and not worry about where it leads… Some of Iowa’s greatest historic landmarks, inspiring and scenic views, and unknown treasures can be found in places that rarely show up on tourism brochures and websites. Rural Monroe County is home to such a place.

Just a few miles from the unincorporated town of Avery and the county seat of Albia is Hickory Grove Cemetery. Just down the gravel road from its old gates is another slice of history. One of Iowa’s few remaining wooden plank bridges is here, still open to everyday traffic.

My entire life I cannot recall a time that felt nervous or frightened to be in a cemetery- day, night or early morning. In fact, I’ve always found them peaceful, relaxing, and full of history. The old prairies of Iowa’s landscape are peppered with an amazing amount of resting places that hold classic and unique stories, but only one has a story like Hickory Grove’s great pyramids.

As you walk through the gates your eyes are immediately drawn to the rear of this old graveyard where you see the mausoleum known as the Pyramids of Avery.

According to Blake Georgie from the Iowa GenWeb Project, these pyramids were built in 1939 and reserved for two local men who studied Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza. A local publisher, Axel Peterson, wanted his sarcophagus to be entombed sitting in an upright position facing his best friend who would also have his final resting place in one of the pyramids. Unfortunately, Axel and his friend’s dying wishes were never granted as they were both placed to rest in different cemeteries while Hickory Grove’s pyramids remain vacant to this day.

Giza and Monroe County may be 1000’s of miles apart, but the connection is there thanks to an early 20th century Iowan who’s imagination brought legend to this rural graveyard.

Not even the great pharaohs of centuries ago had complete control of their dying wishes. Only the good faith that their caretakers would obey the last orders given. Little is known on why Axel Peterson was never placed in his beloved tomb that he commissioned. Perhaps someday his remains can be located and be placed in Hickory Grove. Perhaps a modern day Tutankhaten-like excavation of Mr. Peterson is in order and he can finally take the eternal sit he wanted. Leave me out if scorpions, toxic powders, and poisoned spears are involved. I’ll be happy to cover the project from a far if that’s going to happen.

Thank you for reading! -Team Goodvin


13 thoughts on “The Back Roads-Iowa’s Great Pyramids

  1. Axel Peterson is buried in the Cuba cemetery just right outside the other side of Avery. His grave is marked with a small silver pyramid and has his name on it.

    1. I happen to come across your article on my great uncle. Our family is writing a book on Axel and hope to answer the many questions people have had over the years. Uncle was not buried at the Pyramids because of an argument with his sister. She told him he will be buried with the rest of the family in Cuba. There was a reason Uncle did not want buried at Cuba and built the Pyramids.

      1. I just can across this article. I would like to know it the book has been published yet? Please let me know when it is.

  2. I just visited this weekend. It has always been a goal of mine to find the pyramids. I remember visiting them about 40 years ago. The bridge is creepy. I’m trying to find out what happened to the person who lost their life on it. It’s actually a heavily used bridge.

    1. Michele the person was involved in a car accident and died. We went to school together. I have lived in Avery for 55 years and love the community. The pyramids are beautiful and a great place to relax.

  3. I am looking for someone to reset the gravestone of my great great grandfather who is buried there. Is there anyone you could recommend?

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