Public Press 25 Jun 1884 p3 c2
A Public Press reporter found a melancholy pleasure in lingering for an hour among the tombs of our people who have passed through the valley of the shadow of death, and now slumber in their graves in the Northern Cemetery.
In that lonely cemetery many pleasant memories of the past are revived and interesting incidents connected with the last days of our city are brought to mind.
There lies the remains of many we were wont to meet daily in the ordinary pursuits of life. There sleeps some old and tried friends, who, “though lost to sight are to memory dear.”
There lies a father who was cut off in the meridian of life, leaving a wife and young family to struggle with the people of this cold and unfeeling world.
There sleeps an indulgent and affection mother whose memory is engraven on the hearts of her children and friends.
There rests brothers, sisters and other relatives.
The young, the middle aged and the aged; the good and the bad; the benevolent and the miserly; the christian and the infidel; the innocent and murderers all find a common level.
There are many lots purchased forty years or more ago, that have room to spare for graves, while there are many more recently bought that are will filled with small hillocks and tombstones representing the last resting place of the family that have gone before.
It is not to be wondered at that this is the most sacred place in the world to many citizens. At this season of the year, when flowers are in bloom, the foliage adorns the trees, the birds sing sweetly and carelessly, the thoughtful and philosophical do not feel alone in this secluded spot.
The Northern Burying ground was laid out in the year 1841, and quite a number of graves were removed there from the city graveyard on Lower First street, between Elm and Oak.
Forty years ago this graveyard seemed a long distance from the city proper, but now the city has grown until dwellings are built up to the extreme city corporation limits and in fact houses have been erected beyond and around it.
The first plat contained about ten acres, and no additions were made for a number of years, or until 1875, when about fifteen or twenty acres of ground were added on the South and West.
In this cemetery are fully 10,000 bodies, over 500 monuments, eleven vaults, and almost innumerable headstones.
A beautiful little lake near the center of the cemetery contains fully 20,000 gold fish.
The largest and most expensive monument is that belonging to W. C. DePauw. The estimated cost is $15,000. It was made in Italy and brought here almost completed ready for erection. The height is 40 feet, surmounted by a statue of faith 7 feet high.
There are other very costly and beautiful designs in the way of monuments, but they are entirely too numerous to mention.
The following is the list of vaults, with owners’ names and date of building:
Seth Woodruff, 1842; Himes and Meekin, 1845; Peter A. Roan, 1845; Thomas Sinex, 1850; Elijah Ensign, 1851; James T. Allen, 1853; S. Draper, 1854; F. G. Dannecker and Geo. H. Hanky, 1861; John G. Shellers, 1875; city vault, 1878; John Briggs, 1874.
In many parts of the cemetery there are dilapidated tombstones and sunken graves. It is impossible for the sexton to attend to such matters, especially when the small salary of $300 is taken into consideration.
It would be almost an endless task to quote the endless inscriptions, and to begin, it would be difficult to quit. Some are sensible and sentimental, some silly, and many very inappropriate. Among the most appropriate and pretty is the following on the monument of Jno. R. Nunemacher, and it was evidently chosen by himself before his death: “Say not goodnight, but in some happier clime bid me good morning.”
Under a willow tree, near the Eighth street entrance, lie the bones of eleven of the victims of the steamer Lucy Walker explosion which sad event occurred a few miles below this city on the 23rd of October 1844. There is a dilapidated tombstone or so over the graves, but the elements have worn away nearly all traces of the names inscribed thereon.
The remains of Ex-Governor Ashbel P. Willard lie beneath three large pine trees near the Northeast corner of the cemetery. Myrtle has taken possession of the premises and the grave presents a dilapidated appearance. There is no monument, tombstone, slab, nor anything except the large pine trees that have fed upon his body for the past twenty-four years. Gov. Willard’s grave is and has been sadly neglected.
All that is mortal of Hon. Michael C. Kerr, who died about 8 years ago, can be found near the grave of Willard. Both were noted democratic politicians and statesmen and they find repose near each other in the state of their adoption and among those who delighted to honor them.
The first burial in the then new graveyard was that of Sarah Caroline Hatton, a four year old daughter of C. C. Hatton. The graveyard had been platted, but the sale of lots was not made until a month or so afterward.
Some tombstones are found dated as far back as 1835, but they were removed from the old graveyard. But few interments were made in the Northern cemetery until 1842-3.
At that time Willard was buried, the burial register was kept very loosely and imperfectly. The following is the only entry made at the time this great man was placed beneath the sod: “Oct. 10, 1860, Gov. Willard was buried in plat 4, age__, out of the city.
Col. Dan. Shrader, the present efficient sexton, has adopted a complete system of keeping the register of burials. He gives the number of permit, name of deceased, residence, age, date of death, date of burial, number of plat, range and lot, where born, disease, physician and undertaker.
From Col. Shrader, the sexton, the following, with other information was received: the number of burials from Jul 1850 to Oct. 1864 was 3,787. There was no record kept, or it cannot be found, from 1864 to 1867. The number from 1867-1874 was 3,415. The total number of burials on record is 7,202. Fully three thousand more must have been buried during the 13 years in which no record was kept.
There are many more interesting matters that might be spoken of, but this article is already too long.
© Sue P. Carpenter 3/28/01