Hamilton County Ohio
Genealogy and History

Finding Ancestors wherever their trails led with Genealogy Trails History Group

Cemetery History

[Source: "History of Cincinnati, Ohio with illustrations and biographical sketches" compiled by Henry A. Ford and Kate B. Ford; pub by L.A. Williams & Co., 1881 - KT - Sub by FoFG ]

THE first and only public burying-ground in Cincinnati for many years was that upon the square bounded by Fourth and Fifth, Walnut and Main streets, given to the people by the original proprietors, in part for that purpose It was attached to the meeting-house of the First Presbyterian church, near the corner of Fourth and Main, and was used continuously for nearly a generation, or about twenty-seven years, when it became so crowded that another cemetery became necessary. In 1810 one of the four-acre out-lots was purchased by the Presbyterians, being the tract between Elm and Vine, Eleventh and Twelfth streets. The public generally were still permitted to make interments in the ground of the society at the new place.

The Methodists have also an old burying-ground back of the Wesley chapel, on Fifth street, between Broadway and Sycamore, where some ancient graves are still to be seen. The Jews have another, long since abandoned, but still kept intact, at the corner of Chestnut street and Central avenue. It is altogether concealed from the public eye by buildings on one side and a lofty brick wall on another. The site of the former Catherine street burying-ground, on Court street, between Wesley avenue and Mound, is yet marked with an inside enclosure of iron fence, containing some graves.

Many of the denominations maintain the old idea of interments in their own consecrated "God's acre." The Roman Catholics have their Calvary cemetery, of about twelve acres, on the Madison pike, at East Walnut Hills; St. Peter's, now full and disused, upon Lick run, on the Harrison turnpike, three miles from the city; St. Bernard's, on the Carthage pike, about three miles; St. Joseph's, near the city limits on the west, south of the Warsaw pike, in the twenty-first ward, in two separate tracts-one new, the other old, and both containing about one hundred acres; and the German Catholic, of about twelve acres, also on the Warsaw pike, in the twenty-first ward. The German Evangelical Protestants have an old cemetery on the Baltimore pike, in the twenty-fourth ward, and another on the Carthage road, north of the zoological gardens; the German Protestants, also, two cemeteries, respectively at the corner of Park avenue and Chestnut street, Walnut Hills, and on the Reading turnpike, out of the city. The Methodist Protestants have theirs near the old Widow's Home, at the city limits, just south of Avondale. There is a Jewish cemetery in Clifton; the congregations K. K. Sherith and Judah Torah, the latter Reformed Jews, and the K. K. Adath Israel, Polish Jews, have each a cemetery on Lick run. The United Jewish cemetery, East Walnut Hills, corner of Montgomery and Duck Creek roads, comprises an old part, dating from 1849, and a new, laid out in 1860. The remaining space in the former is now reserved for the poor and members of the society who do not own lots; while the other is platted into lots, of which there is now room for about seven hundred.

The colored people of the city have a Union Baptist cemetery at Gazlay's corner, on the Warsaw turnpike, and a colored American or African burying-ground at Avondale, on the Lebanon pike, adjoining the German Protestant cemetery.

More famous than any other denominational cemetery about the city, in some respects, is
This is situated upon a beautiful tract of twenty-five acres, in the northwestern part of the city, being the western part of Cumminsville, and on the east bank of the west fork of Mill creek and the Coleman pike, about five miles from Fountain square. By 1842 the old cemetery in the rear of Wesley chapel had become too small for the demands of the Methodist people in the city for burials, and, after casting about in the vicinity of the city for a suitable resting place for their dead, this area was purchased, laid out in burial lots, with winding walks and carriage ways, and formally dedicated to its sacred purposes. It was opened in 1843. In the centre, upon an elevation which commands a superb view, was placed the receiving vault, surrounded by a circular drive-way, from which roads diverged to every part of the grounds. A "preachers' lot," thirty-two feet square, was set apart in a beautiful location, and was fitly enclosed and adorned. An acre of the ground near the entrance was leased for a nursery, from which might be supplied trees, shrubbery, and flowering plants for the uses of the cemetery. A two-story brick dwelling for the sexton was erected in a pleasing rural style, on the left of the main entrance; also a chapel on the high grounds of the cemetery, which was afterwards, about 1855, displaced by a new brick chapel on lower ground at the right of the nursery site, for services of the church whenever desired. Many of the early ministers and laymen of the Methodist Episcopal church in Cincinnati are buried here. About twenty-five thousand interments had been made in this cemetery up to 1879.

Each of the principal outlying divisions of the city, formerly suburban villages, had its own cemetery for public use. The Columbia cemetery, containing some quite ancient graves, lies along the track of the Little Miami railroad, a little beyond the station. Somewhat further out, east of the railway track, is the old Baptist enclosure, upon which formerly stood the oldest Protestant meeting-house in the Northwest Territory, and within which some of the earliest interments in the Miami country were made. The Walnut Hills cemetery is immediately south of the German Protestant, on the west border of Woodburn.

or city cemetery, which, many years ago, occupied the tract now so beautifully improved as Lincoln Park, in the western district of the old city, is now in the valley of Lick run, three miles from Cincinnati, not far from the new branch of the city hospital, or pest house.

By far the greatest and most noted of the local burying-grounds, however, is the SPRING GROVE CEMETERY.
The people of the Queen City are truly fortunate in possessing, within easy reach of nearly all parts of the city, and upon a most eligible site, one of the finest, as it is undoubtedly the most extensive of cemeteries in the United States. Said the Hon. Lewis F. Allen, in his address at the dedication of Forest Lawn cemetery, Buffalo: "Were I, of all cemeteries within my knowledge, to point you to one taking precedence as a model, it would be that of Spring Grove near Cincinnati. Their broad undulations of green turf, stately avenues, and tasteful monuments, intermingled with noble trees and shrubbery, meet the eye, conferring a grace and dignity which no cemetery in our country has yet equaled, thus blending the elegance of a park with the pensive beauty of a burial place."

And Mr. Parton wrote of it, in his Atlantic Monthly article: "There is very little, if any, of that hideous ostentation, the mere expenditure of money, which renders Greenwood so melancholy a place, exciting far more compassion for the folly of the living than sorrow for the dead who have escaped their society."

By 1844 the want of a finer and ampler cemetery than Cincinnati then possessed was seriously felt. Mt. Auburn, Laurel Hill, and Greenwood, had been established, and their fame had gone abroad in this and other lands. It was determined to found a Gottesaker as the Germans call it a "field of God"- which should vie with any in the New World for beauty and convenience. The next few paragraphs, describing the early movements to this end we extract, almost verbatim in places, from the interesting account of the cemetery, published in 1862, in an octavo volume.

On the thirteenth of April, 1844, a number of gentlemen met at the house of Robert Buchanan, to hold a consultation on the subject of establishing a rural cemetery in the neighborhood of Cincinnati, and for adopting measures for carrying their object into effect. Mr. Baird Loring was chairman of this meeting, and J. B. Russell secretary. It was decided, after due discussion, that this object was not only desirable, but feasible; and a committee was appointed to make the necessary examinations and recommend a suitable site.

After all the necessary researches and observations had been made, the Garrard farm, situated about four miles from the city, containing one hundred and sixty-six and seventy-four hundredths acres, was selected, as combining more of the requisites sought for than any other, and the place being considered reasonable, its purchase was recommended by the committee which had been appointed at the meeting above mentioned. This committee consisted of the following gentlemen, well fitted for the duty assigned them, viz: William Neff, Melzer Flagg, T. H. Minor, David Loring, R. Buchanan, S. C. Parkhurst, and A. M. Ernst, and their recommendation was approved, and adopted. The purchase was effected the same year, from Mr. Josiah Lawrence, of whom further purchases were made in 1845 and 1847, to the amount of about twelve and a half acres. The original purchase price was sixteen thousand dollars, or something less than one hundred dollars per acre.

A meeting was held on the fourth of May, and a committee was then appointed to prepare articles of association. It consisted of Timothy Walker, G. W. Neff, Nathan Guilford, Nathaniel Wright, D. B. Lawler, Miles Greenwood, and Judge James Hall, and on the eleventh they reported thirteen articles, which were ordered to be published in the newspapers for the consideration of the citizens generally. On the nineteenth of October, these articles were referred to a committee consisting of Timothy Walker, S. P. Chase, James Hall, N. Guilford, N. Wright, D. B. Lawler, and E. Woodruff, with instructions to prepare a charter in conformity with them, to be presented to the legislature for enactment. This was done, and Judges Burnet, Walker and Wright were, on the first of December, appointed to lay it before the legislature, and obtain its passage. It was passed, without objection or alteration, on the twenty-first of January, 1845.

Much discussion took place in regard to a suitable name. Several were proposed, among them that of "Spring Grove," which, being preferred by a large majority, was accepted. It had especial appropriateness, from the flowing springs and ancient groves with which the place abounded.

The approbation of the citizens in relation to the proceedings of the committee was general, and the exertions of Messrs. Peter Neff, James Pullan, and A. H. Ernst, in obtaining subscribers at one hundred dollars each, were so successful that, as soon as the lots were surveyed, enough were immediately taken up to establish the institution on a firm basis.

The first meeting of the lot-holders, for the election of directors, in compliance with the requisitions of the charter, was held on the eighth of February, 1845, when the following gentlemen were elected, viz: R. Buchanan, William Neff, A. H. Ernst, R. G. Mitchell, D. Loring, N. Wright, J. C. Culbertson, Charles Stetson, and Griffin Taylor, and on the eleventh the board was organized by the appointment of R. Buchanan, president; S. C. Parkhurst, secretary, and G. Taylor, treasurer.

The original plan of the grounds was made by John Notman, of Philadelphia, the designer of the famous Laurel Hill cemetery, in that city. It has since been materially improved, important alterations having been found necessary to adapt it to the surface of the ground. The cemetery was consecrated on the twenty-eight of August, 1845, with appropriate solemn ceremonies, including an address by the Hon. Judge McLean, a "Consecration Hymn" by Mr. William D. Gallagher, and an ode by Lewis J. Cist. Mr. Thomas Farnshaw was made chief engineer, and Mr. Howard Daniels, superintendent, assisted by his next successor, Dennis Delaney, all of whom did much for the embellishment of the grounds. The system of landscape gardening adopted in 1855, was mainly the work of Messrs. Adolph Strauch and Henry Earnshaw, the latter of whom was for years superintendent, and in 1856, to curtail expenses, the offices of superintendent and surveyor were united in his person. Mr. Strauch is now, and has been for a number of years, landscape gardener and superintendent of the cemetery. He has been identified with it from the beginning. By this time a large number of the cemetery lots had been sold, and a permanent fund had been accumulated of twelve thousand eight hundred dollars in stocks and bonds, besides six thousand dollars in unsold real estate, being part of a legacy left to the cemetery by Mr. Charles E. Williams. During the year 1856-7, the receipts exceeded the expenditures by about ten thousand eight hundred dollars. Beautiful improvements, including many fine monuments, had been made upon the grounds. In July, 1856, the price of lots was advanced from twenty to twenty-five cents per square foot -a price still below that then charged in most leading cemeteries of the land. Some of the lot-owners had contributed one thousand dollars toward making the lake, an improvement soon afterwards effected, and adding greatly to the beauty of the cemetery. The statue of Egeria at the Fountain, executed by the sculptor, Nathaniel Baker, formerly a Cincinnatian, was presented to the cemetery by Mr. Walter Gregory, and erected on the island in the lake. One of the most beautiful and appropriate places in the cemetery was appropriated as a burial-place for soldiers of the Union, and another for a pioneers' burial-ground.

In 1857 an important addition was made by the purchase of sixty acres on the north line of the cemetery, running up to the Graytown road, from Mr. Platt Ewens, of whom forty acres had been bought ten years before. With these the area of the whole tract was two hundred and eighty acres. Subsequent purchases increased the amount to six hundred acres, and it is now the largest cemetery in the United States.

Among the more important of these were the purchase of one hundred and thirty-two and a half acres in 1866 from the heirs of G. Hill, deceased, for one hundred and thirty thousand dollars; twenty-five acres the next year from the Marietta & Cincinnati railroad, for six thousand two hundred dollars; a like amount in 1873, from Israel Ludlow, for fourteen thousand four hundred and fifty-four dollars, and twenty-five and seven-tenths acres, the same year, from the widow and heirs of G. W. Crary, for seventeen thousand nine hundred and ninety-two dollars and eighty cents. The total sum expended in the purchase of real estate for the cemetery, from 1844 to 1874, was three hundred and fifty-two thousand one hundred and eleven dollars and ninety-seven cents. The price of lots is now from thirty to seventy-five cents per square foot, according to location, those fronting on the avenues generally being fifty cents, and those in the second tier forty.

Between 1853 and 1867 the entrance buildings were erected at the principal gateway to the grounds, on the southern boundary, at Spring Grove avenue. They are from designs of Mr. James K. Wilson, in the Norman-Gothic style, one hundred and fifty feet long, and cost something over fifty thousand dollars. They include, besides apartments for the use of the directors and the superintendent, a large waiting-room for visitors. The commodious receiving vault, situated in the centre of the grounds, was considerably enlarged in the year 1859.

Among the notable monuments in the cemetery are the Dexter and Burnet mausoleums; the sepulchral chapel, containing the statue of George Selves, jr., executed by Daumas, in Paris; the Lytle monument, over the remains, of General William H. Lytle, who fell at Chickamauga; the Shillito, Potter, Neff, Pendleton, Lawler, Gano, Resor, and many other memorials, some of them of great cost and beauty. The Gano shaft is of gray sandstone, and was originally erected in 1827, in the old Catharine Street burying-ground, in Cincinnati, by Mr. Daniel Gano, to the memory of his father, the brave pioneer and soldier, Major General John S. Gano. The Walker monument is a copy of the celebrated tomb of Scipio Africanus, in Rome. Another beautiful monument was erected to the memory of a teacher, Professor E. S. Brooks, by his pupils. Colonel Oliver Spencer, of the Continental army in the Revolution, who died here in 1811; Colonel Robert Elliott, who was barbarously murdered by the Indians near Colerain in 1794; the Rev. Dr. Joshua L. Wilson, for thirty-eight years pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, in Cincinnati; the Rev. J. T. Brooke, D.D., whose prayer lent interest to the consecration ceremonies of the cemetery in 1845; and many other local celebrities, repose here under fitting memorials in marble and granite. During or soon after the war, the city council voted a grant of ten thousand dollars as the nucleus of a fund for a soldiers' monument in the cemetery, which has not yet been built upon this foundation. In 1864, however, a soldiers' monument was erected by voluntary subscription at the junction of Lake Shore and Central avenues, in the park - a bronze statue of a Union soldier on guard, upon a pedestal of granite. It was cast by William Miller, of Munich, from a design by Rudolph Rogers. Close by this are the three lots in which are soldiers' graves - one of them given by the board of directors to the State, the other two purchased by the State, but now the property of the General Government. The graves occupy three consecutive knolls upon the lots. The pioneer lot is also an attractive place, but is yet without monument or any considerable number of interments.

During the year ending September 30, 1880, Superintendent Strauch estimated in his annual report that the grounds were visited by more than a quarter of a million of people, exclusive of those with funerals. The system of laying out, adornment, and management of burial-places adopted by the board twenty-five years before bade fair to be applied, he said, by all the leading American and European cemeteries. A new mortuary chapel, with receiving tombs at the entrance, was rapidly approaching completion, and has since been finished. About thirty thousand dollars were expended on it in 1879-80. The introduction of many new varieties of trees and shrubs adapted to this latitude, together with the preservation of the trees native to the site, promised to make of the cemetery at no distant day an extensive and instructive arboretum.

The total number of interments to the date mentioned, inclusive, according to the report of Secretary Spear, was 34,498; number of single graves occupied, 5,862; soldiers' graves, 996; lot-holders, 7,133. The receipts of the financial year had been $74,903.80; expenditures, $75,119.12. The resources of the cemetery association, including cash, United States securities, and bills receivable, aggregated $148,573.68.

The following named gentlemen have filled the offices in the gift of the association:
President - Robert Buchanan (until his death), Henry Probasco.
Secretary - S. C. Parkhurst, James Pullan, H. Daniels, John Lea, E. J. Handy, D. G. A. Davenport, Cyrus Davenport, S. B. Spear.
Treasurer - G. Taylor, D. H. Home, John Shillito, William H. Harrison.
Superintendent - Howard Daniels, Dennis Delaney, Henry Earnshaw, Adolph Strauch.
Directors - J. C. Culbertson, N. Wright, D. C. Loring, R. G. Mitchell, C. Stetson, Griffin Taylor, William Neff, A.H. Ernst, R. Buchanan, S. C. Parkhurst, James Pullen, D. H. Home, William Resor, George K. Shoenberger, William Orange, K. Yardley, John P. Foote, W. B. Smith, Archibald Irwin, Peter Neff, Larz Anderson, T. H. Weasner, M. Werk, Henry Probasco, Robert Hosea, John Shillito, William H. Harrison, Andrew Erkenbrecher, Charles Thomas, Rufus King, George W. McAlpin, Augustus S. Winslow.

[Source: "History of Cincinnati, Ohio with illustrations and biographical sketches" compiled by Henry A. Ford and Kate B. Ford; pub by L.A. Williams & Co., 1881 - KT - Sub by FoFG ]


Copyright © Genealogy Trails