THE CEMETERIES OF DAYTON, OHIO
By Charles F. Sullivan
The early settlers of Dayton, Ohio were mostly young people stout and hardy and accustomed to hard work or they would not have moved so far from civilization and help, if needed, as they did in coming from Cincinnati to Dayton, taking ten days by the boat party to make the trip, and longer, by those coming overland.
This being the case, it would not be unusual if there were no deaths in the colony during the first four years, and we have no record of any.
In the winter of 1799, Daniel Cooper, proprietor of Dayton, gave the Presbyterians a lot at the N. E. corner of Third and Main streets, now occupied by the Callahan Building to be used for a church and cemetery. The church was built quickly out of logs and placed two feet above the ground, size 18 by 20 feet and seven logs high. It had no windows, nor any way of heating it, and for seats, benches made out of slabs with no backs to them.
James Welsh was the first paster and was also a physician and had his own drugs to be used in that business. This lot was considered so far out of the city that it was thought to be useless for anything else than a church and cemetery. That winter, they raised by subscription $390.00 to make the church more comfortable.
Instead they sold the church for $22.00 and it was moved away and the $412.00 loaned to the County to build a Courthouse.
The arrangement was that until the money was repaid, the church should use the Courthouse for services free of rent, and no interest would be charged by the church.
While the Courthouse was being built, the church used Hugh McCullum’s tavern at the corner of Main & Second. This was also rented by the County for a Courthouse for $25.00 per year.
When the new Courthouse was complete in the winter of 1807-8, the church services were held in it at the present location of the old Courthouse. The furniture of the Courthouse consisted of a few three legged stools and a bench. By that time, the church lot was not considered a good place for a cemetery and Mr. Cooper donated two lots to the Presbyterians, one to the Methodists and one for others, all in the square bounded by Fifth, Wilkinson, Sixth and Ludlow streets. In 1812, a committee was appointed to fence, clear and put in good condition. This was the only cemetery used in Dayton until 1841.
Ben Van Cleve was the leader in the party coming here by boat in 1796, and was married Aug. 28th1800 to Mary Whitten. Their oldest son was John Whitten Van Cleve, a man of great ability and influence in Dayton’s early days. He was a large man, public spirited and very capable in every way and was much interested in botany and geology. He enjoyed going out to the present Woodland Cemetery and looking over the city from there.
He saw the need of a larger and more remote cemetery and how beautiful that location would be. He began to promote the organization of the Woodland Cemetery Association to buy and develop the necessary land.
Augustus George bought 108 acres, of which this is a part, for $487.00 in 1826. He sold to the Woodland Cemetery Association 40 acres for $2400.00, retaining the front upon Wayne Ave. for his own use. Since then several pieces of land have been added at different times, until now it is 200 acres, of which 100 acres have been sold.
Van Cleve became the president of it until his death in 1858, and to his work, we are greatly indebted for the beautiful landscaping that was done in its early years.
He was responsible for the building of the Lookout House that stood upon the highest knoll of the hill along Wyoming Street. From here a beautiful view of this city could be had, for I was up in it many times as a child. Later it became unsafe and was removed by the Cemetery authorities. The Cemetery is now 103 years old and the trees and grass are in fine condition and shows that it has been well cared for all these years. It is a monument to Van Cleve.
The entrance to it is from Brown Street and in my boyhood days the ground was vacant to Brown Street and a square to the north from Woodland Ave. as it is now called.
Many funerals would pass on South Jefferson Street, and about a hundred feet past Fifth Street, there was an old one story frame house, the office and home of Dr. Rose. As a funeral would pass the old doctor would stand in front of the office in a Prince Albert suit and silk hat and expose a sign saying “This is not one of my patients”. With his long white hair and beard, he made a picture long to be remembered.
St. Henry’s Cemetery was started by the Catholic people in a small place across the Main Street from the Fairgrounds in 1844.
This was enlarged until it occupied the entire square.
It was still there in my boyhood days but was filled to capacity and abandoned soon after. In 1872 Calvary Cemetery was organized and bought 90 acres of woodland known as “The Bluffs”.
When St. Henry’s was abandoned, six thousand and Sixty three removals were made to Calvary and the old location was cleared and it is now built up solid, so there is no evidence that there ever was a cemetery located there.
At first it looked as if Calvary had been located too far out, for the only means of travel was by horse and carriage and 2 ½ miles from the Courthouse was too much, for it was up and down hill all the way. In 1890, the traction was built to Miamisburg passing the gate and that was a wonderful improvement. A few years later the auto came into general use and that made it easy of access. Its high altitude makes it a fine view point for the city and now the city has grown all around it.
The Jewish people, organized a church in 1851 and bought a church from the Baptists at the N. E. corner of Jefferson and Fourth and soon after bought a small place upon Rubicon street just north of the National Cash Register Co. works. They built a stone wall all around it and kept it in good condition until it was too crowded. They then bought a piece of ground between the Cincinnati pike and Miami River and east of Calvary, and moved to that location.
The Jewish people upon Wyoming street bought a piece of woodland upon the Old Troy Pike, about a half mile from Community Drive, about the time of the first world war for the resting place of their dead .
About the same time Memorial Park Cemetery was organized and bought a large farm upon the Dixie highway, near Murlin Heights.
At this time they seem to be getting a big proportion of the funerals from Dayton.
Frederick Shupe gave a parcel of ground for a cemetery on South Broadway on the corner now known as Miami Chapel road, calling it the Harrison Township Cemetery. Chapel Road was the road leading to the church, probably a United Brethren church and that time [sic] is still used. The church was then upon what is now Wisconsin blvd. at the end of this road.
When Mr. Shupe gave this ground he said “It should stand as long as the world stands and should never be destroyed.”
Originally it was two acres but several times small pieces have been added to it. I can remember passing this place, when I was six years of age, and it was then known as Greencastle Cemetery but how it received that name, I am unable to say.
It is my opinion, that since there was this U. B. Church close by and in my younger days, a Rev. H. F. Shupe in the work of the United Brethren church, that this cemetery was under that denomination at the start.
The United Brethren people started a church upon the Beardshear road, about a half mile east of the Dixie Highway, and located a cemetery at the west end of it. This is a beautiful location and is kept in good condition and is of fair size. Since the U. B. people started this cemetery in the north end of Harrison Township, is it not possible that they started the cemetery near this other church in the south end of Harrison Township. Since I am not now living in Dayton, it seems impossible to get the information upon these last two cemeteries.
With the coming of the automobile, it is possible to make a burial a hundred miles from Dayton and be back the same night.
This makes it possible for a family formerly living some distance from Dayton, to use their old cemetery as their burying ground, even though they have been citizens of Dayton many years.
Chas F. Sullivan
114 E. Idaho St. Apt. C.
Jan. 1944 Boise, Idaho