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Woodland Cemetery Association of Dayton, OH 1875
Title, Historical Sketch, Charter










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TRUSTEES, 1872—1875.

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Historical Sketch.


     The history of the “grave-yards” of Dayton furnishes a conclusive argument for the establishment of rural cemeteries.  The first one, located at the north-east corner of Main and Third streets, was after a few years occupation abandoned, and the shocking spectacle was often witnessed of human remains exposed to view, in excavating cellars for the business houses which now cover the whole ground.  In 1805 Daniel C. Cooper donated a tract of land for the use of the Presbyterian and Methodist churches and the town of Dayton for burial purposes.  It was situated on West Fifth Street, and was though to be so remote from the town that it would never be encroached upon.  In less than thirty years it was found to be unsuitable for the purpose, and at length interments were forbidden in it by city ordinance.  This ground has also been sold in lots.  Care was taken to remove the remains, but the manner in which the bones of the hundreds of unknown dead were heaped in rough boxes and carted to the cemetery was shocking to the best sensibilities of our nature.

     It was in view of such facts that in 1840 a movement was made to establish a rural cemetery where every possible safeguard should be thrown around the resting place of the dead.  Mr. John W. Van Cleve took the initiative in the movement; and to him more than to any other person are we indebted for our beautiful cemetery and for the prosperity which has attended the enterprise from the beginning.  At his death, in 1858, the trustees expressed their sense of obligation to him in a suitable memorial, which is recorded in the minutes and published in the appendix to this report. 

     The following articles of association were drawn up by Mr. Van Cleve, and fifty signatures obtained:




     Whereas, Augustus George, of the town of Dayton, has signified his willingness to sell, to an association for the purpose of establishing a Rural Cemetery in the vicinity of town, forty acres of ground, to be taken in a square in the north-west corner of his tract of land, in the south-eastern part of the said town, at the price of sixty dollars per acre, one half to be paid in hand and the remainder on the first day of February, 1842, we the subscribers, for the purpose aforesaid, do agree to form ourselves into an association, under the name and style of “The Woodland Cemetery Association of Dayton,” and whenever fifty subscribers shall have been obtained to these articles of association, we agree and bind ourselves to each other to make the said purchase of the said tract of land on the terms aforesaid; and for the purpose of purchasing the said ground, and a right of way thereto, and defraying the expenses of improving the same, each subscriber binds himself to pay the said association the sum of one hundred dollars, in four installments of twenty-five dollars each; the first to be paid whenever fifty subscribers shall have been obtained to these articles; the second to be paid on the first day of August, 1841; the third, on the first day of February, 1842; and the fourth on the first day of August, 1842.  And we agree on the following Articles of Association for the government, management, and regulation of the affairs, interests, and business of the Association.


ARTICLE I.  The officers of the Association shall be five Trustees (of whom one to be appointed by themselves shall be President of the Association) and a Secretary and Treasurer.  They shall be elected by the subscribers, at a meeting to be called for that purpose, as soon as fifty subscribers shall have been obtained to these articles.  They shall hold their respective offices for the term of three years from the time of their election, and the Association shall hold an election once in every third year thereafter for the election of the officers aforesaid.  Any vacancy that may occur in any of the said offices shall be filled by the Trustees, who shall appoint a suitable person to serve until the next election of officers by the Association. 


ART. II.  The title to all the property of the Association, real and personal, which may be purchased for the use of said cemetery, or which may be given or devised to the said Association for the general purposed thereof, or for any special purpose in furtherance of the objects thereof, shall be vested in the Trustees of the Association.  The said Trustees shall have the government, management, and regulation of the property, business, and interests of the Association, under such general regulation as may be prescribed by the by-laws of the Association adopted in a general meeting; provided such by-laws shall not contravene these articles.


ART. III.  The property which shall be purchased for the cemetery shall be cleared of its large timber and underbrush, but the smaller timber, which will not be dangerous or injurious to the other improvements of the ground, shall remain.  The tract shall be enclosed by a substantial fence.  Whenever it can properly and conveniently be done, portions of the ground shall be laid off into burying lots, as may be needed from time to time.  A uniform price shall be fixed on the lots which may be firstlaid out, and, on a day to be appointed for that purpose, an auction shall be held at which the highest bidder over the uniform price of a lot shall have choice of all the lots then offered for sale;  and after he shall have made known his choice, a new bidding shall be held for the choice of the residue; and so on, as long as there shall be any advance on the regular price.  When no one will give an advanced price for choice of lots, those lots which remain shall be open for purchase at all times thereafter at the uniform price.  The same mode of proceeding shall be followed whenever a new portion of the ground shall be laid out into lots.  Subscribers shall have no preference over other bidders in the purchase of lots; but when a subscriber shall purchase a lot, he shall not be required to pay for the same as other purchasers shall be, unless the price shall be more than the amount of his subscription, in which case he shall pay the amount of the excess; but for all of the price of the lot purchased by him, which shall not exceed the amount of his subscription, he shall be charged on the records of the Association, and whenever his subscription shall be refunded to him, as provided for in the fifth article of this Association, the amount of the price of his lot shall be deducted from the amount of his subscription so to be refunded.


ART. IV.  In the election of officers and formation of by-laws and in the transaction of any other business of the Association not belonging to the duties of the Trustees or other officers, each subscriber of these articles who shall have made payment of his subscription, or such installments of the same as have become due and payable, according to the stipulations hereinbefore contained, shall have one vote.  And each subscriber may transfer his right and share by assignment or devise thereof; and in case no such assignment or devise shall have been made at the death of such subscriber, the said right shall vest in his oldest heir at law.  Any number of subscribers shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business at any meeting, provided that notice of such meeting shall have been given by two or more of the Trustees, in some newspaper printed in Dayton, at least one day previous to the time of holding the same.


ART. V.  The amount received from the sale of burying lots shall be applied, in addition to the amount herein subscribed, to the improvement of the cemetery ground, so long as the same shall be requisite and necessary for that purpose.  Each subscriber, or his heirs or assigns, shall have the amount paid by him on his subscription to these articles refunded to him or them without interest, the price of any burying lot which he may have purchased being deducted therefrom, as provided in the third article of this Association.  But the right of such subscriber, or his heir or assignee, to a vote in the affairs of this Association, shall still remain in such subscriber and his heirs and assigns forever.  January 25, 1841.

(For names of subscribers see appendix.)


     A meeting of the subscribers was called at the office of the Firemens Insurance Company, on Thursday evening, February 18, 1841.  James Steele was appointed chairman and David C. Baker secretary.  At this meeting the Woodland Cemetery Association was organized by the election of the following officers:


Trustees – Job Haines, James Perrine, Edward W. Davies, J.D. Phillips, John W. Van Cleve.


Secretary – Robt. C. Schenck.


Treasurer – David Z. Peirce.


     At a subsequent meeting of the Trustees, John W. Van Cleve was elected President of the Association.

     It is an interesting fact that Woodland Cemetery is in order of time the third rural cemetery of any magnitude established in the United States, preceding Spring Grove, at Cincinnati, three years. 

     On the 29th of April, 1841, a deed was received from Augustus George for forty acres of ground.  This tract of land was covered with a dense growth of forest-trees, many of them of the largest size.  By the judicious removal and sale of the surplus timber a handsome sum of money was realized.  The Trustees proceeded at once to enclose the ground, to lay out suitable carriage ways, and to subdivide the whole into burial lots, seventeen by twenty-two feet each.  The surveying and platting was done by Mr. Van Cleve without charge.

     This method of division into square lots of equal size, which was perhaps the best which could be devised at the time, has not been followed by the Trustees in platting new ground.  Regard is now had to the direction of the roads and the lay of the ground, and a much better effect produced. 

     In 1842 the Trustees made application to the Legislature and procured the following charter:




An act to incorporate the Woodland Cemetery Association of Dayton.  (Passed February 28th, 1842.  Adopted by the Association April 16th, 1842.)


(Ohio Local Laws.  Vol. XL., page 72.)


SECTION I.  Be it enacted by the General Asembly of the State of Ohio, that John W. Van Cleve, Edward W. Davies, Job Haines, James Perrine, and Jonathan D. Phillips and their associates, subscribers to the articles of the Woodland Cemetery Association of Dayton, in the County of Montgomery, and their successors and assigns, be and they are hereby created a body politic and corporate, by the name and style of the Woodland Cemetery Association of Dayton, and by that name shall be capable of contracting and being contracted with, of sueing and being sued, of impleading and being impleaded, of answering and being answered, in all courts and places and in all matters whatsoever, with power to purchase, receive, hold, occupy, and convey and real an personal estate which may be appropriate to the nature of their Association, and to use a corporate seal.


SEC. 2.  That the officers of the said Association shall be five Trustees, a Secretary, and a Treasurer, who shall be elected by the stock holders triennially, and who shall hold their offices until their successors are chosen.  The Trustees shall elect one of their own number President of the Association, and shall fill any vacancy that may occur in their own number or in the office of secretary or treasurer.  The title to all the property of the Association, real and personal, shall be vested in the Trustees, who shall have the government, management, and regulation thereof, and of the business and interests of the Association, under such general regulations as may be prescribed by the by-laws adopted in a general meeting of the shareholders, provided such by-laws shall not contravene any of the laws of this state of the original articles of the said Assocation. 


SEC. 3.  That the said Association shall have authority to dedicate and appropriate any real estate now owned, or hereafter to be purchased by them, as and for a rural cemetery or burying ground, and for the erection of tombs, cenotaphs, and other monuments for or in the memory of the dead, and for this purpose to lay out the same in suitable lots or other subdivisions, for family or other burying places; and to plant and embellish the same with trees, shrubbery, flowers, walks, and other rural ornaments; and to make and provide for suitable inclosures; and to make and annex thereto such other suitable appendages and conveniences as they shall from time to time deem expedient.  And whenever the said Association shall so lay out and dedicate any of their real estate for a cemetery or burying ground as aforesaid, the same shall be deemed a perpetual dedication thereof for the purposes aforesaid, and shall be forever held by the said Association in trust for such purposes and for none other.  And all real estate so dedicated, for the purpose aforesaid, with the ground occupied by the sexton’s and porter’s dwelling house and garden, attached thereto, and any road owned by the Association connecting their said ground with any public street, shall be exempt from taxation.  And the said Association shall have authority to grant and convey to any person or persons, the sole and exclusive right of burial and of erecting tombs, cenotaphs, and other monuments, in any such designated lots or subdivisions, upon such terms and conditions and subject to such regulations as the said Association shall prescribe.  And every right so granted or conveyed shall be held for the purposes aforesaid, and for none other, as real estate by the proprietor or proprietors thereof, and shall not be subject to attachment or execution.


SEC. 4.  That it shall be lawful for the said Association to take and hold any grant, donation, or bequest of property upon trust, to apply the income thereof for the improvement or embellishment of the said cemetery, or of any lot or subdivision thereof, or for the repairs, preservation, or removal of any tomb, monument, grave-stone, fence, or railing, or other erection in or around any burying lot, or for the planting and cultivation of trees, shrubs, flowers, or plants, in or around any burying lot, according to the terms of such grant, donation, or bequest, and any court in this state having equity jurisdiction shall have power to compel the due performance of the said trusts, or any of them, upon a bill filed for that purpose by a proprietor of any lot in said cemetery.


SEC. 5.  That any person who shall willfully destroy, mutilate, deface, injure, or remove any tomb, monument, grave-stone, or other structure placed in the cemetery aforesaid, or any fence, railing, or other work for the protection or ornament of any tomb, monument, grave-stone, or other structure aforesaid, or shall willfully destroy, cut, break, injure, or remove any tree, shrub, or plant within the limits of the said cemetery, or shall shoot or discharge any gun within the limits aforesaid, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall upon conviction thereof, before the Mayor of the City of Dayton, or any justice of the peace within the township of Dayton, be punished by a fine of not less than five dollars, nor more than fifty dollars, according to the nature and aggravation of the offence; and such offence shall also be liable, in an action of tresspass to be brought against him in any court of competent jurisdiction, by the said Association, to pay all such damages, as shall have been occasioned by his unlawful act or acts, which money, when recovered, shall be applied by the Trustees of the said Association to the reparation and restoration of the property destroyed or injured as aforesaid.  And in such action any member of the said Association shall be a competent witness. 


SEC. 6.  That any future legislature shall have power to alter, amend, or repeal this act. 

               RUFUS P. SPALDING,

Speaker of the House of Representatives.

              JAMES J. FARAN,

Speaker of the Senate.


     It will be noticed that by the provisions of the Articles of Association and the charter, Woodland Cemetery Association is a close corporation.  The title to all property, real or personal, is vested in the Trustees, who ware elected triennially by the original subscribers or their successors.  The only privilege enjoyed by members of the Association, not common to all lot owners, is the right to vote for Trustees.  All the proceeds from the sale of lots and other sources are sacredly set apart and devoted to the care and improvement of the grounds.  The Trustees have served from the beginning without compensation.


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