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Milford Union Cemetery

A History of MILFORD UNION CEMETERY - Milford, Hunterdon County, NJ

"A view toward the town of Milford with the Presbyterian Church in the background."

MILFORD UNION CEMETERY ASSOCIATION was incorporated on May 29, 1858 suggesting a strong possibility that the formation of this Association was a case as in so many other instances of the town's history where its citizens worked together to solve a community need. The local Presbyterian Church had been formed some 25 years previous to 1858 and certainly had its own burying ground since one of the courses of the Union Cemetery's deed mentions "the existing Presbyterian burial grounds along the road from Milford to Mount Pleasant". The Christian Church also had been in existence for some years with its own burial yard to the rear of the church structure. As these church bodies looked to the future they saw the need for a non-denominational cemetery to serve the needs of the community so as the name implies there was a "Union" of their interests in supporting the newly formed Association. There is some obscurity about the date of the first buring grounds in the vicinity. The earliest gravestones in the "Union Cemetery" indicate Charles Rittenhouse was buried in 1822 and Martha A. Runyon in 1831 which dates precede the beginning of the Milford Presbyterian Church in its yard.

The first slate of officers included William Lee as President, Wilson Thomas, Vice President, George VanSyckle, Treasurer and Aaron Stover, Secretary. The first trustees were, Henry Johnson, Hiram A. Williams, Wilson Thomas, Nelson Runkle, George Carpenter, Joseph Everitt, Hamilton Forman, Thomas P. Forman and William Lee. One of the first acts of the trustees was to purchase 23 acres of land from George VanSyckle for $700; followed by laying out of plots and employing Jacob Cooley as the first superintendent who got paid from $3 to $6 for the digging of a grave opening.

Mr. Lee's presidency ended when George Carpenter was elected to that office in 1860. Mr. Carpenter continued in that office until his death in 1875 when Wilson Thomas succeeded him. Mr. Thomas filled the office until 1904 when A. S. Eckel was elected a president. Mr. Eckel's leadership continued for 33 years followed by that of John C. Stem whose service ended in 1955. In that year his son H. D. Stem was elected as president who in turn continued in the office until his death in 1978.

Not alone have the presidents of the Association offered their leadership for lengthy periods of time, but so have other officers. Edward Thomas was the Treasurer of the Association for 31 years ending in 1896. Robert T. Carl served in the same capacity for 23 years ending with his death in 1966. The association has made many additions and improvements to its operations during its history. Rules and regulations and by-laws were adopted to govern the activities of the organization on November 4, 1899. In 1905 a section of the yard was set aside for burials of U.S. servicemen whenever found desirable.

"American soldiers, our heroes, rest here."

Acreage was added to the grounds in 1914 when 5 acres were purchased from Wilson Rittenhouse. Two years later the burying grounds were enhanced by the addition of a receiving vault through the generosity of W. Egbert Thomas who memorialized his father, Wilson Thomas, by his donation. The next improvement was the construction of an office and tool house in 1922. In 1928 the Association sought to eliminate the troublesome sinking of grave sites by requiring all burials thereafter to be with concrete burial vaults. One of the most impressive betterments to the cemetery came in 1938 when a stone archway at its entrance was installed at a cost of approximately $5,000. The first power mower in the yard was acquired in 1942 much to the pleasure of the caretaker.

"The Wilson Thomas Memorial Receiving Vault shortly after sunrise."

A new portion of the cemetery was laid out in 1978 and the first burial therein was John A. Weiss. The archway in 1985 was further beautified by the addition of urns on either side of the columns to accommodate the planting of flowers.

Because it includes so many prominent Milford names a list of former trustees of the Association is included to those previously mentioned:

C. V. Apgar Herbert DeRoach Harry Melick Herbert D. Stem
Wilson Angel A. S. Eckel Joseph Myers Horace Sassaman
Jacob Anderson A. L. Fox E. A. Nonamaker Samuel Sinclair
William Balliet George Freeland Howard Opdycke A. D. Spoor
H. C. Boss V. W. Fritts Harold Pimm Jacob Stover
R. T. Carl George Hice William Pursell Edward Thomas
Isaac Cronce Robert Housel Jacob Race W. Egbert Thomas
Jacob Cooley Joseph Hunt George Riddle William Teets
Henry Cole Alvah Hunt Ervin Scheetz Theodore VanSyckle
William Cole A. A. Heil Isaac Swope George VanSyckle
George Cole Clarence Hammond David Stem Jacob Vanderbelt
Paul Cooley George Kinney William S. Smith John Wade
Wilson Cooley Moses Lear John C. Stem Ezra Wean
Charles Cooley Charles G. Melick William Shafer John S. Young
Charles Darman . . .

The current officers are Ezra L. Wean, President, William Biedelman, Vice President, William Pursell, Secretary, Barbara Weider, Treasurer and trustees Donald Williams, Paul Abahazy, William F. Case, John Stem, Alice DeRoach and James Moninghoff. The caretaker is Albert Weider.

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