The City of the Dead:  Some Facts About Mansfield's Cemetery

Richland Co., Ohio


Historical Records / Cemetery Records

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The City of the Dead:  Some Facts About Mansfield's Cemetery

Source:  THE MANSFIELD HERALD:  25 October 1883, Vol. 33, No. 49


Submitted by Amy


To such as are fond of solitude and reflection, the city burying-ground presents attractions superior to those of any other spot in Mansfield.  Every Sunday during the summer months scores of persons are observed wending their way to this quiet retreat, to avail themselves of its calm seclusion and to enjoy the grateful shade of its wealth of forest trees.  They never seem to tire of wandering about its grassy walks or of riding over its winding avenues.  Beneath many of the trees benches are placed, which invite to an afternoon's tranquil meditation.  It is not unusual for persons of all ages to spend hours in strolling about the grounds, admiring the monuments and reading the inscriptions.

On approaching the place one is impressed with the air of peaceful tranquility which pervades the scene.  Take it on a warm day in autumn, when the leaves are motionless and the atmosphere is hazy, and the effect of the external associations is sufficient to produce a feeling of perfect rest in the soul.  Thought is stilled and the emotion awakened is not violent, for this communing with the dead or this proximity to the departed, is as subduing in its effect as a visitation from the living God.  There is also a sense of exquisite pleasure in this sadness, which lovers of nature may be able to interpret and is probably occasioned by the feeling of security which one has even in the presence of death.  It does not require a Westminster Abbey nor miles of Catacombs to excite these emotions, but they may be experienced in the humblest church-yard.

Some Historical Facts

The records in the office of the Trustees of the Cemetery Association show that the act of incorporation took place in 1845, but that the articles of association were not drawn up till 1847, when the original plot of ground, consisting of twenty acres was purchased of Benjamin Johns.  Since then additions have been made as occasion required, so that now the cemetery includes about twenty-seven acres, which are nearly all laid out, according to geometrical rules, in circles, ecliptics, and triangles.  Previous to 1847, which is the date of the first interment, the city possessed three grave-yards situated in different quarters of the town.  These it became necessary to remove on account of the increasing growth of the city.  A few years ago, in excavating for a cellar on West First Street, a skull and a pair of cross-bones were turned up at the point of a pick, which to the astonished and terrified gaze of the workmen might have passed for the skull and 

Bones of "Poor Yorick."

The bodies which for so long a time had reposed in the old grounds, were for the most part taken up and interred in the new cemetery, or removed to other places.  It is supposed, however, that many of the more neglected graves were robbed for the sake of the skeletons which they contained.  Those graves which remain uncared-for, on which the grass is allowed to die and the flowers to wither, are generally the most in danger of being disturbed.  If visited at all, they are visited by body-snatchers.

In ancient times, if information was desired concerning a man's character and reputation, the first question asked was, "Doe he care for the graves of his ancestors?"  Even at the present time, too, the presence or absence of the quality of veneration in a man's make-up is a sure test of character and worth.

Passing the lodge and entering the cemetery we observe that the ground is an undulating slope, diversified by lawns, hedges and various trees.  The hedges are gradually being taken away, as they interfere with the grass and require constant trimming, and their place is given up to lawn.  The evergreen trees are kept cut away at the bottom so as not to obstruct the view, and in order that the grass may have room to grow.  Most of the deciduous trees present a new growth from old trunks, the branches having been cut off and the sprouts permitted to grow.  The oldest lots and many of the most pleasing monuments are near the entrance, but very desirable lots can be procured in the circle at the east end, called the new grounds, at prices ranging from forty to forty-five dollars.  They are of a key-stone shape and average 18x18 in size.  The county grounds at the south-western extremity, corresponding to the Potter's Field, are not laid out, as they furnish sepulture only to paupers and criminals.  Webb, the negro murderer of Finney, is buried here.

Some Noble Monuments

The first object which attracts the eye, after one has entered, is the Dudley-Willard monument.  It stands just beyond the first turn in the drive, and is chiefly noticeable on account of its conspicuous position.  It consists of a granite base and pedestal, surmounted by a marble statue of Hope, with eyes turned upward and hands clasped.

Just north of this is a marble slab on the Endly lot, on which is engraved what is perhaps as true an inscription as can be found in the cemetery:

"Pass a few swiftly fleeting years,
And all that now in bodies live,
Shall quit, like me, the vale of tears,
Their righteous sentence to receive."

We come next to the Purdy monument, which is of great value, and from which we copy one of the inscriptions:

"Born Hopewell, York Co., Pa., 1793
Estab'd 1st. N. Pr. in M'f'd 1823.
Pres. 1st. Ry. to M'f'd 1840
Pres. 1st. Br. Bank, M'f'd 1847.
DIED -----

This monument is so large that room for the following appropriate lines from Gray's Elegy might easily have been found:--

"Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can honor's voice provoke the sleeping dust
Or flattery soothe the dull, cold ear of death?"

The Sturges monument is of massive Scotch granite, and cost eight thousand dollars.  The Vasbinder monument, which is now in process of erection, surpasses it, however, as the cost was twelve thousand.  It is situated at the south side, is of Maryland granite, and will rise forty feet in height.  The Colby monument is of New England granite, and cost five thousand dollars.  Both the Hogg and Barber monuments are of the same kind of stone as the Sturges, and each of them cost several thousand dollars.  The Geddes, Douglas and Johnson monuments are all of New England granite, and the value of each is by no means small.  They are placed in the new grounds and each of them has a single tall shaft.

The Strong-Ingersoll monument is one of the most attractive in the cemetery.  It resembles the Dudley-Willard monument, but is on a grander scale.  The price of these two monuments was surprisingly small.

The Matson stone is chiefly mentionable because of its beautiful design.  It represents a tree broken short off at the trunk.  The bark is peeled down on one side and the inscription is written on what appears to be the wood.  There is a cross at the top, and books and scrolls are piled up at the foot of the tree.  Everyone stops to admire and examine this monument.

By far the most graceful stone in the cemetery is the Italian marble in honor of Governor Bartley.  The following is the inscription:--

One of the pioneers of Northern Ohio;
Representative in Congress from 1825 to 1831;
Governor of Ohio from 1844 to 1848;
A Christian and a Patriot.

The Grimes Vault.

This is a gloomy stone dwelling-house for the dead, and is built into a hill at the north side of the hollow in the center of the plot.  It has a grated iron door, which is kept locked, and through which a number of marble slabs are visible, covering niches in the wall.  These resemble the sarcophagi which we read about in ancient tombs.  To this place Dante's inscription over the gate of hell might appositely apply --

"Relinquish all hope, ye who enter here."

As one peers through the jail-like door into this prison-house of death, he can almost imagine that he sees ghosts and grim apparitions stalking over the marble floor, and he is irresistibly constrained to turn away with a shiver of affright.

On the hill opposite the vault there is a long line of graves, where many of the soldiers killed in our late war "sleep the sleep that knows no waking".  Their cenotaph stands in the public park, the gift of one of Mansfield's philanthropic citizens.

On a marble column near the entrance to the cemetery, is the following touching inscription:--

Killed at Gettysburg.
"Come from the heat of battle into peace; 
Soldier, go home;  with thee the fight is won."
Erected by his mother.

The first person buried in the cemetery was a soldier --

Aged 19
A volunteer to the Mexican War;  died
at Saltillo;  his remains were borne 
by his beloved fellow-soldiers to 
his grief-stricken parents.  The first
burial in this cemetery.  This lot
was donated to him by the Board of 

On the same stone -- 

A minister in Mansfield 30 years.

One other clergyman has found a last resting place here -- Rev. Hugh L. Parrish.

Still another has erected a stone, though he is still living.  On it is inscribed the following:--

Author of
The Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation,
and of
The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

Works of acknowledged merit in theology.  In the same lot, but on a separate stone, is the most beautiful, because the simplest inscription in the whole cemetery:

The grave of 
"In whom there was no guile."

In the lot adjoining -- 

"God never does, nor suffers to be done,
But that which you would do, could you but see
The end of all events, as well as he."

The Sherman Lot

Near this spot there is a large lot belonging to Senator John Sherman and his brother Judge Sherman.  It contains one stone, on which are the names Charles Sherman McComb and Amelia Sherman McComb.  None of John Sherman's immediate relatives are buried here, but it is natural to suppose that it will become his resting place, as well as that of his wife.  A daughter of Judge Sherman was at one time interred here, but was afterward removed to Cleveland.

The Hedges lot is the largest in the cemetery, and contains no less than eighteen mounds.

The Glessner lot is as attractive as any, though it does not yet contain a large stone.  When Mr. Glessner died he was put in the same grave with his wife, under a green coverlet, ornamented with floral emblems.

Col. Barnabas Burns was placed in the family lot on the north side of the cemetery.

Wm. S. Finney, who was murdered in 1877, is buried near here, while Mrs. Lunsford, murdered in 1870 rests on the east side.  A wooden slab marks the grave.

Mr. and Mrs. King, who were drowned last year at Chautauqua are buried but a short distance southeast from the vault.  Small stones have been placed at the heads of the graves, and the inscriptions indicate the fact of their tragic death.

There are but few things in the cemetery to delight the eye of

The Connoisseur and the Antiquarian

Lovers of the curious must look in older grave-yards than this for examples of the ludicrous and the far-fetched.  A favorite design for the memorial of a husband or wife seems to be a marble altar below which is engraved an appropriate sentence or verse, a wreath, or a pair of clasped hands, one wearing a cuff and the other a piece of lace.  The Christian is represented by an anchor of hope.  Children are always little lambs and "dear little Sarah Isabells, our sweet babes" and the passage from Scripture, "Suffer little children" though always appropriate occurs at least a hundred times.  Widows and widowers are always careful in providing memorial tributes, and in one instance a husband lies in the midst of his four wives.

The Catholic Grounds

A few interesting inscriptions appear in the Catholic grave-yard, which is just west of the Protestant.  In the center of this small enclosure is a large cross on which are the letters "I.N.R.I.", Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.  One one of the stones are the lines --

"Stop Christian passer-by;
As you are now, so once was I;
As I am now, so you will be;
Prepare, my friend, to follow me."

Beneath this some wag has written:

"To follow you I'm not content,
Till I'm informed which way you went."

On most of the stones is this from the Latin "Requiescant in pace" or the English form with a slight variation, "May his soul rest in peace";  and, in some cases, the ignorant pretenders to classical lore have applied the plural form of the Latin verb to but one person.  It is to be hoped, however, that the inscribed rests in blissful unconsciousness of having been pluralized.  There are no "Hic Jacets" or antiquated English expressions in either of these grounds, except the words "relict" and "consort" which occur in a few isolated instances.  In the following words Sir Walter Raleigh has nobly expressed the power of the monarch Death, the record of whose conquests these stones and epitaphs are:

"O, eloquent and mighty death, thou has drawn together all the far-stretched greatness, all the pride, cruelty and ambition of men, and covered it over with these two narrow words, Hic Jacet."

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