Progress and Influence of the Modern Cemetery

Date Published: 
September, 1895
Original Author: 
N. C. Wilder
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 9th Annual Convention

We are living in an age of extraordinary progress and development. As a country we have been and are in the line of progress. Taking a retrospective view of history, comparing it with the present, we find that the graveyard is occupying a. more prominent place in the minds of the whole community. Burying places must of a necessity exist. As a great truth it needs no introduction other than its own.  In the earliest history of this country the Pilgrims at old Plymouth, Mass., started a burying ground on a strictly lawn plan. In all probability the lawn plan was for the protection of the living. The grave was not mounded, but on a level with the surrounding surface, so that their enemies might not know how fast their numbers were being diminished by death. As time passed on and burying grounds increased we find mounds, and the primitive lawn mowers over the mounds were, often cows and sheep. The grounds were rented for pastures, and in some instances horses and hogs were turned loose to satisfy their hunger with the grass that grew on and between the mounds. The thoughts of it are enough to make the superintendent of a modern cemetery of today shudder, and yet we are informed that in some of the parishes in England at the present day the rector's sheep are pastured in the burying ground; a privilege granted to the rector, but we need not go to other countries than our own to find the dumb beasts feeding on the grass that covers the graves of the departed ones. Often as we look across the valley into a neighboring cemetery we see the horse of the superintendent eating the grass from the mounds of a city cemetery. Modes and customs do not spring up and die like Jonah's gourd. It takes some persons a long time to accept and conform to modern improvement.

As an association we are bonded together for the purpose of improvement, and our assembling together is for the purpose of getting new ideas that will help to do away with the primitive modes of laying out and caring for the burying grounds. Our desire should be to bring before the good Christian people of our communities facts relating to our cemeteries and let them see the improvement that has been made within the past few years.

A well cared for cemetery not only shows respect for those who have passed away, but it is an educator by way of example for the rising generation. From what we have mentioned of the past we can see that great progress has been made and we are glad to know that the people throughout the land speak in high praise of the modern cemetery of today. It is not necessary to delineate the improvements that have been made in our cemeteries; anyone can see the advancement for the better by contrasting some of the country burying grounds with those of cities and villages.

The progress has been great, and we think it worthy of note that almost all of the thinking, planning and executing of the many improvements may be attributed to the superintendent. His position is a peculiar one. The superintendent of a cemetery as well as those of other respectable positions needs a good supply of common sense and he will find plenty of opportunities to bring it into use. He must be gentle and yet firm; he needs to be possessed of more than ordinary executive ability in order to carry forward the desired improvements to complete success and have the modern cemetery a place of order and beauty. We trust that the improvements in the future will be such that soon the pasturing of the burying ground will be a scene of the past. The star of progress has risen, and may it not set until every cemetery throughout the civilized world be classed as modern and the superintendent shall be acknowledged as the pivotal power.

From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 9th Annual Convention
Richmond, VA
September 18, 19 and 20, 1895