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Historical Summary

The first burial ground of Oberlin was about two acres on Morgan street, between Main and Professor streets, leased by the College to the Oberlin society soon after the College was founded.

Previous to the formation of the Oberlin Cemetery Association, the necessity for a more retired and commodious place for the burial of the dead, than the ''old grave yard,'' had long been felt by the people of Oberlin and vicinity. This necessity had become so pressing, that before the new grounds were even partially prepared for the reception of the dead, there were no more lots to be had in the old burial place, and in several instances persons were obliged to obtain the privilege of the temporary interment of the remains of their friends in lots owned by others.

Pursuant to public notice, a meeting of citizens was held on the 9th of July, 1861, to consider the subject of a new Cemetery. At this meeting a committee was chosen to draft a constitution. This committee consisting of James M. Fitch, S. Sedgwick, H. G. Little, J. H. Fairchild, Homer Johnson and W. C. French, on the 29th of July, reported a draft of a constitution, at a meeting called for the purpose of organizing the association, and after thorough discussion of the subject, by unanimous vote the constitution was adopted.

The Oberlin Cemetery Association was thus duly organized under its constitution, and in pursuance of the statute “in such cases made and provided.'' (See Revised Statutes of Ohio, Chapt. 20.)

Immediately after the organization of the Association, the trustees commenced the work of inquiry and examination as to the most eligible location for the Cemetery. After thorough and protracted search and negotiations, extending through a period of more than a year and a half, they succeeded in securing for the Association a very desirable tract of nearly twenty-eight acres, lying about a mile from the center of the village of Oberlin in a south-westerly direction.

Nearly one third of these grounds were native forest; another third was partially cleared, and the remainder had been under cultivation. This tract, the trustees, as the agents of the Association, purchased for the sum of fourteen hundred and seventy dollars. The work of enclosing, clearing and improving the grounds was immediately commenced, and it has since been carried forward as far and as fast as the limited means in the hands of the trustees allowed.

As soon as the work of clearing had sufficiently progressed, H. B. Allen; Esq., a skillful engineer, with large experience in the formation of rural Cemeteries, was employed to survey and lay out the grounds, and also to prepare a map of the same. This work was executed in a scientific and highly satisfactory manner.

The first burial in these grounds was that of Mr. Samuel W. Montgomery, whose remains were deposited in Section V, Lot No. 55, On the 20th day of August, 1863.

On the 8th day of June, 1864, the students of the institution, and many of the citizens, in response to a public invitation, gathered upon the grounds, and, under the superintendence of a committee appointed for the purpose, did effective service in clearing off and burning the logs, brush heaps, and other rubbish that had rendered the forest grounds nearly impassable. At the close of these labors by the unanimous vote of the people assembled, the name of "Westwood'' was given to the Cemetery grounds. This name was subsequently adopted by the Association.

On the 16th of July, 1864, Westwood Cemetery was solemnly dedicated as a permanent burial place of the dead. The religious exercises were held upon the grounds, and consisted of appropriate music conducted by Prof. C. H. Churchill, prayer by President C. G. Finney, and the dedicatory address by Prof. J. H. Fairchild.

For nearly thirty-eight years improvements have continued to be made upon the grounds. The money received from the sale of lots has been expended in paying for the original purchase, and improving and caring for the Cemetery.

In 1884 a house and barn were erected at the entrance of the grounds, for the sexton, at a cost of $1,000.

In 1887 a substantial and tasteful stone receiving vault was constructed, at a cost of about $800, and later an iron fence was built along the front of the grounds at a cost of $425. In these and similar improvements, and in the care of the grounds, the average annual expenditure of the Association for thirty-eight years, has been about $670, making an aggregate of $25,360 expended upon the Cemetery.

All the bodies in the old Cemetery have been removed to Westwood, either to private lots by friends, or to a part of the grounds set apart for this purpose.

The whole number of lot owners up to the present time is 653 and the whole number of burials 2,278.

Excerpt from booklet "Westwood Cemetery", published by the Oberlin Cemetery Association in 1901, pp. 8-10. Subject file, Oberlin College Archives.

 
 
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