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In the Public Trust
Mt Prospect Cemetery
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In the early years it was not unusual
for families to bury their
dead in family plots on their own premises. In fact, Joseph McClure was
originally buried behind his log cabin although his remains were later
In 1839, the population having increased, and some of the original
settlers now being deceased, it was determined that there should be a
dedicated burying ground. Accordingly, one acre of ground was purchased
on the east side of what is now Second Avenue. A fenced in cemetery was
then created there; the location of the lot one could purchase depended
on the drawing of a name from a hat ..... a plot lottery. It was
customary at that time to locate cemeterie near the central shopping
area of a community as these residents chose to do. Here the cemetery
would remain for a number of years.
After the establishment of the new cemetery a considerable number
of families, but not all, had the remains of their deceased members
removed from private family plots and re-interred in the cemetery. Of
the location of old graves not so transferred, very little if anything
is now known. The lapse of time and the disappearance of descendants
interested in their maintenance have consigned most of such graves, and
their occupants as well, to eternal oblivion.
Sometime in the 1870s, before a group of citizens, J. H. Waring, a
distinguished lawyer and citizen of the community, gave the following
public address. The group before which he spoke is unknown to me.
"For several years it has been a conceded fact that our old
Cemetery, surrounded by its many and tender associations, could not meet
the wants of our growing community, on account of its size, its
inability to be enlarged, its crowded condition, and its location in the
middle of our village. During the last few years our people have made
frequent efforts to obtain a cemetery and permanence that would meet
these wants.Although they have had meetings, appointed committees,
received their reports, and discussed the different aspects the project
presented, yet no organization was perfected, nor were any grounds
located. But the enterprise was not entirely abandoned."
In 1877 one more meeting of citizens was held and a permanent
organization was effected and given the name of The Franklinville
Cemetery Association. Under the Rural Cemetery Laws of the State of New
York, incorporation proceedings were begun. A Certificate of Incorporation was finally
obtained which was duly filed in the Cattaraugus County Clerk's office on July 30, 1877. A
board of trustee was elected.
A site suitable for the new burying ground was soon selected. It
was on a hill on the east side of Franklinville with a westerly overlook
of the village. The property was part of the then large holdings of the
Howard Family. Since an obituary shows us that Benjamin Howard did not
die until 1897 it is interesting to note that the original 12.12 acres
purchased from the Howard Family was conveyed to them by Benjamin's
wife, Tryphena. The steep hillside running alongside the west side of
the cemetery, containing another 1.70 acres, was acquired later, under
date of May 10, 1878.
Having bestowed the name Mount Prospect Cemetery on their newly
acquired real estate, the trustees then hired H. B. Allen of Arcade to
survey the property and lay it out for burial plots, drives, walks and
ornamental spaces. When he had finished his work, Mr. Allen furnished
the Association with a large scale map of the projected layout.
The Association made a public announcement as follows:
"It is the object and aim of the Board of Trustees of Mount
Prospect Cemetery to render it equal, if not superior, in point of
beauty and attraction, to anything of a similar character in western New
York, in proportion to the population therein."
Mount Prospect Cemetery was dedicated on June 30, 1878 in an
elaborate ceremony that ranged from song and prayer to oratory. We
cannot recite all of that on these pages. Suffice it to quote the
following words from the speech of the Rev. F. W. Fisher, then pastor of
the First Presbyterian Church of Franklinville:
"Let us then honor the grave, gateway to eternity. Let us keep this
enclosure, which we today dedicate, sacred. Let us carefully watch it
and lovingly care for it. Let it be the choicest spot in our midst,
hallowed as it is with tender memories, and made glorious with heavenly
anticipations. Let us hand down the sacred trust to the generations
that shall succeed us, and bid them watch over our ashes with care; and
here may they rest in peace till the archangel's trump shall sound, and
shall be fulfilled that which is written."
Later, an additional 7.24 acres were acquired from the Howards,
adjoining and north of the area already owned. And again, in 1924
another 1.07 acres, adjoining the cemetery and fronting on Chestnut
Street, was purchased from Wesley Francis. And yet another parcel was
acquired in 1925 from Dennis J. Van Valkenburg.
Following this a surveyor prepared a new map, showing all changes
made to date in the old Allen survey. The total amount of land then
owned by the Association was 23.51 acres.
Many of the well to do families who had lots in the old South Main
Street Cemetery had the remains of their deceased members removed and
reinterred in Mount Prospect.
And then, in 1938, the unthinkable happened .....
Chronicle Journal, Friday, April 22, 1938
"Vandals entered Mt. Prospect Cemetery here Tuesday night and
tipped over 53 monuments and destroyed every urn within the area in
which they worked." The headline used in bold black print on the front
"VANDALS DESECRATE MT. PROSPECT'
The community was outraged, the police without clues. Some of the
stones involved in the vandalism weighed moe than half a ton, leading to
the belief that it was a group effort rather than individual. One
resident described the scene, which began near the entrance gate and
continued for several hundred feet along the brow of the hill facing the
village in the following manner: "It appears as if a herd of elephants
had run amok."
An outraged editor placed his editorial for that week on the front
page rather than inside the paper, and minced no words. His last
paragraph is quoted below:
"It (lawlessness in Franklinville) must stop. There are vicious
criminals and perverts in our midst. Men who will commit a crime such as
was committed in our cemetery will burn, degrade, destroy - there is
nothing too low for their low mentality and moral fibre.
Human vermin must be exterminated."