“Final resting place”? Not so much for residents of La Porte’s Old City Cemetery

February 1890 Sanborn Fire Insurance map showing the Old City Cemetery.

By Fern Eddy Schultz, La Porte County (IN) Historian

The old city cemetery was situated on the south side of Lake Street past the location of today’s waterworks. Because it has been noted that it was near the depot, some are under the impression it was

La Porte County Historian Fern Eddy Schultz

located where the depot was later built (current location of the Chamber of Commerce) and that it was moved when the railroad came through. It was, in fact, near a depot but it was the C.&W.M. (Chicago & West Michigan) Railroad depot. This later became the Pere Marquette.

The property which became the cemetery was deeded to the county agent and his successors in 1834 by Walter Wilson. It was within the county and not the city, and was under control of the County Commissioners. The cemetery was not taken care of and became an eyesore. In 1877, it was fenced and cleaned up and the promise was that it would no longer be a discredit to the city. The grounds were to be arranged in proper order and people who were not able to purchase lots in other cemeteries would be allowed to use this cemetery free of charge.

Patton Cemetery and Pine Lake Cemetery were established in the 1850s and some of the city cemetery’s graves were moved to these locations. Patton was started in 1841 by John Walker, one of the founders of the city of La Porte, and a few years later was taken over by Davidson Patton, in memory of whom it was named.

Families who had relatives buried in the city cemetery were encouraged to relocate their family members to other locations, and many did so. By 1882, many of the cemetery’s headstones had been broken and general vandalism was seen in the commonly referred to “abandoned old graveyard.” At that time, the announcement was made in the local newspaper that the city cemetery had, for years, “been a resort for prostitutes and hoodlums but of late it has not been as bad as it was before.”

By April 1890, there was talk of moving the remains still in the city cemetery to Pine Lake Cemetery and making a park out of the vacated ground. The Pine Lake Cemetery Association offered to donate lots to those who had friends or relatives buried in the abandoned grounds, if they would remove the remains and make the ground available for a park. By this time the old cemetery had been essentially abandoned for many years and it presented an unsightly appearance. Many of the graves were entirely unmarked and nearly everyone seemed to favor the proposal.  

In March 1893, the commissioners took action in regard to the proposed vacation of the city cemetery. They ordered a deed to be executed conveying to the city all right, title and interest of the county with some reservations. The cemetery grounds were to be set apart solely for the use of the city as a public park and for no other purpose whatever. All bodies were to be removed before January 1, 1894, under the supervision of W.J. Everhart, the expense to be borne by the city. A committee copied the names from the tombstones and reported they had the names of 230 deceased persons. The list was to be published in the local newspaper for three weeks, to give the friends and relatives an opportunity, if they desired, to remove the remains to private lots. After May 20, the city would take active measures and remove the remainder to Pine Lake Cemetery.

August Krause, the person to whom the contract to remove and re-inter the bodies was awarded, returned his report and said there were 723 bodies exhumed and removed to Pine Lake Cemetery; 231 were known but there was no identification found on the remainder. The number exhumed greatly exceeded the expectations. The cost of the removal was $1,077.85; the contract price being $1.45 each. Names of those exhumed were published in The Daily Herald, Thursday, March 23, 1893.  

In February 1907, a quiet to title for the old cemetery property was filed. The purpose of this action was to give perfect title to the ground when it was turned over to the Chicago iron industry, which intended to establish a factory there.

It may be noted that in addition to the special section in Pine Lake Cemetery where the city cemetery’s remains are from the final disinterment, any gravestone with a death date prior to 1858 located in private graves may be assumed to be for an individual who may have been initially buried in the Old City Cemetery and family chose to remove them to Pine Lake Cemetery when it opened.

FERN EDDY SCHULTZ is official Historian of La Porte County.

4 Responses to ““Final resting place”? Not so much for residents of La Porte’s Old City Cemetery”

  1. ILUVLP

    Sep 13. 2018

    Very interesting story Fern. I love to hear that old history of LP.
    I wonder if anyone verified the almost 500 extra bodies exhumed by Mr. Krause or not? That’s quite a big difference.
    Keep em’ coming.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Tim

    Sep 13. 2018

    Very interesting. Do you know anything about Downing Cemetery in LaPorte County?

    Reply to this comment
  3. Lynn Lisarelli

    Sep 13. 2018

    Yes, very interesting, indeed. Love Fern’s stories about La Porte’s history! Thank you!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Laura

    Sep 14. 2018

    We live a few 100yards from the location. We have all of the headstone footers in our yard. We never knew where these wonderful hand cut limestone blocks we use as stepping stones came from until this story was published. Thank you.

    Reply to this comment

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