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Mount Pleasant Cemetery – March 2013 Edition of History & Heritage

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

The road to obtaining the armory as our home has hit yet another bump; PCB’s have shown up in the paint in the basement floor. This will require further testing to determine if they reside only in the paint or have penetrated the concrete. Should we find that they have penetrated into the concrete, we may have to walk away as the cost for removing them would be more than we can shoulder. Just when we think we have jumped through the last hoop, another obstacle stands ready to halt progress. Chins up, fingers crossed, we continue! On a brighter note, be sure to check out our web site, for other articles, upcoming events and pictures. Our phone number is 424 – 1090 and our office is located in the Summer Street School Building.

Mount Pleasant Cemetery

In the chapel, just inside the Mount Pleasant Street entrance, is a framed poster announcing “The Dedication of Mount Pleasant Cemetery” on Thursday, June 2, at 1 o’clock, P.M. The date of the poster is 1853. The careful observer walking through the original part of the cemetery will notice grave stones with death dates prior to 1853 which might cause one to wonder! They have the distinction of being buried twice having been removed from the original burial ground where the courthouse is now. We will save that early burial ground for a future article. The early burial ground had become neglected, was not big enough and was prime real estate for the site of the courthouse that St. Johnsbury was to inherit from Danville; thus the St. Johnsbury Cemetery Association was organized on May 20, 1851 with James K. Colby serving as the first President and Ephraim Jewett as secretary. The charter provided for an issue of one hundred shares at six dollars a share. The name Mount Pleasant Cemetery was adopted by seventy eight subscribers who took ninety seven shares.

The Pavillion at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery

Eight acres were purchased in 1852 from Lambert Hastings for $450 and is the area around the Mount Pleasant Street entrance. To this acquisition was added a strip of Ephraim Jewett’s pasture adjoining the highway further north. The next year more land was purchased from Lambert; today the cemetery is approximately 50 acres. The layout of the land which makes the cemetery so “pleasant” was the work of J. H. Sackett, a landscape architect of Springfield, Massachusetts in the spring of 1853. I keep searching for a Fairbanks connection with Mr. Sackett. The poster states that after the dedication of the grounds – After this exercise the choice and sale of lots will take place. The lots will be appraised and sold by the square foot, and the appraised value of each tier of lots will be designated on the same. The terraces are of sufficient width for two tiers of graves, and the size of lots may vary from 10 to 20 feet of terrace, at the option of the purchaser. The peculiar formation of the ground gives great variety to the lots, and renders it easy for every taste to be gratified. The appraisals range from 4 to 20 cents the square foot, thus bringing desirable lots within the means of all.

The first lot was sold to Ephraim Jewett and can be found by taking the middle road in front of the chapel, going until the road forks and staying left at the fork, it is to your immediate right.

Edward Fairbanks in his history of the town quotes the Lowell Citizen of 1875: “Mount Pleasant Cemetery is among the best in New England outside of suburban districts; commanding hill and dale, lawn and woodland in happy combination, and has a natural observatory from the summit with charming outlook over the town, the river, the mountains and the verdant valley of the Passumpsic.”

E. & T. Fairbanks constructed a receiving vault and pavilion (now referred to as the chapel) for the sum of $2,955 in 1870. In the accompanying picture, you can see why it was called a pavilion; it was not enclosed until 1922.

The house and barn located just outside the Mount Pleasant gate were voted to be put up for the superintendent of the cemetery in 1897; the designer was Lambert Packard and the cost was to be approximately $3,000. A year later it was almost ready for occupancy for $200 less!

In 1966, Mount Pleasant was the site of the first crematory in the state of Vermont. William Pearl, superintendent for thirty five years, had the vision supported by funds left by former board member Verner Lurchin.

This cemetery is the final resting place for some of St. Johnsbury’s earliest settlers as well as our neighbors and friends of today. As my father so eloquently convinced me, every stone has a story. The stones and graves are softened by the blend of bushes, trees, flowers and wildlife that make this a destination for reflection and enjoyment.

For those of you who have trouble spelling like yours truly – there are three e’s buried in the word cemetery!

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