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“Our City of the Dead” – August 2019 Edition of History & Heritage


Welcome to this month’s edition of History & Heritage. Our purpose is to acquaint you with our mission to preserve the town’s rich history, highlight the legacy of those who have gone before and show how our past has shaped our present. We are a non-profit with 501(c)(3) status.

We are located at 421 Summer Street.  Our summer hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. thanks to a wonderful staff of volunteers. Please stop in and check out the new permanent St. Johnsbury Town Band exhibit. Join us at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery at 7 p.m. on August 17th for our annual Ghost Walk.

This is your establishment and we encourage your support in making this historic home and barn a wonderful place for exhibiting, preserving and collecting St. Johnsbury’s history. Browse our web site at and our Facebook page. Our mailing address is 421 Summer Street, St. Johnsbury, Vt., 05819 and phone number is 802 – 424 – 1090.

Our “City of the Dead” – The St. Johnsbury Cemetery being Made Beautiful – New Lots – New Monuments

This was the headline of an article appearing in the St. Johnsbury Republican on October 30th of 1895. The article goes on to point out the improvements and expansion of the Cemetery under then Superintendent A. D. Nelson. He has made it by far more attractive than ever before, and when the grading and filing that has begun, is completed, it will be hard to find a place where nature and art have combined more effectively in making a burying ground truly beautiful .

The article makes note of new monuments in the area to the right of the brow of the long hill. Mention is made of the soldiers’ lot that was presented by the Cemetery Association to the Chamberlain Post of the Civil War. It speaks of the Union soldier standing in full uniform which was created by the Carrick granite works of St. Johnsbury.  I have found it to be an impressive work and one whose eyes seem to follow you when you look at him. Next in line the E. L. Hovey’s lot is referenced made of Barre granite. Next follows the Ide monument that the article refers to similar in form to that on historic Bunker Hill. Should you be in that area, take note of the way that massive stone (35 tons) sits on the curve of the land with a backdrop of trees – it does not stick out like a sore thumb but just fits in its spot. I would love an x-ray of the land beneath it to see what holds it so straight and true!

The article that turns attention to the land to the north where The Bluffs once stood – the name of the home of the Honorable Jonathan Ross. It speaks of lowering the ridge about eight feet and using the earth to fill the hollow to the west and then the whole area allows for over 400 new lots. This area is referred to as the Ross Lot and I remember my Dad saying the only thing he ever found in digging graves there was one china egg. The article concludes about this area – The filling and grading here is of necessity quite expensive, but when completed the lots formed will be among the most desirable in the yard.

Further reference is made of the area near the entrance of the cemetery. The tool house, which formerly occupied a prominent site just east of the driveway was moved to an obscure nook in a little valley just below; and the plot where the tool house stood has been converted into an attractive little park. Pictures of this time would be great to have for the article speaks of 14 fountains supplied by springs!

The article then draws attention to the slate stones to the left of the entrance which can be found at the height of the land under the pines. These stones represent deceased loved ones that were first buried in the cemetery where the Court House now stands. Yes, they have the distinction of being buried twice. If you spend time there and work hard at reading the stones you can glean that one was drowned, one was the 7th inhabitant of the town and another pictures a single coffin with two hearts in it.

On August 17th at 7:00 p.m. our walk will include a potpourri of individuals that are residents of Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. You will meet the lady who was responsible for giving the name of Sunset Home for the ladies that resided there in their declining years; you will meet the man that “buzzed” St. Johnsbury in the 1930’s in his bomber; the first minister of the South Church will step out as will a former cook at Underclyffe mansion; why you have such a view of Summer Street School from Main Street and others who will intrigue you and remind you that there is a story behind every stone! They remind us all of what a rich history the Town of St. Johnsbury has.

Returning to the article written in the Republican, the writer tells us that a fund has recently been started the income of which is to be applied to caring for the lots of those who contribute to it and to the care of neglected ones. The fund is still small but will no doubt increase quite rapidly and become a perpetual guarantee for the care and beautifying of our “City of the Dead.”

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