The word “cemetery” has its origins in the Greek word for “sleeping place”, and is land meant for burial. Rural cemeteries were modeled after the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, and the first rural or garden cemetery located in the United States was Mount Auburn in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1831.
Here in Elizabeth Township in the 1830’s when the rural cemetery movement was evolving, having a picnic in the local cemetery became a popular thing to do. The pleasant designs of the headstones, beautiful statues, and the park like landscaping enticed people into the tranquil setting. An elaborate entrance gate, like the one at Kyle Cemetery on Tipp-Elizabeth Road, was a way to separate the living world from the dead; people were entering a place of tranquility, meditation, and spiritual communing.
In the 19th century, epidemics took many children at an early age, and women died in childbirth making death far too common in families. Infant mortality rates were high and such was the case for our Mrs. Abigail Bousman who bore ten children, five of whom died in infancy and are buried at our Hart/Martin Cemetery. She experienced a 50% child mortality rate compared to today’s 5.57%. Death at that time was all too familiar and viewed more as a gentle sleep, and visitation was an accepted way to keep the person close to the family. Having a picnic among the dead then became fashionable in these beautiful green spaces, giving families the chance to include their deceased loved ones.
Note: Lamb picture is an example of a child monument from McKendree Chapel Cemetery.