Mount Morris Cemetery
Mount Morris, Ogle County, Illinois
The village of Mt. Morris has two graveyards, one known as the Mount Morris Cemetery or the "Old Cemetery", situated in the southwest corner of the corporation, and the other, The Oakwood Cemetery, nearly a mile west of the corporation limit.
The Old Cemetery grounds contain about 5 acres, and like most of the remainder of the land now covered by the village, was at one time property of Rock River Seminary. The Seminary authorities set it aside and donated the ground to the community for a public graveyard, and for about sixty years past the site has served as the "silent habitation of the dead."
This cemetery was consecrated on the 2nd of February, 1842, when the first burial took place,- that of a little child, the daughter of Captain Nathaniel Swingley. The words of consecration were pronounced by Rev. Thomas S. Hitt, as follows: "Here is our Machpelah, the entrance gate through which we pass the subterraneous road to heaven. Here the rich and the poor meet on the level. Today Mary Eliza, sweet morning flower, retires from all ills of life, and takes possession first. Followed by the aged and the young, soon shall we see the willow and the epitaph tacitly saying: 'See where she sleeps'. Here in peace shall rest the teacher and the student, the ministers and his hearers, relatives and their friends, saying all in the language of scripture, (Where have they laid him?) Then from the polished marble erected where we now stand shall come the response: 'Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.' 'Blessed are the dead who die in the lord.'"
This cemetery is situated on rather low ground, and for many years was not in good condition. It is said that often men were stationed at the newly - made grave, to bail out the water, which flowed in from the saturated soil , so that when the funeral procession arrived at the grave, the internment would not seem so much like a burial at sea. This condition was remedied some ten years ago when the ground was thoroughly tiled and an excellent drainage system thereby effected.
The "Old Cemetery" is property of no individuals, stock, company or corporation, but is what might be called property of the community. As before stated, it was at an early day property of the Seminary and set aside by the authorities of that institution for the use of the general public. It being public property in that sense there was, of course, no one in particular authority to attend to it. , and as a consequence, when people died and were buried there, no record of any kind was kept of it other than what can now be obtained from inscriptions on the tomb stones. A great many are to be found marking graves of Mount Morris citizens who died during the fifties, but stones bearing dates earlier than 1850 are not very plentiful, those remaining being small and discolored by age.
The lack of a record of the burials in this cemetery makes it difficult to determine even an approximate estimate of the number of bodies now lying buried within the limits of the grounds, owing to the fact that many have been removed to Oakwood Cemetery, and many graves are unmarked. It is thought, however, that a rough estimate would place the number of bodies buried in the cemetery, at the present time, at between four and five hundred. Notable among those who found their last resting place there are Rev. Thomas S. Hitt, who is mentioned as having pronounced the words of consecration of the cemetery; his wife, Emily Hitt; Hon. John Wallace, a noted citizen of this community; James B. McCoy who built "Old Sandstone"; Andrew Newcomer, and others.
Whenever improvements of any kind were found necessary about the grounds the funds had always to be raised by subscription. With no officers of any kind work of this sort was often sorely neglected. George Shank was for many years the moving spirit in all movements for the improvement of the grounds. Finally, a few years ago, however, a number of people who had buried relatives there, came together and formed an association, elected officers and prepared to conduct the matter in a proper manner. A sum of money was gathered together, with which, besides other improvements, Mr. N. E. Buser was hired to properly survey and plat the cemetery. Since that time the letting of lots has been done systematically.
The cemetery is at present in very good condition. Probably about half of the persons who die in this vicinity in late years are interred there. The present trustees are W. A. Newcomer, president, S. C. Kinsey, secretary, A. E. Canode, S. R. Blair and O. S. Watts.
[Source: "Mount Morris, Past and Present" Compiled and Published by the Kable Brothers, 1900 - Transcribed for Genealogy Trails by Collette Jenson]
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