Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cemeteries in Rochester, NY

For the thirty or so years that I lived in Rochester, I knew that Rochester had two large cemeteries: Holy Sepulchre Cemetery on Lake Avenue for Catholics and Mount Hope Cemetery on Mount Hope Avenue for everybody else.  I guess that I may have heard of two smaller ones, the Rapids Cemetery and Riverside Cemetery, although at the time I probably couldn't tell you where they were.  I have subsequently learned that the Rapids Cemetery was located in my neck of the woods, the 19th Ward.  It is on the north side of Congress Avenue just about seven lots from Genesee Street.  Riverside Cemetery in located on the east side of Lake Avenue just north of Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.  I suspect that if I had gone north on Lake Avenue I would have assumed that Riverside was just a continuation of Holy Sepulchre.  Looking at a map the two abut each other.

When I started looking at my family's history I found that some of my Eagan Grandfather's siblings had been originally buried at St. Patrick's cemetery located on Pinnacle Hill.  When the large plot of land on Lake Avenue was purchased by the Diocese of Rochester for a cemetery (and also St. Bernard's Seminary) all bodies from Pinnacle Hill were removed to Holy Sepulchre.  Also were removed to Holy Sepulchre were those buried at other Catholic cemeteries that I did not even know about.

One of the first duties of the new common council was to provide a suitable resting-place for the dead. The early settlers had used for that purpose a half-acre lot on the corner of Plymouth avenus and Spring streets, by permission of its owners. Rochester. Fitzhugh and Carroll, who finally deeded it, as a free gift, to the village corporation in 1821. Three months later it was exchanged for a lot of three and a half acres on West Main street, where the City hospital now stands, and all the bodies were removed thither. This was always known as the Buffalo street buryingground, while a smaller one on the east side of the river was called the Monroe street bury ing-ground. But both together were too circumscribed and too near to a growing population, so in 1836 the common council, approving a selection unofficially made by a committee of citizens, purchased of Silas Andrus a piece of ground comprising the first fifty-three acres of what is now Mt. Hope. Fortunately for posterity Silas Cornell was the surveyor of the city at that time, to whose rare skill as a landscape architect, and equally perhaps to his wise forbearance in altering as little as possible the undulations of the ground, it was owing that Mt. Hope has always been one of the most beautiful resting-places for the departed in nil the land. The spirit of the original design has been adhered to by successive superintendents, notably by George D. Stillson, who held the position for sixteen years. Additions were made to the necropolis from time to time, the largest being in 1865, when seventy-eight acres were purchased, so that it now contains about one hundred and eighty-eight acres. The first interment, that of William Carter, was made on August 18th, 1838; on the 1st of June, 1894, the fifty thousandth burial took place and up to this time some sixty thousand have been laid away there, a veritabla city of the dead, a silent city.

While there were some few Catholics interred at Mt. Hope in early days, the great majority of that communion, practically all of them, preferred to bury their dead in ground consecrated by their church, and so the trustees of St. Patrick's bought an extensive tract on the Pinnacle hills, southeast of the city, in 1838, and for the next thirty-three years the interment of English-speaking Catholics was made in the Pinnacle burying-ground, as it was always called, since which time much of the light, sandy soil of that eminence has been removed for building purposes. The German Catholics have had three cemeteries—that of St. Joseph, on Lyell avenue; of Sts. Peter and Paul, on Maple street, and of St. Boniface, on South Clinton street—but almost all the bodies have been removed from these and deposited in the Holy Sepulcher cemetery. This comprises about one hundred and forty acres, situated on Lake avenue, north of the city line, in the town of Greece, and extending to the bank of the river. The location is a most desirable one, and since it was opened, in 1871, it has been increasingly beautified, so that it has become very attractive to all visitors.

Perceiving the advantage that the Holy Sepulcher had over Mt. Hope in being located so far from the dwellings of the living, several persons formed themselves into a corporation in 1892 and bought one hundred acres of land just north of the former, where the grounds were at once laid out in a suitable manner and were tastefully decorated, the result being that lots were speedily purchased and interments are very frequent in the lovely Riverside cemetery. One other place of the dead might have been mentioned before, on account of its antiquity. Although within the city limits, near the southern end of Genesee street, it was doubtless intended for the use of the dwellers ir Scottsville and Chili, for it is said to have been established in 1812, when there were no residents here. It has always been known as the Rapids burying-ground. 

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