The year was 1859. In June of that year, the following advertisement appeared in the Rushville Republican newspaper: "All persons who may feel favorable to the purchase and laying off of a new cemetery for the town of Rushville and the county at large are hereby requested to meet at the Court House on Saturday next, at 4:00 P.M. A general attendance is respectfully asked."
The East Hill Cemetery Company was founded in June 1859 to purchase land "for the town of Rushville the county at large" for a new cemetery. Prior to that, there were two burial grounds in Rushville. The first was at the southern end of Jackson Street. It's still there and is occasionally referred to as the Laughlin or "lower" cemetery. Dr. William B. Laughlin, the founder of Rushville and Rush County, and his family are buried there. The other cemetery was on the west side of old Ft. Wayne Road, just south of Calvary Cemetery. It, too, was what would be defined as a "burial ground." And I hasten to point out that there's a significant difference between a "burial ground" and a "garden cemetery." East Hill Cemetery was the county's first true "garden cemetery" and one of the first in the nation.
Beginning around 1800, garden cemeteries first started to appear in Europe. Prior to that time, a burial ground was nothing more than that, a piece of ground devoted to the interment of those who passed away. In some cemeteries bodies were stacked three of four deep in the same grave and most went unmarked. Unlike the beautiful, well-manicured military cemeteries like Arlington National, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., prior to the Civil War the bodies of dead soldiers, for example, were unceremoniously dumped into a common grave or simply piled up and burned. For instance, after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, outside the Chateau of Hougoumont, a large burial pit was dug, but there is absolutely no marker or any kind of memorial to designate the spot as the last resting place of hundreds of soldiers.
The creation of the garden cemetery took place around 1825 with Pere la Chaise Cemetery outside the walls of Paris. It is still one of the most famous "garden cemeteries" in the world. People like American film star Sarah Bernhardt, opera singer Maria Callas, composer Frederic Chopin, singer Jim Morrison of "The Doors," and Irish writer Oscar Wilde are some of the more recent burials there. Several of Napoleon's generals are also buried there.
Unlike a "burial ground," a "garden cemetery" is laid out with a system of intricate avenues that take advantage of the natural contours of the land and the beauty of the location to create a park-like setting. The designer of East Hill Cemetery was Leo Weltz of Wilmington, Ohio. Weltz was born in Prussia, educated at Heidelberg University, and had served as the head gardener for Tsar Alexander III of Russia before coming to the United States in 1851. Ultimately settling in Wilmington, Ohio, as a landscape gardener, Weltz came to Rushville in 1859 where he devoted several months laying out the avenues and platting the grounds of what would become East Hill Cemetery.
There is an area known as "Potter's Field" reserved for the burial of unknown individuals. There is also an area set aside for the interment of the very young. Section 19 of the cemetery is reserved for members of the armed forces, and, scattered throughout, are the graves of many Civil War veterans, including General Pleasant A. Hacklemen and Colonel Joel Wolfe, both of whom were killed in action. Each Memorial Day, all veterans' graves are decorated with a small American flag, a tradition that goes back many years.
East Hill Cemetery is also the location of several impressive monuments, some of which are actually made of metal and bolted together. One of the most impressive monuments was erected by the local Joel Wolfe Post of the Grand Army of the Republic to honor the memories of their fallen comrades; but there are other equally impressive monuments, and several small family mausoleums are also to be found at East Hill Cemetery. Many of the county's founders are also buried in the older section, including Dr. John Arnold. East Hill is also the final resting place for famous covered bridge builders, Archibald and Emmett Kennedy, evangelist and song-writer Knowles Shaw, and presidential candidate Wendell Willkie.
East Hill Cemetery is more than just a burial ground; it is one of the first "garden cemeteries." Interestingly enough, East Hill predates the creation of Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, one of the nation's largest and finest garden cemeteries by several years. Its unusual history and unique features certainly justify you planning to see one of the state's more unique and beautiful resting places for the people of Rush County. The local commemoration of East Hill's sesquicentennial took place on June 24, 2012.
GPS Coordinates: 39.60827, -85.43159
- Added: 2 Jan 2000
- Find A Grave Cemetery: #84889
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