BY JENNY GOLDSBERRY
When the cemetery was first laid out in 1896, conditions in Syracuse were very different. Today’s roads didn’t exist. Homes were few and scattered. The cemetery lots were roughly measured with a tape measure. The sections were designated by stakes with section numbers and four holes. However, even with this crude method, it was found after modern surveying that they had actually been very accurate. Not one grave had to be moved.
Fencing was installed around part of the cemetery. For many years, the care of the cemetery was provided by each individual family. Some had fences around each section, others lined the graves with rocks, a few planted flowers which bloomed every year.
After the town was organized in 1935, one of the first acts was to improve and beautify the Syracuse Cemetery. A plan was laid out. There was even a separate cemetery account set up for perpetual funds. Elton J. Bennett was made chairman of the beautification project at the cemetery.
Work began in the spring of 1939, with one of the projects to be a joint effort with the West Branch Irrigation Company to line the big open ditch in front with rock and mortar. The ditch company donated $300, plus part of the labor.
The following Memorial Day, the town board decided to sponsor a Memorial Day Dedication program. Elton Bennett was chosen as chairman with Joseph Thurgood, Carl Barber, and Fern Stoker as members. A similar Memorial Day program continues today, over 80 years later.
In 1961, Reese Stoker and Fern Williams sold their combined 3.59 acres for the price of $1200 per acre. Their land was at a slightly lower elevation than the rest of the cemetery. As a result, the city had to bring in landfill three feet deep to bring the new part of the cemetery high enough to match the old part.
From the conception of the cemetery in 1896 to the present, it has been of primary importance to develop and beautify the cemetery. There has been a diligent effort to make it the beautiful cemetery it is today, a place where residents of Syracuse might go to honor their loved ones.
There have been many acts of dedicated service. Some people can remember David Warren spending all night on Halloween in the cemetery, preventing harmful destruction to grave markers. On any given year, it is typical to see a pack of cub scouts planting flowers, a family cleaning off the hard water deposits from the monument, and the Syracuse Lions Club donating hundreds of dollars and many hours to install the beautiful American flags.
Today, there are still regular cleanups. In fact, there are three to keep in mind as you honor your friends and family. On the 1st Monday in April, the Monday following Memorial Day, and the 1st Monday in November, absolutely everything will be cleaned up and thrown away: flowers, shepherd’s hooks, and all. If you leave anything sentimental on a grave, be sure to pick it up the night before any of these deadlines. This has been the scheduled clean up since 2018.
Are you thinking about a plot of your own? At Syracuse Cemetery, plots for residents cost $500; for non-residents, plots costs $1,000.
Do you have ancestors buried in Syracuse Cemetery? Do you know their stories? Ask your oldest relative to tell you the story of someone buried there and submit it to http://www.connectionpub.com. We just might feature it in the magazine!