In our latest edition of date-related “boxplorations,” today 4/14, we took a look at manuscript collection number 414 — MS-414: Woodland Cemetery Collection (click to view PDF finding aid) — which contains materials relating to the organization and business ventures of the Woodland Cemetery Association, from 1841-2010.
This collection is quite large at 114 linear feet (over 150 boxes), so there were many boxes to choose from for our “boxploration.” However, for this first round—after all, we can always visit this collection again later!—we zeroed in on one of the oldest items in the collection: the Woodland Cemetery Articles of Association (dated January 25, 1841).
Please note that the reddish tint shown in images of the Articles of Association does not exist on the original document. The document is encapsulated for preservation purposes, and the red hue is a reflection of the red light on the camera used to capture these images.
Here is some background information regarding the creation of Woodland Cemetery, from A. W. Drury’s History of the City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio (1909), Vol. 1, p. 598:
In 1840, a movement was made to establish a rural cemetery…[to replace the Dayton’s original burial grounds on Fifth Street]. Mr. John W. Van Cleve made the suggestion and was most active in promoting the object. To him more than to any other the city is indebted for the beautiful cemetery and for the property which has attended the enterprise from the beginning. He and Samuel Forrer, both capable engineers, lent their skill to the laying out of the grounds…
Articles of association were drawn up by Mr. Van Cleve and fifty-two subscribers obtained. Each subscriber agreed to pay into the treasury one hundred dollars to be repaid to him without interest either in burial lots or in money, when the affairs of the association justified. In a short time the claims of the subscribers were liquidated, the majority of them taking lots in payment…
On the 29th of April, 1841, a deed was received from Augustus George for forty acres of ground at forty dollars per acre…
In 1842 a charter was obtained from the legislature. By the provisions of the articles of association and the charter, Woodland Cemetery is a close corporation…
The original Articles of Association, shown above, were written by John W. Van Cleve’s own hand, and the signatures of Van Cleve and the other subscribers can be seen at the bottom.
Several of Dayton’s most prominent and well-known citizens subscribed to the cemetery. No doubt all of the subscribers were men of some wealth and importance, because $100 was no small sum in the year 1841 (between $2,000-3,000 in today’s dollars, according Westegg‘s and Measuring Worth‘s inflation calculators).
Among the signers of the Articles of Association are these men, whose names can also be found scattered throughout over Dayton’s early history books:
- John W. Van Cleve (a lawyer who served several terms in various Dayton public offices, including city mayor, recorder, and city engineer; as son of Benjamin Van Cleve, he is frequently cited as having been one of the first white children born in Dayton, in 1801)
- Robert C. Schenck
- Henry Stoddard
- Peter Odlin
- John Steele and James Steele (brothers)
- David Zeigler Peirce
- Henry L. Brown (son of Henry Brown & grandson of Col. Robert Patterson)
- James Perrine
- Horatio Gates Phillips
- Richard N. Comly (one of the proprietors of the Dayton Journal at the time, under whom it became the one of the largest newspapers in the state)
- Samuel Forrer (canal engineer for the Miami-Erie Canal)
- George Newcom (who, about 1798, built the famous Newcom Tavern, which still survives today)
The Woodland Cemetery Articles of Association is one of the truly magnificent items in the Woodland Cemetery Collection, but there is much more where that came from. To learn more about the contents of this collection, please view the Woodland Cemetery Collection finding aid (PDF), or ask us about it by email or phone 937-775-2092.