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The American rural cemetery movement began in 1831 with the foundation of Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  A “rural” or “garden” cemetery is a beautiful, tranquil burying place, where people are welcome to visit, commemorate, and remember the dead.  Styled after earlier garden cemeteries in Europe, the rural cemetery was filled with lush greenery, located away from urban centers, and often boasted elegant sculptures and stonework.  Locals and visitors often came to rural cemeteries to stroll and enjoy the scenery.  Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia and Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn are other notable examples of rural cemeteries.

Nehemiah Cleveland, James Smillie, and Cornelia Walter, Rural Cemeteries of America, New York: 1847.

Mount Auburn Cemetery, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.

The following plate suggests the natural beauty of Mount Auburn Cemetery. Visitors repose alongside the Loring family monument.

Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York.

Plan of the Philanthropic Burial Ground, Philada., Philadelphia: 1837.

The Philanthropic Burial Ground, founded in 1834, was one of several “mutual” or “associate” cemeteries developed in the 1820s and 1830s in Philadelphia. These non-sectarian burial places targeted lower and middling class persons who may not have been able to afford the high costs associated with churchyard burials. The efficient, gridded layout enabled the Philanthropic Burial Ground to fit 780 lots into the property bounded by Passyuck and Twelfth streets. The sale of the land in 1914 for development prompted the reinterment of the deceased at Arlington Cemetery.

John Notman, Guide to Laurel Hill Cemetery…, Philadelphia: 1844.

Laurel Hill Cemetery distinguished itself in part by operating on an “associate” plan (similar to the Philanthropic Burial Ground) while supporting the elegant, natural beauty typical of the rural cemetery.

Fredericka Haas deed for a lot in Forest Hill Cemetery, Ann Arbor: August 11, 1890.
Ann Arbor’s own rural cemetery, Forest Hill Cemetery (on the corner of Geddes Road and Observatory Street), was established in 1857. Its stone entryway, cut field-stone gatehouse, and beautiful landscaping completely replaced the older Ann Arbor burying ground in 1891. This map, printed on the back of standard deeds of sale for plots in the cemetery, shows the original layout of the cemetery.  The William L. Clements family plots are digitally inserted over the copy to the right.

Joseph Story, An Address Delivered on the Dedication of the Cemetery at Mount Auburn, September 24, 1831, Boston: 1831.

John A. Elkinton, The Monument Cemetery of Philadelphia (late Pere La Chaise.): Containing Several Scientific Essays On the Subject of Rural Cemeteries, Philadelphia: 1837.

Daniel Appleton White, An Address Delivered at the Consecration of the Harmony Grove Cemetery in Salem, June 14, 1840, Salem, Massachusetts: 1840.