Home > musing, Opinion, Places > Cemeteries aren’t popular anymore

Cemeteries aren’t popular anymore

Once cemeteries were a popular spot for an outing.  Families would often spend the day and have a picnic while visiting the graves.  Cemeteries were often park like and graves were marked with various kinds of elaborate monuments.  Demand for flowers for grave sites was enough that often there would be a florist shop located near the entrance to the cemetery.  If you could go back to one of the large old cemeteries in the late 19th century on a weekend you would probably find it to be one of the busiest places in town. Traffic was great enough to the main cemeteries that most towns had a trolley line directly to the cemeteries.

Today most of us stay out of cemeteries unless we have to be there.  I don’t remember ever seeing anyone having a picnic in a cemetery.  Some people still occasionally visit and decorate graves, however that seems to be becoming more rare.  From what I have seen the newer cemeteries seem to be designed so that they can be mowed more easily.  Monuments are smaller and often are set at ground level so a mower can easily pass over.  Cemeteries seem as if they are where we file away the dead.

I suppose the change came as advances in health care made contact with death a less frequent thing.  When I read of people living in the 19th century I am struck by how they must have often been grieving. Today the death of a child is a rare thing.  Back then it was common to lose half of your children before they became adults.  Before vaccinations and antibiotics death came frequently as the result of infectious disease.  Of course this had been the condition of people for a long time, however I wonder if it did not become even more painful during Victorian times.  Many people in those times were beginning to enjoy a level of comfort and leisure like humanity had not often experienced on a large scale.  Life had become less of a constant struggle for the material things needed to survive.  Still the Victorians were just as vulnerable to disease as they were in less prosperous times.  And considering that humans have a good capacity to make a bad thing even worse we in the US added in a Civil War to up the death rate even more.

So in the 19th century death was a frequent visitor.  And it appears that part of the way they coped was to use some of their new wealth to make places of burial more pleasant.  And the result today can be seen in the many old cemeteries with their mausoleums, monuments, and large trees.   What got me to thinking along these lines is that I plan to visit one of these old cemeteries this weekend.  Greenwood Cemetery  in Decatur Illinois is one of the best of the great cemeteries of Illinois.  While burials still occur there its glory days ended with the Great Depression.  Still Greenwood is in pretty good shape.  The Cemetery is on hilly ground with many large oak trees.  Many of Decatur’s prominent families used Greenwood so there are some outstanding monuments.  I have visited Greenwood in the past, however I didn’t have my camera with me.  This time I hope that conditions will be such that I can make some worthwhile photos.  I imagine that my friend and I will be the only people in the place.  Although Greenwood is popular today with ghost hunters since it is said to be very haunted, it has been empty of people on my previous visits there.  I imagine that if I see any picnickers this weekend they will be apparitions from another time.

  1. October 13, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    Call me and we’ll take a walk through Springhill in Danville. I think you’ll find that it’s very similar in its beauty and ornate nature on the south side. The north side, as you have mentioned, is flat and mowable, but the south side is historic – having been the “new” city cemetery from where they moved the graves from the “old” cemetery (now where Beeler Terrace is located.) As expected, they lost a few people along the way…..

  2. October 15, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    I dont know If I said it already but …Excellent site, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    …..Frank Scurley

  3. October 16, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Awesome blog!

    I thought about starting my own blog too but I’m just too lazy so, I guess Ill just have to keep checking yours out.

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