The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 1, Page 19.


First Death Recorded In City Was That of Mother of Skinner Family, Dates Back To 1839

Members of the Cheney family provided the ground for Valparaiso's first cemetery, which is now known as the Old City Cemetery. Of the first deaths within the limits of Valparaiso and Center Township, no authentic records have been kept, and the recollection of the early settlers is indistinct. It is thought that a number of infants or very young children died before the death of any adult occurred.

The first woman of whose death these is any certain account was the mother of John N. and S. S. Skinner, well known in the political and business history of Porter county. Her death occurred in April, 1839. She was buried on the slope just above the Valparaiso Paper Mill, on South Washington street, whence her remains were removed some years later to the cemetery.

Solomon Cheney, who came to Portersville in the winter of 1836-37, died in November, 1839. His funeral was preached by Elder Comer, and his remains were interred on the west side of the hill in the old cemetery, the original ground of which was donated by the Cheney family for a burial place. His sister, the wife of John Herr, died a few weeks later in January, 1840. Her funeral was preached by Rev. James C. Brown, and she was buried near her brother.

The Old City Cemetery contains the remains of many of the early pioneers of Porter county. On the old headstones may be seen birth dates extending back into the eighteenth century.

Because of the lack of ground space, in 1872, during the administration of Mayor John N. Skinner, the city acquired a tract of land east of Valparaiso and established the Maplewood cemetery. For a number of year the graves in Maplewood, which was first known as Maple cemetery, were looked after by the lot owners, or a sexton who collected his pay from lot owners. For many years Milan Riddle was sexton at Maplewood. Of late years the City of Valparaiso took over the care and upkeep of the burial ground. Richard Smith was sexton for a number of years. Ross Corson is the present sexton and is paid by the city.

Need of additional burial facilities for the City of Valparaiso as well as surrounding territory was seen in 1903, when the Graceland Cemetery Association was incorporated with John W. Sieb, president; Charles W. Bartholomew, vice-president, and Leslie R. Skinner, secretary-treasurer.

Directors of the new corporation were John W. Sieb, L. R. Skinner, C. W. Bartholomew, Floyd W. Sieb and Paul Nuppnau.

The original plot of ground consisted of twenty acres located just north of Maplewood cemetery. Later a tract of 33 acres to the north was acquired.

In 1912, the National Mausoleum Company built a mausoleum on ground acquired from the cemetery association. The company deeded to the association for the use of the ground ---?--- receiving vaults in the mausoleum. The company afterward went into bankruptcy.

In 1926, Stanley B. Sink became secretary-treasurer of the Graceland Cemetery Association. The association has at present an endowment of $29,000, which is invested in first mortgages in and around Valparaiso. All of the investments are worth 100 cents on the dollar and not a cent of interest has been lost.

John Thatcher served as sexton at the cemetery for twenty-seven years until his death. Schuyler Wheeler is the present sexton.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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