For over a century and a half, a part of Naperville has been the resting place for thousands of residents.
The city’s oldest graveyard once sat in what is today’s downtown business district at the corner of Benton and Washington Street.
In 1842, the Naperville Cemetery moved to its current location, farther south of Washington, where some of Naperville’s most influential people now rest.
“It was this family [the Martin-Mitchell family] who gave this land to the city as a cemetery and George’s family had been buried in the old cemetery and they brought him here,” said Barbara Rimmer, Educator at Naper Settlement.
George Martin and his family are buried there, including the last living daughter of the family, Carolyn, who gave her home and 260 acres of land to the city, but on two conditions.
“The first one said that the land had to be used for the common good, couldn’t be sold off for houses or businesses, and the second was that her home had to be used as a museum,” said Rimmer.
Today, that museum is at Naper Settlement, a place that helps preserve the history of the town and the people who lived there, like Civil War soldier, Levi Shafer. Shafer’s gun let out the first shot at Gettysburg. “It was his gun that did it so they brought Naperville limestone down to Gettysburg and there’s a monument there,” Rimmer tells.
Here at the Naperville Cemetery, every plot, and every headstone has a story to tell.
“If you see hands clasped, it shows there was friendship there. Some of the gravestones that are trees that have been cut down, meaning the person died young,” said Rimmer.
The most interesting looking headstone belongs to former rodeo star, Otto Kline, whose life ended at just 28-years-old. Rimmer knows, “He was very popular among the rodeo people to the point where they took up a collection for a very special headstone.”
Cemetery records of each burial can be found at Naper Settlement.
Thousands of people from Naperville have been buried in the cemetery and more sections will be opened, continuing this part of Naperville’s history.
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