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Many of Greater Cleveland's notable industrialists, land developers, commercial building designers, local political, cultural and economic forefathers have their resting places within our scenic grounds. The many and varied century-old, granite and marble monuments and headstones are an awesome and unique attraction not found in most newer cemeteries established since the 1800's. The vast array of monuments represent every architectural style imaginable. Some look as if they came from ancient Greece while others are sleek and modern. Many are spired and reach for the skies, others are low and almost one with the earth. 

A tranquil valley with gently sloping hillsides divides the cemetery north and south. A vast array of trees and floriculture adorn our grounds, while a wide variety of wildlife finds sanctuary among our rustically wooded hillsides.

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In 1875 West Side citizens became interested in establishing a major-sized cemetery on the West side of Cleveland. Only smaller burial grounds like Monroe Street, Scranton Road, and St. Mary's were then available, and it was felt advisable to create a much larger cemetery whose use would span many future generations.

A detail of an illustration of the Brainard farm from
the 1874 Cuyahoga County Atlas. The city was
already expanding toward the area as indicated by
the railroad and smokestacks in the distance.

At that time, Ohio City was the primary urban community for west siders. Beyond its location were many "country" farms of varying sizes. It was felt this new cemetery should be in the tranquil country and away from the faster pace of the city. Therefore, after a variety of informal meetings, a search committee was selected in October 1875 to find available property for this new cemetery. One Titus N. Brainard, owner of 140 acres on Pearl Street and Scranton Roads, offered to sell 102-1/2 acres of his farmland containing cropland, wooded hillsides, open land, ravines and waterways in October 1875. The farmland was acquired originally by his grandfather, Asa Brainard, when he came here from Connecticut in 1814. On November 15, 1875 the committee voted to accept Mr. Brainard's offer. Mr. Brainard retained about 38 acres which held his home and farm buildings. Since the eastern border of the farm overlooked the Cuyahoga River, it is assumed this fact inspired the name RIVERSIDE for this Cemetery Association which was organized legally at that meeting. Josiah Barber, Jr. was elected President and James M. Curtiss became Superintendent. 

Surveyor John M. Ackley

The services of Mr. E. O. Schwaegerl, a noted landscape architect and engineer, was contracted to make a thorough topographical survey and prepare all plans. A principal surveyor with the engineering firm was John M. Ackley, who did much of the land layout. In 1985 we were fortunate to be given his personal copy of the 1876 Prospectus for Potential Lot Owners. It contains his signature and a photograph of him with a transept and tape roll. This was a gift to us from his grandchildren.

The actual development of the land for burial purposes was done during most of 1876. The first interment was on April 14th, the official public opening July 6th, and the formal dedication held on November 11th. Ground was broken in April, and by our Dedication Day thirty acres were surveyed and plotted for burials, a small wooden Office, a Cottage, four rustic bridges, 5 miles of graded roadways, 30 acres of beautifully lawned sections were all in place and completed; and most of all, a sandstone Victorian Chapel was in place in a prominent, up-front location. What an active nine months that must have been. Payment for the land came from early lot sale revenues and some issued bonds; all indebtedness was concluded by the early 1890's. Purchasing in this manner allowed the legal entity of an Association of Lot Owners.

The original Riverside office.
With 102-1/2 acres, Riverside Cemetery was the first major-sized, non-sectarian, Burial Park established west of the Cuyahoga River. While other cemeteries of similar or even larger size have come into existence since our founding, none can embrace the historical heritage we are privileged to have. We became the primary resting place for many persons who were involved significantly in the development of the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors of Cleveland's west side particularly. We are very proud of that legacy, and you who have family or friends here should also share in that pride. The history of Riverside Cemetery mirrors that of Brooklyn Centre and Ohio City.

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In 1776, one hundred years earlier, we had declared our country's independence, and started a new Nation called the United States. On Saturday, November 11, 1876, a large number of local Brooklyn Centre and Ohio City citizens gathered within the newly developed grounds of Riverside Cemetery for the purpose of consecrating it as the sacred resting place for present and future generations of Greater Clevelanders. In recognition of this milestone year, "Centennial" was thus deemed an appropriate title for the dedicatory ceremonies.

Guests arrived during late morning by public carriers and private carriages. Dignitaries receiving special invitations met at City Hall where the Association had provided carriages to bring them to the Cemetery. The site for the festivities was a small circular area at the east end of Centennial Ave., a noteworthy 1,000 ft. stretch of straight roadway which extends east from the Chapel. Writings at the time reported Centennial Avenue to be one of the longest straight roadways in a cemetery in the United States. President Josiah Barber called the assemblage to order a few minutes after the noon hour.

The invocation was given by Rev. S. H. Lee, pastor of the Detroit Street Congregational Church, followed by a hymn. The principal dedicatory address was given by one F. T. Wallace, Esq., followed with brief remarks by the Hon. R. C. Parsons. The planting of commemorative trees along Centennial Ave., as well as throughout the other developed grounds, then followed. These trees were planted in honor of persons from civic, political, and professional backgrounds.  Most of these trees were elms, and the beautiful elm lined treelawns of the four sections bordering the 1,000 foot straight road between the Chapel (west end) and the memorial circle (east end) formed a natural arcade over the street. During the summer a person could walk from one end to the other under the shady canopy of leaves; and if raining, had very little risk of getting wet.

President Rutherford B. Hayes
During these activities the gathering was honored by the arrival of Gov. Rutherford B. Hayes, who had just been elected U.S. President the previous week. After touring the grounds with his escort, State Senator Schenck, he was welcomed by one Hon. Amos Townsend. He responded with a few brief remarks which included a reference to the beauty of the grounds and the "ornament" they added to the city. He then proceeded to plant his assigned tree.

The ceremony concluded, everyone went to the small wood frame office where an informal reception was held. The Governor shook hands and received the congratulations of the eager crowd which gathered around him. His departure thereafter concluded this eventful and historic day in our earliest history.

The philosophy of our founders can be summarized in this poem that was recently shared with us by a current friend of Riverside:


Now the laborer's task is o'er

Now the battle day is past;

Now upon the farther shore

Lands the voyager at last.

Father, in thy gracious keeping,

Leave we now the servant sleeping.

"Earth to earth and dust to dust",

Calmly now the words we say,

Left behind, we wait in trust

For the resurrection day.

Father, in thy gracious keeping,

Leave we now thy servant sleeping.

                                          John Ellerton, 1870

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. Hon. James M. Coffinberry . L.D. Benedict
James M. Curtiss (Supt. & Clerk)  . Nicholas Meyer
Frederick S. Pelton  . Thomas Dixon . George H. Foster 
. Robert R. Rhodes . Diodate Clark . Dr. Julius C. Schenck
John G. Jennings . G. T. Chapman (VP) . Samuel W. Sessions
Hiram Barrett . Francis Branch . Elias Sims
. Alfred Kellogg (Treas.). Abram T. Van Tassel
Josiah Barber, Jr. (Pres.) . John Daykin

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  Riverside Cemetery
  3607 Pearl Road   Cleveland, Ohio   44109


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