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  Riverside Cemetery
  3607 Pearl Road   Cleveland, Ohio   44109

  216.351.4800

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Early Funerals

1926 photo of a hearse

Funerals usually had many persons in attendance. The funeral visitations were held in the home. Then the pallbearers carried the casket to the nearest streetcar stop. Next the pallbearers, casket and mourners boarded the funeral car and rode to the cemetery. Some walked to the cemetery, some came on horseback, some in carriages and some rode on a special funeral car. The city transit system had two funeral cars that could be hired for $10-$15 to deliver a bodied casket and mourners to the gates of the cemetery. These special funeral streetcars were used until 1915.

In those days, before the arrival of the motor car until after World War I, the cemetery had its own team of horses and a carriage which were used to move the body from the streetcar into the cemetery. Riverside Cemetery usually used a black carriage and a white horse. The trolley conductor would give three blasts of the whistle when he got within a certain distance of the cemetery to allow enough time for a cemetery person to get the horse and carriage to the front gate to meet the funeral car. This car stopped at the front cemetery gate where the mourners exited the car. The casket was removed from the funeral car and placed on the cemetery's horse drawn carriage. This carriage then led the procession of the mourners to the gravesite. Musicians played Brass horns from the outside of the office building tower from the time the family arrived until they left the cemetery.

EARLY GROUNDS MAINTENANCE PROCEDURESnineteenth century stables at Riverside

The Riverside Cemetery barn. Because horses were so integral to the operation of a nineteenth and early twentieth century cemetery, every sizable cemetery had a barn and wagon sheds.

Observing the more sophisticated and sizeable digging, mowing and trimming equipment used to maintain our cemetery today might lead one to think such tasks were always accomplished with comparable convenience. This is definitely not the case.

During most of our first half century, we used three horses to provide our power. Our early garage was a barn with several stalls. Horses were used to pull the various machines that cut the grass as well as pull the carriages that carried the caskets and led the funeral processions to the various gravesites as appropriate. When engines on lawnmowers came about, we experimented with different types. Workers trimmed around monuments, headstones, and landscape growth with hand sickles.

In the 1950's, Bill Halley, former General Manager of Riverside, hand hauled water as a member of the cemetery's grounds staff.

Until 1974 all graves were dug by men and shovels. Generally this involved three individuals. Two would do the actual digging of the grave while the third handled the disposal of the displacement soil. This soil would be shoveled into a wheelbarrow and generally pushed up a wooden ramp into a truck where it was dumped and later unloaded. It took about 3-1/2-4 hours to open a grave by hand. 

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