Williamstown Cemetery History

No one knows the identity of the first person buried in Williamstown Cemetery. Parts of it have been buried in since the early 1830's. The Kendall family owned the majority of its boundaries at the time the cemetery was established and was probably among the first to bury there. On April 16, 1859, a group of Williamstown businessmen purchased approximately 6 acres of land from Alfred Kendall for the purpose of established a cemetery company. The person in charge of the purchase was John F. Sheriff, a long-time resident of the county and a trustee of the company. A small lot adjacent to the old Baptist Church yard was excluded from the sale. It was to be used by the Kendall family for a burial plot. In the mid to late 1880s, the company contracted a brick storage vault to be built at the cost of $1,000. The vault was used for the purpose of storing tools and the temporary storage of a deceased person when the weather or some other reason would not permit the digging of a grave. The old vault stands today, after 100 years of use, in the center of the old section of the cemetery and is still used for the storage of tools and equipment. On July 12, 1889, an additional 8-1/2 acres were purchased from Mrs. Phoebe Kendall Collins who had inherited the property from her father. The trustee in charge of this purchase was E. H. Smith, a nephew of H. B. Smith the first County Court Clerk of Grant County, and a very prominent attorney at that period of time. Other members of the company were T. L. Clark, whose father was an old pioneer of the county, J. H. Webb, G. N. Webb, P. T. Zinn, N. H. Jeffers, and D. L. Cunningham. The trustees and member of the company would purchase large lots in the cemetery and lay off their family plots and then sell the remainder for profit. This advertisement was copied from a 1909 Williamstown Courier.

The Williamstown Cemetery Co., Thursday, January 7, 1909
Superintendent, Clay Conrad and members, A. D. DeJarnette, J. D. McMillan, D. M. Hall, J. H. Webb and R. H. Elliston announces that there are fourteen acres of fine land fit for burying, well laid off into drives and walkways and a fine brick vault.

J. D. McMillan was County Judge at that time. Sen. R. H. Elliston was a state senator for this senatorial district in 1893 and was appointed supervisor of the census of the Sixth District for the year 1900. J. H. Webb was a prominent farmer and hardware businessman in Williamstown.

The Williamstown Cemetery Company prospered through the years in money and land. Several more acres were added between the years 1889 and 1929. The Masonic Order had purchased a large lot for its members. The Odd Fellows Lodge did the same. The county had purchased a pauper's lot, now known as the county section. Then came the Great Depression in the 1930s and the company could not hold out financially. They could not afford the upkeep, so in 1938 the members of the company asked that the City of Williamstown annex the cemetery and take over the maintenance and care. At that time there was a law in Kentucky that forbade small cities and towns from owning a cemetery. The cemetery sort of stood on its own, with the people taking care of their lots themselves, until the mid 1940s when the state legislature changed the laws. At that time the city took over the care and maintenance and renamed it the Williamstown Municipal Cemetery.

In July 1947, the City of Williamstown annexed the old Baptist Church yard to the Williamstown Cemetery. The minutes read as such:

Whereas, the last member of the Williamstown Primitive Baptist Church as passed away, and whereas, the graveyard around said church is the final resting place of many of the early settlers of Williamstown and vicinity. Be it resolved that the City of Williamstown annex and clear said graveyard to the Williamstown Cemetery and give the said graveyard the same care.

The last addition was purchased in the early 1960s. This addition is now known as sections thirteen and fourteen. There are no known Revolutionary veterans buried in the cemetery. However, there is at least one from the War of 1812, three from the Mexican War of 1847, one from the famed Lopez expedition to Cuba in 1847, and many Civil War, both North and South, Spanish American, and late war veterans. Also buried there are Mrs. Sarah Marksbury Clay, a great-granddaughter of Simon Kenton; Mrs. Catherine Bryant Conyers, a great-niece to Daniel Boone; Mrs. Bertha Opp, a veteran dancer of Ziefeld Follies; and Mrs. Caroline J. Marie Dupuy Blanchet, the first female to ascent Mt. Blanc.

Provided By:

The Williamstown Cemetery by Virgil Chandler Sr.
Published by the Grant County Historical Society, 1987
Williamstown, Kentucky