The Greenwood Cemetery, 620 West Main Street in Greenwood, Indiana holds vigil in a small town that has changed, accepting outward expansion from Indianapolis due north to progress that ultimately transforms and remolds the veneer of a small town. The history, however, remains unchanged.
The cemetery, established in the summer of 1884 by a group of 34 motivated town residents originally consisted of only 12 acres; it was a start as the ball began rolling. The first burial was in that same year. It wasn’t until 1907 that the cemetery expanded north by the purchase of a 25 acre tract of adjoining land.
Originally a caretaker’s house was located just inside the front entrance. This residence was demolished years ago and today not a hint remains that it ever existed. The present chapel building was dedicated on June 4th of 1884 and still stands watch over a silent procession of monuments. It’s a building that has witnessed the progression of the years as the past has become the present. The chapel, small in stature, once housed funeral services on the main floor. Rumor has it that the basement had other duties – storing bodies during the colder months until the winter ground thawed. The chapel now serves as the office for the caretaker.
In 1894 bodies that were buried in Presbyterian and Baptist cemeteries of Greenwood were exhumed and moved to the west section of the cemetery. Graves from the North Madison Avenue Cemetery were also relocated when the church at that location vacated and moved. Throughout the years various graves of those born in the 1700s, and the remains of many buried in other cemeteries of Greenwood proper, have been reinterred into the Greenwood Cemmetery.
The serene passive grounds are the final resting place for many Greenwood pioneers. The cemetery has its share of unique and distinctive headstones – from precision replicas of tree trunks to the stones of Ebbie & Arthur Morgan, father and son blacksmiths. The Morgan’s Blacksmith Shop sat just off of Main St. next to the Presbyterian Church and became a hang out for the local farmers. Ebbie passed away in 1961, his son Arthur in 1988. Both are buried in the newer section of the cemetery, and both have the anvils they used in their trade mounted on top of their stones.
The Polk family, whose entrepreneurial vision of a canning operation employed a large majority of the town, are buried in a prominent mound as you enter the cemetery. They were largely responsible for the giving Greenwood recognition in the early years.
For the majority of years graves were dug by hand. Quite the challenge considering the sections of hardpan clay throughout the cemetery’s acreage. This could explain the several day laspe of time between death and the actual burial. Before the days of burial vaults bodies were placed in simple wooden caskets. Older cemeteries, Greenwood included, are a portrait of uneven ground – dips, sways, valleys, and sunken depressions. The wooden caskets over time eventually cave in and the ground at the grave site visibly sinks.
Today one can discern the original section of the Greenwood Cemetery from the newer addition to the north by the dividing point of a yellow bridge.