Summary History of Eastern, Greenwood and Shardein Cemeteries
By: Philip J. DiBlasi, Staff Archaeologist. University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292
Eastern Cemetery is located at 641 Baxter Avenue. Eastern Cemetery Corporation was incorporated by an act of the Kentucky General Assembly on 4 March 1854 "for the use and benefit of the Fourth Street Methodist Episcopal Church". However, deeds indicate that the property was obtained (original 15-acre tract) in April 1843. Records (in the form of contemporaneous daily logs) indicate that burials were conducted on the tract in 1843. Numerous stories exist that burials were conducted on the property as early as 1835, but these burials can't be documented, since there are no records that date to this period.
Additional property was acquired by Brook Street & Walnut Street Methodist Episcopal Churches South in 1865 (5.5 acres), 1868 (7.44 acres), and in 1872 (series of lots). The property is presently 30+/- acres.
Fourth Street Methodist Episcopal Church South became Broadway Methodist Episcopal Church and is now known as Trinity Temple United Methodist Church (537 S 3rd Street). Brook Street Methodist Episcopal Church South became Walnut Street Methodist Church and is now known as Christ United Methodist Church (4614 Brownsboro Road). The original Board of Directors, seated in 1854, consisted of: John Hawkins, Haiden Curd, Jeremiah Brown, Coleman Daniel, Samuel Osburn and Jacob Smith.
Eastern Cemetery Corporation opened the first crematorium in the City of Louisville (possibly the State of Kentucky) in the early 1930s. The crematorium occupied the structure (now apartments) that fronts on Baxter Avenue. This building once served as offices, chapel and crematorium. In September 1957, the present offices, chapel, crematorium and columbarium were completed at a cost of $79,737.
The list of individuals who are buried in Eastern Cemetery reads like a Who's Who of Louisville's society both Black and white. Methodist Bishop Henry Bidleman Bascom (d. 1850) as well as the Spradlings and Henry Kerby (d. 1848) are buried there. Individuals from all levels of society are buried in Eastern Cemetery. The Old Slave Ground was reserved for enslaved individuals whose owners lived in the urban center and had no family cemetery to bury their dead. Numerous fraternal societies have lots and clusters of lots. The Odd Fellows, the Masons, the United Brothers and Sisters of Friendship are just a few organizations that occupy lots in Eastern.
Records at Eastern Cemetery indicate that the reuse of graves began as early as 1858. The early records note "OG" in many of the daily logs of burials. In several places in the records – "Old Grave" is written out. Records indicate family owned lots that were filled completely or partially with burials were purchased by Eastern Cemetery from their owners and subsequently sold as unused lots.
Maps for Eastern Cemetery consist of four versions (1880, 1907, 1962 and circa 1984 – or "modern"). Comparison of these various versions indicates entire sections were renamed and reburied. In some cases, sections were renamed as many as three and four times (i.e., Old Slave Ground, became Cheap Willow, then became Public Section 2, then became Cave Hill Corner, and finally became Sections 11 & 14). Records indicate that the renaming of sections was not the only time a section was reburied. In fact, records clearly indicate that some sections (i.e., Public Section 2) were reburied two times while known by one name. Archaeological investigations of at-need graves by this author indicate that in every section sampled there was almost a 100% probability that the at-need grave was occupied, by at least one prior burial.
Greenwood Cemetery, located on Hale Avenue, was started as a commercial cemetery circa 1860. Methodist Churches that owned Eastern Cemetery loaned the Union Land Development Company the funds to start Greenwood. Records of the Eastern Cemetery Company suggest that the Land development company's Board of Trustees was composed of prominent Black citizens and funeral directors. Because Greenwood was situated at the edges of the City of Louisville, the road to the cemetery was unpaved. Numerous complaints were lodged with the city concerning the condition of the road, stating the dirt road was dusty in the summer and a quagmire in the winter. As a result, of the road's condition, the trustees felt burials were not reaching the numbers they were expecting. Greenwood Cemetery failed and purchased by the Eastern Cemetery Company, for taxes owed, on the steps of the Jefferson County Courthouse.
The early burial records of Greenwood Cemetery have not survived. It was not until 1903 that the firm of Stonestreet and Ford drafted the first map of the cemetery. The burial records appear in the late 19th century for Greenwood Cemetery and continue until the, 1993, court ordered closure of the cemetery.
At least three iterations of maps (1903, 1932 and 1984) exist for Greenwood Cemetery. These maps depict a majority of the cemetery was renamed, re-sectioned and reburied. This author has noted in his report that in some cases, entire sections of Greenwood Cemetery have completely disappeared and in others, new sections have been carved out of old sections. Fieldwork conducted by this author demonstrated that some sections, where at-need burials were scheduled to take place were completely occupied, while others were found to have a 50% chance of encountering prior burials. This author admits the sample of graves examined is small, but argues that written records indicate a higher percentage of previously used burials than his fieldwork suggests.
Little historical documentation is known for Schardein Cemetery. This cemetery is situated at Seven Street Road and Arcade. The first recorded burials appear to be of members of the Schardein family and other Jewish families who lived in the area. The cemetery was clearly a commercial cemetery by 1900.
Recently burial records have been found and entered into a computerized database at the University of Louisville.
The first burial of record took place in 1862. There are 4006 burials recorded in the cemetery, though only 3058 have dates recorded for them. The dated burials are summarized below:
1860 – 1869 1
1870 – 1879 10
1880 – 1889 13
1890 – 1899 68
1900 – 1909 140
1910 – 1919 188
1920 – 1929 321
1930 – 1939 767
1940 – 1949 710
1950 – 1959 397
1960 – 1969 167
1970 – 1979 116
1980 – 1989 127
1990 – 1999 34
Total N = 3058
Clearly the peak use of Schardein Cemetery was from 1930 – 1949, when 48% (N=1477) of the 3058 burials took place.
The Schardein family may have lost the cemetery, in the late 1950s (possibly 1957), to another family in a legal action concerning "over burial" of a family member or use of a family lot by the cemetery. The family held the property until the Louisville Crematory and Cemeteries, Incorporated purchased it in the early 1960s.
Records checks for at-need graves have resulted in numerous records of multiple occupants of graves. The current map book of Schardein Cemetery has numerous notations of "buried", "wood" and "conc[rete]" that suggest there are numerous individuals who are buried there, but whose names have not been recorded. It appears one of the more common practices was the reuse of rows that were designated for the burial of "infants". Examination of the records shows entire rows of infant burials that dated to the 1920s through 1950s have been completely reburied. Creative and sloppy book keeping of burial locations of individuals in Schardein Cemetery has resulted in several "searches" for individuals who have yet to be found and disinterred.