Easton Rotary enjoyed a field trip to the Historic Easton Cemetery and a guided tour led by Kay Wolff. The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. The office features booklets detailing two walking tours: one for general historic purposes, and the other focusing only on Lafayette College notables.
Life in Easton during revolutionary times was clustered around the downtown area. By 1830, the town was dominated by saloons, retail shops, churches, and cemeteries. Dr. Trail Green and other civic leaders noted the need for a cemetery outside the main part of town. The site would have to be safe, sanitary, and function as a park for recreation. The cemetery opened in 1849 and many of the bodies from the downtown cemeteries were transferred over the years. The result is graves for people extending back to the Revolutionary War.
Veterans’ graves are marked by United States flags and medallions shaped to indicate the war in which people served. Declaration of Independence signee George Taylor is there along with a large monument. Customs in the mid-1800s were different. People felt the need to be near their departed loved ones. The cemetery became a place of socialization. Families would gather for picnic lunches. They often took the opportunity to plant flowers in the French garden graves. Rose bushes from the 1800s are still blooming.
The grounds are filled with symbolic funerary art. Headstones shaped like open books indicated a person with a high degree of education. One person’s stone has his name sculpted in hands showing the letters in sign language. Historic graves have special markers which are the product an Eagle Scout project by Ryan Ashton, son of Easton Rotarian Kline Ashton, Jr. The cemetery was built largely on rock and blasting was often needed to enable digging. The non-denominational Chapel was built in 1876 using rocks collected from the site.
Recent grants have enabled much needed repairs including repointing the stone, replacing the slate roof and a front door, adding electricity and heat, and painting the interior. Newly opened glass-front storage units in the Chapel allow for interment of those who are cremated. Maintenance of the site continues to be a daunting task. When the cemetery first opened there was a work crew of 30 who responsible for about 50 acres. Today, a much smaller staff maintain 86 acres and 29,000 headstones. An 1869 visitor remarked “Let no stranger who has an hour to spare, when visiting Easton, to see the quiet city over the Bushkill”. That quiet city is now the Historic Easton Cemetery.