The Little White School Museum, 2017
The Oswego Cemetery was paid off and donated to the village about 1835, by early Oswego settlers Morris Gary, Lewis B. Judson, and Levi F. Arnold, who owned the land. About 1846 it was included in Loucks’ and Judson’s addition to Oswego, and the site became the northwest corner of Madison and Benton Streets. In 1855, Judson opened another cemetery in the grove of oak trees just north of his home, naming the new cemetery Oak Grove Cemetery. Judson sold the first burial plot in the new cemetery to Jesse Holt for $3.
The remains in the old cemetery were gradually transferred to the new one, until it was considered completely vacated. In 1856 the Oswego Baptist congregation built a new church on the old cemetery site.
Among the notable burials in the cemetery is that of Levi F. Arnold, one of Oswego’s founders.
The new cemetery, although open to all, was privately owned, and maintenance was a continual problem. As Lorenzo Rank, the Kendall County Record’s Oswego correspondent was noted on March 27, 1873: “Somebody who probably means his funeral to take place in Oswego and so ye Editor wants me to regulate the irregularities of our grave yard, in regard to which I merely wish to say that that breach in the fence is repaired. There are, however, other things about the arrangements of our cemetery which bother me more than the condition of fences.”
Two years later, the problems were still there, and on Sept. 9, 1875, Rank had a suggestion for the community: “Our burial ground wants to be in different shape from what it now is; it wants to be under some organization and in charge of somebody. Cannot we have a cemetery company? Judson offers to sell the unoccupied land as much additional ground as may be wanted on very reasonable terms. Who will move in this matter?”
Finally, on July 13, 1876, Rank could report success: “Death will now be less dreadful to our citizens than heretofore; the now are reassured of being interred in a regular established cemetery. A charter from the state department incorporating the Oswego Cemetery Association is now in the existence and immediate steps will be taken to complete the full organization.”
The first officers of the association where president, Rev. Henry Minard; vice president, Charles L. Roberts; secretary, Levi N. Hall; and treasurer, David Hall.
The association subsequently bought all of the vacant lots in the cemetery, plus adjoining land from Marcius J. Richards, who owned the surrounding property.
But although maintained by the association, lack of funds was a constant challenge. In the May 1, 1952 Oswego Ledger, edit Ford Lippold commented: “There are many in the community who can remember back a few years when the local cemetery boasted one of the finest growths of weeds of any plot of ground hereabouts. Except for a small group of graves that were kept mowed and cleaned by individuals who owned them, the cemetery was a wilderness of rank growth. The cemetery association officers are to be congratulated for the fine showing made in the past decade. The Oswego Cemetery is now as neat and pleasurable to the eye as any in the Fox Valley. The question now is how to keep it that way. The problem that looms largest before the officers is the lack of funds.”
One June 22, 1953, a public meeting was held to discuss selling the cemetery to Oswego Township.
In the Aug. 27 Ledger, Lippold commented: “The transfer of the Oswego cemetery to the Township of Oswego is a move that will guarantee maintenance of the property in years to come. The Cemetery Association has accomplished a fine piece of work by bringing the cemetery to its present well-groomed condition on a limited amount of funds, but it has become increasingly harder each year to make both ends meet. There are many lots in the older part of the cemetery from which no income in the way of perpetual care is available and it is necessary to provide some way for these lots to be mowed and cared for and to keep the cemetery in good condition. Operating as a Township Cemetery will work no hardship on anyone.”
The Oswego Township Board subsequently accepted ownership of the cemetery, which has owned and maintained it ever since.
Click Here for directions to The Oswego Township Cemetery.