Early Provo Cemeteries(view source)
Fort Field Cemetery
In 1849, John S. Higbee was sent to Provo by Brigham Young to find a suitable place to settle a colony on the Provo River. Two weeks after his report, thirty-one families consisting of about fifty people made the three day trip to the south side of the Provo River. On April 3rd of the same year, these settlers began a stockade known as Fort Utah, but the name was soon changed to Fort Field. Eight people died that first year. Cemetery records disclose that George and Matilda Haws, Harriet Turner, and William Dayton were four of the eight. They were buried in the FIRST Fort Field graveyard which was located on the Williams farm located just across the highway at Lake View (now known as Geneva Road). There is a Daughters of Utah Pioneers Marker near these burial grounds.
Pioneer life resulted in several fatal accidents. For instance, William Dayton was killed as he and George W. Bean were giving a demonstration of the cannon. One shot had been fired, and a spark ignited the powder during reloading. Dayton was killed and Mr. Bean lost his left arm. “Hout” Conover rode 120 miles in twenty hours to Centerville for Dr. Blake. This was a feat of riding history.
Also recorded is the death of Joseph Higbee on February 9, 1850. He was “behind a log with his companion, it being so very quiet he raised his head to look about and was shot through the neck” (from Diary of Epsy Jane Williams Pace). He was the only living son of Isaac Higbee, a Bishop in Nauvoo and Salt Lake. This occurred during a battle with Indians where several people were wounded.
Temple Hill Cemetery
In 1850, a better location was found and a second fort was built. The houses and stockade were moved and replaced on the second spot. Later that year, it was extended by another addition or fort. A SECOND Fort Field Cemetery was begun. In The History of Provo 4th Ward, John E. Booth states, “Fort Field Cemetery name is changed to Temple Hill.” By 1880, this site was discarded as a burial ground as the soil was too sandy, causing graves to cave in before burials could take place. This site is where the Maeser Building now stands on the Brigham Young University campus.
Grandview Hill Cemetery
A THIRD cemetery was located on Grandview Hill. In about 1860, the corner of three land grants belonging to James Smith, Joseph Thompson, and a man named Rasmussen, became the burial ground for a child of Thompson. As time went on, other burials were added and eventually not only were there graves on the Thompson land, but on the land belonging to the other two landowners. By 1879, this location had become a fair-sized cemetery (around sixty burials). The landowners objected and refused to allow other burials to take place. They also requested that the bodies of those buried there be removed at the expense of their families. Most of the bodies were removed to Temple Hill Cemetery. However, some next of kin had moved from the community, others could not afford the expense involved, while still others preferred to leave their loved ones unmolested, even though it meant they would rest in an unmarked grave. Two Rasmussen children are still buried there and their graves are marked by two lilac bushes north and west of the Baptist Church on Columbia Lane.
Provo City Cemetery
The first Fort Field Cemetery was too wet, the Temple Hill Cemetery (second Fort Field) was too sandy, and the Grandview Hill Cemetery, where three farms converged had been closed at the request of the landowners. A new burial location was needed, so on June 11, 1853, a special meeting was called at the Public Square (Pioneer Park). A committee was appointed to find a better place for a cemetery. On June 25, 1853, their report was presented and the current site of the Provo City Cemetery on Springville Road (State Street) was chosen.
The Provo City Cemetery was dedicated in 1853. The process of moving the remains from surrounding burial grounds to the Provo City Cemetery took many years to complete. The records show that George Haws, Matilda Haws, Harriette Turner, and Wm. Dayton were moved from Fort Field to the Provo City Cemetery. Mary Blake Peay, Abisha Ware, and others were moved to the Provo City Cemetery from Temple Hill Cemetery. The Daughters of Utah Pioneers memorial drinking fountain lists the names of the known pioneers who were moved here from other burial sites. The first burial listed in the Provo City Cemetery records, not moved from a previous site is Joseph Whipple in December 1856.
Inside the cemetery, a large area was designated for the remains of those people who were relocated from the Temple Hill Cemetery. It is in Block 5, Lot 62, which is located at 5th West and 1st South. Some headstones are present, but most are unmarked graves.
Pioneer Memorial Drinking Fountain
In 1964, a drinking fountain was erected by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers which lists some of the known pioneers that were moved from other cemeteries. Their names and known locations are listed as follows:
Matilda & George Haws (Block 4, Lot 18, 17)
Harriet M. Turner (Block 4, Lot 4)
Jacob Cloward (Block 3, Lot 4)
Jacob H. Barney
Sarah & William McLane
Abisha Ware (Block 4, Lot 80)
Mary B. Peay (Marker in Block 5, Lot 62)
Elizabeth Baum (Block 1, Lot 53)
Mrs. Jerome Benson
Heber C. Davis
William K. Follett
Elizabeth Sarah Goodman
John Moroni Goodman
John Haws, Sr. (Block 1, Lot 40)
O. Foster McCarroll
Ann S. B. Robbins
John Rogers Tobbins
Emma B. Thatcher
Cemetery records show burial property purchased in 1878 by: W. D. Startup, George Baum, and James J. Talmage. Other owners are listed, but no deeds were recorded so the dates are unknown. At that time a lot capable of 32 adult burials was selling for $5.00, which did NOT include perpetual maintenance. With inflation, that is the equivalent of $20,000 in 1997. In 1997 those same 32 burial rights, including perpetual maintenance, would cost $19,200.
Other Early Cemeteries Near Provo
On the old township maps, a Christmas City graveyard is located on the south side of the entrance to Provo Canyon. It was an old mining area and is now a gravel pit.
American Fork Canyon had extensive mining at one time. In the area of Mary Ellen Flat there is a cemetery where many miners are buried.
“Undocumented” Burial Sites
On the east side of State Street, three-fourths of the way up Orem Hill, there were several burials.
The mouth of Slate Canyon was said to have several burials.
A place below the “Y” on the mountain and an area up Springdell in the canyon had burials.
There were burials sites just about everywhere, as many people desired to be laid to rest by favorite trees, hills, mountains, etc. A particularly beautiful site might have several burials.