For many years the Catholics of Auburn have been without a suitable burial place for their dead. The old Cemetery (known as the State Street Cemetery), was poorly located, the land being low and wet, incapable of being properly drained, the soil, a blue clay, being altogether unsuitable for Cemetery purposes. The grounds were poorly maintained, the people finding it to be almost impossible to beautify them by the aid of vegetation or shrubbery. Nevertheless, the Cemetery rapidly filled. Prudence, even necessity, dictated the securing of new lands better adapted for cemetery purposes. The sentiment of the public required the suitability of soil should be combined with beauty of location.

After a conference, participated in by the pastors of the various Catholic churches in the city, and members of their congregations, eighty-five acres off land, about two miles from the center of the city, and beautifully located at the foot of Owasco Lake, were purchased in March 1880, for the sum of$9,500.00. The land combines every prerequisite for a beautiful burial place. The soil is a sandy loam.   The ground is rolling, and drainage is unnecessary. It is dry at all seasons of the year. A hill overlooks Owasco Lake , and a more beautiful landscape it would be difficult to find. There was, at the time of purchase, a fine brick house upon the grounds and a large gravel bed, which will furnish much more gravel than will be necessary for roads, &c., in the cemetery, and will prove a source of revenue to the corporation, as large quantities of gravel can be sold. There were also, at the time of purchase, barns and a tenement house upon the premises.

The work of surveying the grounds, moving barns, grading, fencing, planting trees, was begun and pushed forward during the months of July, August, and September 1880, under the personal supervision of Rev. William Seymour, and in October, 1880 thirteen acres were ready for Consecration.

On Sunday, October l0th, 1880, thirteen acres were consecrated by Rt. Rev. B.J. McQuaid , Bishop of the diocese. A large number of priests, and a vast concourse of people were present. The following is a report of the ceremony given by the Auburnian , the following day: “Yesterday afternoon, a large part of the Catholic citizens of Auburn met at the new Catholic Cemetery , at the foot of Owasco Lake , to assist in the ceremonies of consecration. Every vehcle in the city was in demand, and hundreds of men, women, and children, unable to find conveyances, trudged on foot.”

Fully three thousand people had assembled before the ceremonies began. Shortly after 3 o’clock the Rt. Rev. Bishop McQuaid , preceded by the priests and a number of acoloytes proceeded from the house and took up their station beneath a large black cross, which had been erected upon the hill overlooking the lake. Here the bishop recited the Latin prayers prescribed by the ritual, asking God to bless the new Cemetery. At the conclusion of the prayer the procession proceeded around the Cemetery in the following order: The cross bearer followed by the acoloytes , in cassock and surplice, bearing lighted candles. Next came the priests, also in cassock and surplice, chanting the psalms De Profundis and Miserere Mei Deus. The Bishop walked behind, sprinkling the ground on either side with holy water, and reciting the prayers. The procession passed completely around the grounds, and the solemn chant, the picturesque vestments of the clergymen, the lighted candles, the beautiful scenery united in producing a scene at once novel and impressive.

Having completed the rounds of the Cemetery the procession returned to the foot of the cross from which it had started. The bishop and priests, having ascended the platform which had been erected, completed the prayers, and the ceremony of consecration was at an end. The immense crowd gathered as closely to the platform as possible, to listen to the bishop’s sermon, which was in outline as follows:

“We gather here this beautiful October afternoon, this beautiful Sunday afternoon, in full view of one of nature’s prettiest pictures, to bless this Cemetery, these acres off land, God’s acres, and to dedicate them to the burial of the members of the Catholic Church who die in her communion. We have assembled, thousands of the Catholics of Auburn , and many others who though not Catholics, yet are kindly disposed, to witness a good work not alone for the Catholic portion of this community, but for all the citizens of Auburn . For here we have a beautiful spot, near by your city, on the delightful Owasco , where good people will rest in the peace of the Lord. We Catholics take part in these ceremonies because we believe in the Apostles Creed. Because we can say with one voice: I believe in God, the good, the merciful, the just Father. I believe in Jesus Christ, the Man God. I believe in the Holy Ghost. I believe in the Catholic Church, the one, the only, the true church of God , that was, and is, and ever will be, one and the same. I believe in the communion of Saints. What multitudes of those whose bodies will be laid at rest in the beautiful spot, their souls crowned in the court of Heaven, will testify to the truth of our creed, I believe in the communion of Saints! Standing here where multitudes will stand hereafter, with strong passions, with besetting sins, with weakness and faults, with what a sense of rest, of hope, of joy, do we reflect on the next article of our creed. I believe in the forgiveness of sins! How consoling, how elevating it is, for us who know, to think that we may cast ourselves at His feet and have our sins washed away through the merits of His adorable and merciful blood! Does it not give to us who know temptations and have yielded to them, hope and courage and strength to face the trials of the future, to know that if we will we may rise from our fallen state above future sin? I believe in the resurrection of the body. From this hill on Owasco , when God sends forth his angel, the dead will arise. You who stand here today in life and strength will rise and stand before the judgment seat of God. God speaks to us today. This beautiful scene, this placid lake, this fertile valley, this hillside with its variegated hues tell us of His power and of His goodness. We consecrate these God’s acres, for the reception of the bodies of those who believe as we believe. Those who believe in the remission of sins and the resurrection of the body, here will rest. It was a broad thought which procured so large a place for the burial of your dead. The small, petty way in which our forefathers prepared for their dead, is to be regretted. But we must not blame the mistakes of those who went before. For sanitary purposes it is better to remove cemeteries into the country. This brings me to the practical part of my remarks. Excuse me if my words savor of business. You know that your old place was not a suitable one and there were circumstances about its foundation, before I came, which were not very pleasant. I was urged to obtain a better place. I found obstacles in the way, but my heart, yearned to provide you a better place for the burial of your dead. It seems that if we have begun a day before we did we would not have been so favored. God bless the Catholics of Auburn for their patience, and I thank you for your patience in not giving way to discontent. Letting the dead past bury its dead. We look to the future. I beg of you all to read our charter. Our state is a grand old state, and a liberal one. She allows a number to come together and furnish a cemetery. In our charter the management of the cemetery is left to fifteen Trustees, comprising bishop, priests and laymen. Every dollar must be spent here. Neither I, nor any priest can make use of the money for any other purpose. Every dollar must be spent in payment for grounds, improvements, etc. You have a guarantee of the future in the Charter. We shall undertake to pay for improvements and keep the grass in order. The Directors must have money. We bear in mind that you are poor, and the prices have been ranged for $120 for choice lots 20×20 feet, and lots large enough to bury twenty adults, $60 to $70, and single grave, $6. We are endeavoring to arrange for getting money, and not charging more than necessary. We have laid out the Cemetery in the plan of landscape gardening. We have marked out only carriageways. The grass will be growing by next autumn. The Trustees will have absolute control.

A thousand lot owners with a thousand minds could not suggest or agree. Look at other Cemeteries where no uniformities exist. Trees and hedges have been planted and now cannot be removed without causing trouble. The corporation will be the judge of what kind of trees, etc. will be set out. Your minds must bend to theirs who will labor to beautify the grounds. See the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery , at Rochester , and you will understand the plan I refer to. Old Cemeteries are now being remodeled to have them present a uniform appearance. All roads will be kept free from grass and weeds and we mean in five years to have a beautiful greensward. Plants and shrubs will be planted in accordance with the plans of nature around us. Look at the scene and see if we cannot gather from the view a lesson how to make the place beautiful. I am sure I will have the good will of all and no fault finding, and then judge of our work ten years hence.  

Now for a little financial talk. The Treasurer will have an office where maps, etc. can be seen. You can pay down one-third of the purchase price and give your note for the balance, and then you can pay little by little until the note is taken up. The Directors have placed the price of lots very low, to encourage purchasers. We have made every arrangement for low prices. After January 1st 1881, five to ten dollars will be added to the price of lots. Now knowing that you will have time to pay, had you not better purchase at once? A gentleman in Rochester told me he would give any amount of money to find the last resting place of his father. Here a record will be kept of every death and where the dead is buried. Where in the hands of God and I ask you as good Catholics of Auburn to help us to make this place a beautiful spot. The Holy Sepulcher at Rochester is the most beautiful Catholic Cemetery in the United States . We intend to make this one more beautiful. Do not listen to grumblers. Poor human nature is weak. There are some who always find fault and want to do everything themselves. You will come here to shed tears and pray, and the time will come to have the prayers of priests and people for the dead at St. Joseph ‘s Cemetery. So, right here, I will say I hope we will be able in time to build a Chapel. In Rochester , every Sunday, the priest say prayers for the dead lying in Cemetery, and in the month of November, three times a week, and very soon everyday, they will pray in a beautiful, Christian manner, for all the dead in the Rochester Cemetery . On one side of this Chapel your priests will be buried and on the other side the sisters, right by the Church they have served. I have already said enough, for the reporters are around. (Cries of “go on!”) I am not for either party, I am for God. I know how good you are, and you will have a beautiful cemetery. The protestants are to have a new Cemetery, but I hope they will not take the city’s money for it. The city of Auburn is too honorable to take money from Catholics who are paying for a Cemetery, to help pay for a Cemetery of its own. On the first of November the priests will come to this Cemetery to have prayers. Nothing defiled can enter heaven. Our prayers can help the dead. Jesus have mercy by virtue of thy blood, let us pray to be faithful. We do not send every sinner to heaven. We do not stretch a hoary sinner in the church and praise him for virtues he never had. Suggesting that all Catholics kneel, and others remain standing, the Bishop concluded by giving them his Episcopal blessing.”

On the 17 st October, 1880 the first interment was made.

In the spring of 1880, a Charter was obtained from the Legislature of the State, and on August 23, 1880, the gentleman named in the act as Trustees met and organized for the carrying on of the work, the Rt. Rev. Bishop presiding. It is proposed in this pamphlet to give the charter, Certificate of ownership of lots, rules and regulations of the Cemetery, a financial report from the beginning of January 1, 1882, the plan and design of the Cemetery, an account of the work done, and a list of lot holders.