History lives in two of New Berlin's oldest cemeteries
City considers landmark status for both
New Berlin — The last two burial grounds in New Berlin that reach back to the 1800s may themselves be memorialized soon.
Both are making their way to becoming official historic landmarks.
One, the New Berlin Center Cemetery at 180th Street and National Avenue, is the oldest in the city. It is where the bones of the man credited with giving New Berlin its name are laid. The burial ground with the first recorded burial in 1841.
The other is Sunnyside Cemetery at Racine Avenue and Interstate 43. It's the resting place of the pioneer Yankee pastor who could be called the Father of Prospect Hill, a pioneer crossroads community where the New Berlin Historical Park is located at 19765 to 19885 National Ave. The first recorded burial was in 1842, but an infant was laid to rest at Sunnyside the year before.
Though they seem far apart, both burial grounds served the Prospect Hill community, and the graves of members of the same families can be seen at each one, according to the New Berlin Historical Society, which studied the history of both cemeteries in 2008.
The New Berlin Landmarks Commission will hold hearings at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 21 about granting local landmark status to the historic cemeteries, both of which are still active.
The three other cemeteries with burials dating from the 1800s that already have landmark status are the German Evangelical Protestant Cemetery, the German Evangelical Reformed Cemetery and Holy Apostles Cemetery, said Laurie DeMoss, Landmarks Commission chairwoman.
Recognizing, protecting and revering a community's cemeteries is important, DeMoss said.
"Knowing a cemetery is knowing your history as a people," she said. "It's fascinating."
For example, New Berlin Center and Sunnyside both show that the majority of the earliest settlers were Yankees, she said. It wasn't until a bit later that the German migration began, she said.
New Berlin Center history
The New Berlin area wasn't opened wide for settlement until the 1839 land grant, DeMoss said. Then settlers headed to New Berlin up the Indian trail that became National Avenue.
In 1837, the Publius Monroe, a wealthy Yankee settler, moved to the township of Mentor, which eventually became the city of New Berlin. Prospect Hill was a settlement within the township.
It was Monroe who is credited with convincing leaders at the first city meeting to change the name of the township to match the name of the hometown of some of the original settlers, New Berlin, N.Y., DeMoss said. Monroe went on to serve as the first town clerk in 1842.
He had already donated land in 1841 for the first log school, at National Avenue and Calhoun Road. That same year, he donated land for the New Berlin Center Cemetery after his daughter died.
While the graves of the pioneers are marked, many aren't there. For most who lie beneath the grass in unmarked graves, the names of unidentified travelers, who died while making their way through the area, will never be known.
Since 1910, the cemetery has been cared for by descendants of Thomas Boyd, the youngest of three Scottish-born brothers who arrived in the 1840s, the society's history tells. Along with the Boyd family, it is the resting place of many with family names well known in the community — Meidenbauer, Winton, Killips, Monroe, Church and Korn.
Sunnyside Cemetery, on the southern slope of Prospect Hill, was created by the Rev. Rufus Cheney, a pioneer clergyman.
The Historical Society looks upon him as the Father of Prospect Hill because he fulfilled three major needs in the community.
In 1840, he organized Wisconsin's first Freewill Baptist Church congregation and then set aside some of his land for Sunnyside, originally to be used as the church cemetery. In 1843 he opened a school in his home for the children of his congregation, according to the Historical Society.
Later, his Cheney School building was moved to the top of the hill to become Prospect Hill School, according to the society.
Veterans of six wars also are buried in its grounds, including 18 who might have heard the whistle of deadly Minié balls of Civil War rifles.
The Sunnyside Cemetery Association operates and maintains the cemetery where headstones can be found bearing the family names of some of the earliest pioneers — Cheney, Ingersoll, Farnham, Kippers, Claflin, Wood, Vanderpool, Blott and Peck.
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