The Origin of the Evergreen Cemetery

The Evergreen Cemetery Association was established in 1863.  The first person to die in what is now Fort Atkinson was Dwight Foster’s father Edward. Charles B. Rogers describes Edward Foster’s interment as follows:

In 1837 Dwight Foster's father, Edward, came to visit him and died here October 13, 1837, aged 60 years, 8 months and 23 days, the first death in our community. He was buried on the hill where the Weisses now live (north of the old Edgewater Stock Farm) but his remains were afterward removed to the Evergreen Cemetery. — Reminiscences of a Country Lawyer by Charles B. Rogers, 1999, pg. 12

The following map from 1919 shows the location of the old Edgewater Stock Farm (referenced above) in relation to the location of Evergreen Cemetery.

map form 1919

The founding of the association is discussed in the early history of cemeteries in Fort Atkinson as set forth on page 519 in The History of Jefferson County, Wisconsin published in 1879:

"In the early days of Fort Atkinson, the few burials that took place were made at a point on Section 3, a short distance up the river, on a hill, from the corner of which the city and surrounding country for miles around were distinctly visible. In these grounds, consecrated to the occupation of those of the pioneers who went before to be seen no more forever, the burial of Edward Foster on the 13th of October, 1837, was the first: William Prichard was buried two years later, and, with one other, was all that were therein interred. When the spot now known as Evergreen Cemetery was first utilized as a burying-ground, their bodies were removed to that locality, where they now sleep in sanctified repose.

In 1842, a cemetery was established on ground west of the city donated by Milo Jones, in which a sister of Philetus West was among the first burials, followed by that of Betsey Crane. On or about September 12, 1846, another cemetery was opened in the immediate vicinity, in which that of Olive, the wife of Thomas Crane, was among the first interments.

On the 24th of May, 1866, a meeting was held for the purpose of organizing a cemetery association and procuring the purchase of seventeen acres of ground on the Janesville road, about one mile from the city, in a southerly direction. No action was decided upon at that meeting, but, subsequently, Daniel Holmes, E. P. May, G. P. Marston, L. B. Caswell, J. D. Clapp, Milo Jones, Stephen Davis and C. Brigham purchased the property to be adapted to the uses contemplated. [This is believed to be a reference to the origin of the Lakeview Cemetery on the south side of Fort Atkinson.] In the mean time, the organization of Evergreen Cemetery Association was perfected. Since the land was first offered, about forty lots have been taken up by purchasers, in which from seventy-five to one hundred interments have been made.

The Evergreen Association was organized at a meeting held on Saturday evening, January 24, 1863, attended by many prominent citizens, including Jared Alling, Milton Snell, Jesse Dodge, W. J. Barrie, Rufus Dodge, S. A. Rice, B. Roberts, Newton Snell, F. J. Roberts, William Avery, John and William Strong, W. W. Snell and B. Rhodes. Jared Alling presided and M. Snell officiated as Secretary, and the object accomplished, as set forth in the constitution adopted, was the formation of an association for the purpose of procuring lands to be used exclusively for cemetery purposes. Jesse Dodge was elected President of the Association; Milton Snell, Secretary, and S. A. Rice, Treasurer, with Rufus Dodge, Newton Snell, W. J. Barrie, Milton Snell, Jesse Dodge and S. A. Rice as Board of Trustees.

Land was procured at various times from Jesse Dodge, Perry H. Smith, Thomas Barrie, Newton Snell, Levi Tooker, J. W. Hatch, Frederick Bolt [Boldt] and others until the Association now owns about twenty-five acres about three-quarters of a mile from the city's center, beautifully located, the grounds handsomely laid out, planted with flowers and trees and decorated with tombs and monuments of elaborate design and exquisite finish. No city in the State possesses a more attractive place of sepulture for its dead, nor is there a cemetery in the Northwest upon which care and attention are more lavishly expended than upon that within sight of the city by the lake."

Here is the founding document of the Evergreen Cemetery that indicates it was John and William Newman and not John and William Strong that were in attendance at the 1863 meeting. F. J. Roberts was elected as the first Sexton of Evergreen Cemetery in 1863.

The Evergreen Cemetery began as a small property of a few acres located on the west side of North Main Street in Fort Atkinson, and has expanded over the years to approximately 25 acres.  Here is a map of the cemetery as it existed in 1899 and a photograph of the Cemetery Cottage circa 1910.

There are three cemeteries in Fort Atkinson. The cemeteries are Evergreen Cemetery owned by Evergreen Cemetery Association located on the north side of the city; Lakeview Cemetery owned by Lakeview Cemetery Association on the south side; and St. Josephs Congregation Cemetery which is adjacent to Lakeview Cemetery. According to Jefferson County Land Information at the Jefferson County Courthouse, the Evergreen Cemetery is 24.85 acres in size and is the largest cemetery in Fort Atkinson. Lakeview Cemetery has 13.76 acres of land and the Catholic Cemetery has 4.96 acres of land. Evergreen Cemetery is the second largest cemetery in Jefferson County. The largest cemetery in Jefferson County is the Oak Hill Cemetery in Watertown, Wi. which has 27.67 acres of land.