St. Joseph Cemetery Association

St. Joseph Cemetery, often referred to as New St. Joseph Cemetery, is located in the western hills of Cincinnati, Ohio. Nestled in a primarily residential area, the cemetery consists of 163 rolling acres and was once part of the Terry family farm.

The original St. Joseph Cemetery is located on 19.22 acres at what is now West Eighth Street and Enright Avenue. Purchased by Archbishop John B. Purcell in 1842, the land was divided, half for German Catholic burials and half for Irish Catholic burials.

As the city of Cincinnati and the neighborhood of Price Hill grew, West Eighth Street was extended through the graveyard, making it necessary to relocate some burials. Most of the displaced graves and land belonged to the Irish portion of the cemetery. St. Joseph Cemetery Association retains jurisdiction and is responsible for care of the cemetery at the North West corner of West Eighth St. and Enright Ave.

Purcell Purchases Land

Sullivans Caretakers

Ecclesiastical Resting Place

Springer Benefactor

Zoo Employee Hero

Tiffany Granite Shipped Here

Cemetery Within Cemetery

Rachel Commemorates Unborn

A Vision To The Future

A Vision To The Future

A leisurely stroll or drive through St. Joseph Cemetery today allows even the untrained eye to focus on changes in burial customs. Gone are the days when most families purchase the towering and ornate monuments and statues of former times. In some sections, only lawn level markers are permitted. A beautifully landscaped complex of outdoor mausoleums and lawn crypt gardens is a focal point of the cemetery. The mausoleums allow head to foot as well as side by side entombments. The lawn crypts accommodate two burials. These are examples of modern of serving a need as the supply of land becomes scarce. More recent additions include niches for those families who choose cremation. These niches are incorporated in the bases of shrines to the Blessed Mother and the Ascension of Jesus Christ.

Today, as nationalities have more and more blended into one, there is a cross section of cultures and backgrounds. Over the years the rolling acres have been maintained and improved with a variety of plants, shrubs and trees. However, the cemetery remains a hallowed place to honor the dead in a Christian environment. Also it stands as a place of beauty for the community, changing with the seasons but anchored in Christ’s eternal promise of life after death.

Throughout our lives, the Catholic Church has baptized us, fortified us with the Sacraments, assisted our growth and development through the schools, blessed our marriages, and anointed us in illness and death.

We are people of faith. This cemetery is a sacred place that shows the same respect and dignity for our deceased family and friends that we showed them in life. Each visit to the cemetery is a reminder of the love and regard we shared for each other. It is also a reminder of our own mortality and a belief of the Resurrection.

We acknowledge, with appreciation, the dedication of our Board of Trustees, staff, funeral directors, clergy, lay ministers and all who assist in serving our Catholic community.

Rachel Commemorates Unborn

The latest addition to the grounds is a statue of Rachel, the Old Testament figure immortalized in the writings of Jeremiah. Commissioned by the Board of Trustees, it was dedicated in ceremonies on Memorial Day, 1995. “Rachel has become a symbol of healing and remembrance for those mourning lost born and unborn babies: those children known as the Holy Innocents”, the inscription proclaims. Included also is the sad verse from Jeremiah 31:15, “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping bitterly; it is Rachel weeping for her children because they are no more.”

Local schools, both parochial and public, sponsor field trips to St. Joseph Cemetery to study history, statistics and related topics. They will discover several areas designated as baby gardens for children who have died in infancy. There is also a veterans only section honoring those who have paid the ultimate price in service to their country. : Today that section is filled, but it contains the remains of veterans from the Civil War through the Vietnam War.

Students and others can chuckle at the gravesite of the Irishman Michael Lally, whose monument in the Southeast Plat indicates he died April 31, 1902, no doubt a day late and a dollar short.

To many visitors, epitaphs are a most intriguing and interesting aspect. The by-laws of the official rules and regulations of the cemetery in 1880 stated that “epitaphs should be plain and simple.” Quoting an unnamed but eminent writer of the day, the by-laws go on to say, “An inscription for the dead should be simple in style, sparing in words, modest in eulogy. The long and labored epitaph is seldom read, glowing encomium (high praise) is received with distrust. Excessive praise …always seems especially so when heaped upon the dead.”

Perhaps this advice led a journalist to have inscribed “Copy All In”, a doctor to choose “Office Upstairs”, and an attorney to settle on “The Defense Rests”.

However, one of the best pieces of tombstone prose was written by Benjamin Franklin, who in 1728 penned his premature epitaph.

The body of Benjamin Franklin
Like the covering of an old book
It’s contents worn out
And stripped of it’s lettering and gilding
Lies here, food for worms;
But the work shall not be lost
It will appear once more
In a new and more beautiful edition
Corrected and amended by the author.

Cemetery Within Cemetery

It is a little known fact that within St. Joseph Cemetery at the west end along Covedale Avenue stands a tiny cemetery within a cemetery. This small parcel was the site of the Delphi Universalist Church begun in 1838 and disbanded in 1872. All that remains are the 29 graves of the congregation’s deceased members.

Upon disbanding, the members donated the half acre of land to Buchtel College in Akron, Ohio, stipulating the college could never sell the land while it was used for a graveyard. The college became the University of Akron and in 1970 deeded the property to St. Joseph Cemetery for $1. The cemetery association maintains the land and preserves the graves.

Located close to what was formerly the main gate of the cemetery at the end of West Eighth Street is a giant mausoleum. Built in 1911 and housing 1200 crypts, it is believed to be the fourth oldest public mausoleum in The United States. In 1990 the building was completely refurbished at a cost of $650,000.

The exterior construction of the mausoleum is limestone and granite. Massive copper doors open to the interior clad in marble from Carrara, Italy. Natural lighting is supplied by fifty-one handsome stained and leaded glass windows. This historic mausoleum is utilized for our Candlelight Prayer Services, Cemetery Sunday Mass and for an internment chapel for committal services.

In 1964 the administration-chapel building was completed along with the adjacent 43 foot bell tower. Archbishop Karl J. Alter dedicated the complex in impressive ceremonies the last week in July. The building provides needed space for the growing business and record-keeping of the cemetery. The chapel offers mourners an alternative to gravesite burial in inclement weather, valuable and historical data are kept in fireproof vaults.

Tiffany Granite Shipped Here

Sometime between 1929 and 1932 the Williams family of Western-Southern Life Insurance Company fame purchased a single piece of granite from Tiffany’s in New York City to mark their 30 grave plot. The monument is the largest single piece of granite in the cemetery and features Jesus stretching out his arms in an expression of love and welcome. The stone which was shipped at great expense to the fragile highway system of the time, is located in Section 1.

The Peter Palazzolo family has an impressive private mausoleum of rainbow granite in Section 8. For many years Mr. Palazzolo was a leader of the Italian community in Cincinnati. He is remembered for spearheading spaghetti dinners at Sacred Heart Church downtown. Throngs waited in block-long lines to enjoy Pete’s tasty cuisine. The tradition continues at Sacred Heart Church in Camp Washington. The entrepreneurial skills and good deeds of the Palazzolos are well known and appreciated by the city and the archdiocese.

Although military funerals are not uncommon in the history of St. Joseph Cemetery, the largest by far occurred in recent times. Michael J. Pohlkamp, a lieutenant in the United States Navy, was killed May 13, 1992, in a mid-air collision in Pensacola, Florida. A veteran of the Persian Gulf War, he was buried from neighboring St. Dominic Church. By the time the hearse bearing 28 year old Officer Pohlkamp’s body arrived at the gravesite, the last car in the funeral cortege had not left the church. Press and military personnel only added to the crowd that day. Pohlkamp’s image is chiseled on his gravestone along with the word “Mizzou”, comorating the hero’s career as a swimmer at the University of Missouri. The gravesite is in Section 22.

Zoo Employee Hero

Patrick McAvoy, who died in 1906, is buried in Section 3 under an ornate, weatherbeaten stone that depicts his claim to fame in life. Patrick was employed at the Cincinnati Zoo. In the days before the zoo officially opened in September, 1875, a lioness escaped from a cage and attacked a donkey. Several employees attempted to corner the lioness but were bitten and clawed.

The animal was then shot by McAvoy. Tradition holds he became an instant hero and renowned for never having to buy a drink at a bar in deference to his courageous act.

Springer Benefactor

Reuben Springer, best known as the chief benefactor of Cincinnati’s famed Music Hall, was also a convert to Catholicism. Having amassed a fortune by operating the prosperous grogery house Taylor and Company, owned by his father-in-law Henry Kilgour, Mr. Springer spent much of his long life performing charitable works. It is estimated that for a considerable period of time he gave away an average of $75 a day or more than $25,000 a year before he died in 1884. The Springer monument is located in Section 1. The inscription on the stone has been erased by the weather, but prophetically it reads, “…rest from their labors for their good works follow them.”

Perhaps the most spectacular of the many private mausoleums located in the cemetery is that of Robert J. O’Brien in Section 15. Designed in the form of a Celtic cross by the French architect Louis Belmont, the monument was built in 1925 of Mt. Airy granite from North Carolina for a reported cost of $75,000. The mausoleum is a chapel complete in every detai including water and wine cruets which have never been used, Stained-glass windows and mosaics of a host of saints.

There are four burial crypts in the main section of the mausoleum, but only two are occupied. One holds the remains of bachelor politician Robert O’Brien, who died in 1948; the other contains his brother John, also a bachelor, who died in 1967. In the undercroft of the mausoleum are 21 crypts, with the right of entombment given to the Little Sisters of the Poor for burial of their indigent clients. Directors of a trust oversee the care of the monument since there are no survivors of the O’Brien brothers, who were known for their beneficence, especially to orphans.

Ecclesiastical Resting Place

The history of St. Joseph Cemetery is filled with colorful people and interesting stories. Within it’s boundaries are found the remains of Bishop Edward D. Fenwick, a Dominican priest and the first bishop of Cincinnati; Archbishop William H. Elder, the third bishop of Cincinnati; and Archbishop Henry K. Moeller, the fourth bishop of Cincinnati.

Bishop Fenwick traveled extensively in the Midwest missionary territory of his day. Often he was gone for months at a time. He died of cholera in Wooster, Ohio in 1832 and was buried there immediately to prevent the spread of the dread disease.

Six months later the bishop’s remains were reburied in the first cathedral located on the spot of St. Xavier Church on Sycamore Street in downtown Cincinnati. In 1845-46, he was transferred to the site of the new cathedral, St. Peter In Chains at Eighth and Plum Streets, an in 1916 was relocated in the St. Joseph Cemetery mausoleum, having traveled as much in death as he did in life.

Archbishop Elder, when he was bishop of Natchez, Mississippi, attended Vatican 1. During the Civil War he was arrested by Union troops for refusing to pray for them from the pulpit. However, he also refused to pray for Confederate troops, believing the Church should be neutral. The courage and character of the gentle bishop showed itself in his stand. It was with the heart of a martyr that he went calmly into exile, and into a Louisiana prison until he was pardoned by Abraham Lincoln.

Archbishop Moeller was a “local boy made good”. He was the first native son to lead the archdiocese. The Moeller years were noted for the number of churches and institutions that were built, including St. Rita School for the Deaf. He was particularly dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament. The Holy Name Society flourished in his tenure.

Priests and nuns of all times and orders are buried within the gates of the cemetery. Among them are Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Mercy, Little Sisters of the Poor, Brothers of the Poor of St. Francis, members of the Society of Jesus and diocesan priests. Well known and unknown are honored equally, including politicians, service men and women, sports figures and civic leaders. Among them is Xavier University president Paul L. O’Connor, S.J.

Among the least celebrated to the contemporary visitor but certainly among the most important persons in the history of the archdiocese is Mrs. Sarah Peter, who died in 1877. The eldest daughter of Thomas Worthington, sixth governor of Ohio and one-time United States Senator, Mrs. Peter converted to Catholicism following the death of her second husband. Her life is a series of good works benefiting civic, cultural and religious institutions in Cincinnati where she finally settled.

The church remembers most, her being responsible for bringing five orders of religious women to the area – the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis, the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Sacred Heart nuns. She is also responsible for the presence of the Passionist Priests in Cincinnati. Her unique mausoleum is located in Section 3. No other family member is buried there.

As a result of her good works, Mrs. Peter has been called the mother of the church in Cincinnati. Some even consider her a candidate for canonization. In addition to her religious contributions, she began the Cincinnati Art Academy and was a patroness of the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Another unknown benefactress is Mary Shanahan whose lot is located in the Southeast Plat. She made a practice of opening her home to the poor and the orphaned. Her charitable works were a constant part of her life, and in 1910 she founded St. Theresa Home. A native of County Waterford, Ireland, her legacy continues and indeed expands with the recent opening of the Mercy St. Theresa Center on the site of the former Mercy Hospital in Mariemont. Mrs. Shanahan’s family predeceased her, and the memorial inscription on her monument was just recently completed through the kindness of an anonymous donor 64 years after her death.

Unique among a variety of monument styles is the doll house in Section 2. Built by stone mason John Keating to commemorate the deaths of his two children and a niece who died between the years of 1868 and 1878. The doll house is precise in every detail including the individually carved shingles on the roof. Reputedly when it was built, the doll house included furniture scaled to size.

Sullivans Caretakers

For several generations, St. Joseph Cemetery was cared for by the Sullivan family. They lived in a large, red brick home on the grounds along Covedale Avenue. Another person long associated with the cemetery is Jim Casey who worked as a foreman until he was almost 80 years old. Casey left Ireland when he was 18 years old after his father told him their house was not big enough for two men.

Captain DeLaney, a long time employee at Spring Grove Cemetery, was hired at St. Joseph about the time the Civil War began. Answering the call for Union volunteers, DeLaney left his elaborate plans for the beautification of the cemetery in the hands of his capable wife. The captain, a member of Colonel Toland’s regiment, was killed in battle in Wytheville, Virginia in 1863. Mrs. DeLaney became superintendent and worked diligently to carry out her husband’s work. “Her devotion and zeal were remarkable”, according to cemetery historians.

Purcell Purchases Land

When all the lots were sold in the original St. Joseph, Archbishop Purcell bought 61.31 acres two miles west of the original site in 1853. Over the years, the cemetery has grown to 163 acres. Most of the people buried in the new grounds were of Irish and Italian descent. Since August 9, 1880, when incorporation took place, both properties fall under the auspices of The St. Joseph Cemetery Association. At that time, a single grave under four feet in length cost $4.00, over four feet $5.00. An adult internment in a plain grave was $2.00, in a box grave $3.00.

The second cholera epidemic to descend upon Cincinnati between 1849 and 1854 devastated the Catholic immigrant population. Some Protestants in those bygone days saw the disaster as “God’s wrath on intemperate and irreverent Catholics.” In reality,cholera spread due to overcrowded, unsanitary and substandard housing in the city’s basin area and the West End.

People were dying at such an alarming rate that old St. Joseph Cemetery reached capacity, Archbishop Purcell’s purchase of the new cemetery property was critical. Here, bodies of the cholera victims were laid to rest on top of one another. The situation within the city was so bad that often Delhi Township farmers taking produce to town were required to carry wagon loads of bodies to St. Joseph’s on the way home. During this time, Cincinnati lost ten percent of it’s population, most Catholic and all poor.