Paris Beacon-News, 1976
A review of the history of Edgar Cemetery and a progress report of “Project ‘76” furnished an interesting program for the members of the Edgar County Historical Society at the Presbyterian Church.
Carl Stacy, sexton of Edgar Cemetery, knows its history as only a few others possibly could. Recalling its beginning he said that ten years after the organization of the Cemetery Association in 1858, F.M. Link, owner of the brickyard nearby, was asked to oversee the cemetery and keep the records, getting name, age and cause of death for each person buried there. In 1907, John Stacy began work there as a young day laborer and eventually the job became a full time occupation as sexton which stayed in the family as he passed it on to his son, Carl.
Originally a group of 39 men had purchased seven acres of land just off High Street on the north slope of the wooded hill, clearing, plotting and auctioning off lots. The land had been owned by Jonathan Young, who had cleared a home site there, and who gave additional land for the new cemetery if the group would deed him cleared land for his new house. From the beginning the venture was a nonprofit one and all revenue has been returned to the cemetery for upkeep and beautification of the grounds or roads.
Located on the direct wagon route from Indiana and on east over the Lower Terre Haute Road north to Chicago, people were accustomed to camp at this high wooded spot, drink at the nearby spring and bury their dead in the woods on the hilltop. So there were already several graves there in “Potters Field” as family or friends were accustomed to digging graves for their dead in any convenient place.
The first records of burials in the (Edgar) cemetery are dated 1858 and Mr. Stacy stated it is remarkable that old cemetery records are as complete as they are since Illinois law was somewhat lax and it was 1916 before death and burial certificates were mandatory. In 1870 a burial vault was built to hold bodies in time of epidemic or extreme need though it is seldom used anymore and will soon be removed.
Today there are 18,000 graves in the cemetery, with many bodies having been brought there from the Methodist and Presbyterian cemeteries in Paris and others from out of the county. Apparently there have been an unusually large number of private graveyards in Edgar County, many of which have been lost today.
Mr. Stacy closed by noting the changes which have become apparent over the years in the manner of burial and by studying the records. Gone are the horse-drawn hearses which often had to be pulled out of the mud along Edgar Street or in the cemetery itself. Records used to show many deaths from smallpox, typhoid and other epidemics, many infant deaths, as well as those of young mothers and their babies who died in childbirth and records show how much longer people are living today.
In the future, Mr. Stacy sees more cremation and more mausoleums as space is unavailable. Also spaces on lots which are not filled and will never be used by the families owning the lot will, perhaps after a suitable time lapse, be offered for sale according to new laws being adopted now.