In March of 1842, the reading of William Drake will’s stated his wishes emphatically:
“It is my will and desire that a certain part of the above piece of land now fenced off and used as public burying ground be at all time and times hereafter reserved for that use and purpose forever.”
This was a portion of the Drake family farm along what is now Sunset Drive.
A number of citizens saw the need for more land to be used as a public burying ground, so they formed together to purchase a piece of land.
Benjamin Drake, son of William, joined this group and in April 19, 1850, they purchased three acres and the included with it was the portion in William’s will.
Thus, began the St. Thomas Cemetery, originally not facing West Ave where our entrance is currently.
St. Thomas Cemetery -West Avenue is the first location of the St. Thomas Cemetery Company; not the first cemetery in St. Thomas but by far it is the largest.
West Ave. encompasses 25 acres of gently rolling hills. Some of the monuments in this cemetery weigh in excess of 7 tonne and raise to over 15 ft in height, an architectural fascination considering the lack of technology to raise such tributes to life.
St. Thomas did boast two cemeteries in the 1800’s, obviously the first is the Old English Church Cemetery and the other was on Curtis St. As the city expanded, the first 10 acres of land for the cemetery was donated by Benjamin Drake, a farmer who was reported to have buried his wife on the most beautiful portion of his land — now the West Ave. Cemetery.
The Curtis Street Cemetery was moved to West Ave., and that land is now the site of Valleyview Home for the Aged. Piece by piece the cemetery has become 25 acres.
Our next expansion site is to South Park Cemetery, once again on the outskirts of the city — but for how long?