140 years of memories of Emmett cemeteries remind us of our past

By DIANA BAIRD, Messenger-Index   May 26, 2013

From the small 1873 Martinsville burial ground, to the 1903 larger hilltop River View Cemetery, now called Emmett Cemetery, 140 years of Emmett’s memorial history can be traced through the cemetery’s tombstones.

In the early days, it was customary for families to bury their loved ones on their own property on the wild grasslands up and down the river. Why should anyone pay for burial lots when they could use their own ground without costs.

Emmett’s first cemetery was located on the south side of West Fourth Street. In 1882, some graves were located on the bench north of town. Among the first to be buried there was Jason Kelley and James Bennett. Clint Brown, Emmett’s undertaker, put a notice in the Index in 1894 and asked for interested persons to improve the bench cemetery. They were to remove sagebrush, repair the grade and do other work. One of the oldest tombstones is that of Thomas J. Davies, who died Aug. 11, 1865 at 31 years old. He was later buried at the Riverview Cemetery in the Masonic plot at the north end.

There had been a small graveyard located northwest of town used in the early days by families and later Bill Burkhardt bought a farm in the area, which included a small burial ground. Many of the families removed coffins and reburied them in the River View Cemetery. Some of the graves were never moved.

Riverview Cemetery

John F. Bayse, Samuel Walker, Charles Martin and Douglas Knox families moved their deceased from the Emmett Cemetery to the new location on the bench. The remains of Aaron and Louise Bascom, Neils Hansen and others were also taken to the bench grounds. After a few years, relatives moved their dead and the Riverside Cemetery was no longer in use.

1903 Riverview Cemetery platted

The 1903 plat was recorded in Canyon County before there was a Gem County.

Emmett Odd Fellows took their obligation to bury the dead very seriously. In 1909, a story in the Index stated that the Emmett burial ground had long been an eyesore and a disgrace to the community. Owing to the lack of water, there had been some excuse for its condition but they desired to make the sacred spot beautiful and inviting. L. A. Trowbridge of the Canyon Canal Company generously offered to donate a sufficient water right to irrigate the land.

In 1918, the bench or Riverside Cemetery, as it was often called, was a desolate place of cheat grass, sagebrush and ill-kept graves. When John B. Davies’s son was killed in WWI and his body sent home for burial, Davies started a one-man cemetery improvement crusade. He spent over twenty years as supervisor of the cemetery, improving and beautifying the place and bringing about an orderly arrangement of the grounds. He died at the age of 90 years old and was buried beside his son in the green shaded cemetery which he had beautified.

The Riverside Cemetery eventually became the Emmett Cemetery.

Editor’s note: information collected from the Gem County Historical Society.

Some early pioneer tombstones
1865 - Thomas J. Davies
1873 - Mrs. James Wardwell
1884 - Nathaniel Martin
1890 - Samuel Walker
1891 - James Wardwell
1898 - John Bayse

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