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A Bit of Background

Mt. Hope Cemetery has served the people of Peru for over 160 years.  In June, 1845, 3 acres of land was purchased at $60 per acre from R.L. Britton and D.R. Bearss.  The land

was once a part of an area formerly known as Hospital Hill, and was at one time rich with oil derricks.  The plat books of Miami County describe the property as:  All that parcel of land

commencing at a post witnessed by a white oak 36" in diameter; South 5 deg; east 1.06 chains to a beech 24" in diameter; north 52 chains, then east 18 links on the west side of

an 80 acre lot."  Although there had been several graveyards in the vicinity, Mt. Hope Cemetery became the first "laid out and established cemetery" for the residents of Peru, Indiana.

It was laid out in 18 block sections, in what is now the far southeast corner of the cemetery.  The first recorded spaces that were sold were in August of that same year, it was also

the first recorded burial on August 3, 1845 for a child of Joseph Bryant in block 12 lot 20 space 1.  Within a short span of 36 years, all the burial spaces had been sold at such low

prices that there were no funds to keep the grounds in repair.                                                                                                   

In 1881, the Miami County Commissioners incorporated the cemetery.  A board of directors was elected by the lot owners to govern the organization.  The first board president was James T. Henton.  On November 9, 1882, Daniel Mehl was appointed as the cemeteries first sexton.  He was to be paid by the individuals who hired him to dig the grave; $3 per adult size space and $2.50 per child size space.  Any extra work that was done for the cemetery was paid for by the cemetery at a reasonable rate.  In 1884, an assessment of $6 per lot was set for the purpose of providing funds for the improvement of the grounds.  Then, in 1908, another assessment of $2.50 per lot was charged.

The Oak Grove Cemetery Association was organized on March 30, 1868.  It consisted of 17 1/2 acres that surrounded Mt. Hope Cemetery on the north and west.

On February 6, 1912, at a joint meeting of the two cemetery boards, a new Mount Hope Cemetery Association was formed by the consolidation of the Mt. Hope and Oak Grove

Cemeteries and incorporated by order of the Commissioners of Miami County.  At the time of consolidation, the assets of the association were $281.42 in cash with a loan of $1,900

at 6% interest on a first mortgage security.  While the assets of the Oak Grove Cemetery Association consisted of $285.58 in cash and nearly 10 acres of unsold land with a $3,000 mortgage by consolidating the two cemeteries, the available assets of the new association totaled $2,281.42 in working capital with approximately 9 acres of available land.  The

consolidation of the two proved to be highly beneficial to both and the community they served.

On February 3, 1913, a new board of directors was elected with Charles H. Brownell serving as president.  At that time, a new set of by-laws was adopted.  It is interesting to note

that in the by-laws regarding regulations on the grounds, it stated that no horses may be left unfastened in the cemetery and no riding horseback would be permitted on the grounds.

Another point of interest in the regulation was that no dogs were permitted on cemetery grounds.  This is still enforced today.  For the most part, those same by-laws are used to

govern the cemetery at the present time.

In August 1921, the Mt. Hope Cemetery Association proposed the purchase of a small area of land consisting of 91 burial lots from the Or Zion Society for $5,800.  However, the

final settlement was not concluded until June 1927.  This section remains today primarily as a Jewish portion within sections R and A of the Cemetery.  Click here to see the original sections of the cemetery.        

In October 1930, negotiations for acquiring a portion of land from the McDowell heirs, with intentions of building a new tool shed began.  It wasn't until May 1956 that the building was begun, and it wasn't until 1971 that a new business office and maintenance building were opened on the grounds.  The business office was formerly in the downtown area of Peru. This building now serves as the sexton's office and maintenance building.  In 1993, the association began a fundraising drive to build a chapel on the grounds to enable services to be held inside during inclement weather.  Thanks to all the generous donations of the community, the current business office and chapel were completed in 1997.

It wasn't until May 1982 that the Mt. Hope Cemetery Association assumed ownership of the mausoleum.  The mausoleum was built in 1912 and was owned by the Peru Mausoleum Company.  David E. Rhodes was the president of the company and Dr. B.F. Eikenberry was one of the first stock owners, purchasing ten shares at $100 each on December 18, 1912.

The mausoleum was made of reinforced concrete; the interior was faced in marble and had a capacity for 120 interments.  The oldest recorded interment in the mausoleum was on

January 1, 1915, according to Mt. Hope Cemetery records.  It is unfortunate that over the years the building has been vandalized on more that one occasion and is now kept locked from the general public.

The Board of Directors took several options for present day interments in the mausoleum under advisement.  Because of the historical significance of the building and other considerations, the cemetery board approved a program to improve the building in 2001.  Also, present day caskets would not fit in the crypts, which were designed for pine or oak

boxes.  The only size casket that will fit in the crypts are welfare caskets.  Therefore, in order to utilize the building, at the beginning of the year 2002, the mausoleum was set aside for welfare burials.

In 1999, the cemetery opened a pet section located along the north side, bordering the wood-line which offers a beautiful resting-place for those we have come to love as one of the family.  A dog, Boss Phillipy, interred in May 2000, occupied the first space; and the first cat, Buckwheat Akers, was buried in August 2002.

Over the years, the cemetery has undergone many changes and endured hard times as well as good, but has always continued to serve the community.  An endowment trust was

set up in 1927 to provide for the continual care of the cemetery; 15 from the sale of every space is placed in this trust.  The balance of the account remains untouched, only the interest from it is used for improvements and upkeep of the cemetery grounds.

The Mt. Hope Cemetery Association is a totally self-sufficient, non-profit organization operating independently from any taxpayer's assistance.  The day-to-day expenses are paid through the services provided by the cemetery, lot sales, donations and endowment interest.

The history of Mt. Hope Cemetery is not the story.  The legacy that will always remain comes from those who have been placed within its hallowed ground; that is the true story.  

If you have any questions concerning the cemetery, contact the office at:  765-472-2493.

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