History of Prairie Home Cemetery
It was established officially in 1849, although there were much earlier burials on this site. On December 3, 1849, a three acre parcel was purchased from Nathaniel Walton for $50. On April 13, 1864, an additional five acres was acquired from S.S. Sawyer for $500.
It is a self-supporting municipal cemetery with a five member cemetery commission. Some of the small cemeteries in the county have been relocated to Prairie Home: Prairieville Cemetery, the College and East Avenues cemetery, Muskego Village Cemetery, The Benecke Family Cemetery and the Bidwell or South Pewaukee Cemetery.
Prairie Home also has a Potter's field. There are no stones in Potter's Field area, but the names of the people might be in the records. Some of the burials are unknowns.
There is also a section of the cemetery for the Wisconsin State Industrial School. The plot is full with the last burial in the 1930s. Most of the burials from the Industrial School were before 1900. About half of the boys from the school buried in Prairie Home were known though school records. Other school records show names of boys who died, but give no indication as to where they were buried. Prairie Home kept no records for these burials, since the identity of the boys sent to the school was considered confidential. These were unclaimed boys who died at the school and were buried by the State of Wisconsin. In the Industrial School plot there are only a few stones with names on them and only a few names listed in the record books.
The first person to be buried at Prairie Home was the mother of Reverend O.F. Curtis. Morris Cutler, first settler of Waukesha County, is buried here.
Our Home Cemetery
Waukesha Freeman May 2, 1895
Sketch of its History and Management
Now contains 3,305 Graves-Nearly One Hundred New Ones Made Every Year-Other Facts
"I have often been asked how many people are buried in the cemetery" said J.B. Hayes, superintendent of Prairie Home, in answer to a question. "I never knew until a few months ago, and nobody knew, because no records had been kept. I decided to find out, and with the three men whom I was employing at that time went to counting. We each worked separately and when we had finished, compared returns. Three of the four had exactly the same number, and the fourth had two more. Naturally we settled upon the smaller number as being very nearly correct. According to that there are now 3,305 graves in the cemetery."
Thus this silent city of the dead contains nearly half as many people as are now living within the limits of the village. And the one is constantly receiving accessions from the other. During the six years of Mr. Hayes' management there has been an annual average of between eighty and ninety new graves made. In 1894 the number was 105, and one year, in 1892, the number amounted to 153.
The nucleus of Prairie Home cemetery was purchased by the town board of Waukesha in November, 1849, three acres being bought from Nathaniel Walton for $50. Previous to this a few persons had been buried there, the first one to receive sepulture in the present limits of Prairie Home being, it is believed, the mother of Rev. G. F. Curtis. In 1864, five acres more were purchased from S.S. Sawyer for $500, and various additions have been made from time to time until now the cemetery includes about thirty acres. It is in a beautiful location on a rise of ground half a mile south of town, contains ample trees and shrubbery, is neatly and tastefully kept by Mr. Hayes, and is as pleasant a place as one devoted to so sad a purpose may well be.
Being owned by the town it is under the management of the town board. All residents of the town are entitled to ground in it free of charge, non-tax paying resident to half a lot chosen by the superintendent of the grounds, and tax paying residents to a whole lot chose by themselves. Lots contain 500 square feet, being 25x30 feet in size. Their price to non-residents is $50, anywhere on the grounds. Half lots may be purchased or smaller pieces. Place for a single burial costs $5, and there is of course a section for the poor which costs nothing. The state owns four full lots for the Industrial School, near the center of the grounds, and there are perhaps fifty graves upon it, mostly of the boy inmates who have died while there.
Last year, between three and four hundred dollars worth of lots were sold, and the year before over $800 worth. An income like this makes the cemetery nearly self-supporting. Mr. Hayes contract with the town board is for $600 annually, he to take full charge and keep the cemetery in good order. During his management the conditions of the cemetery have been greatly improved, until now it is kept in excellent order, much better than is usual in cemeteries attached to places of this size. It took several years of laboring with the town board to secure enough money to keep the grass mowed but it was secured at last and is now regularly arranged for. Mr. Hayes has also been urging the need of a receiving vault, but has not been able to get it yet. He is grateful to Frank Shultis, chairman of the board, who, he says, is more liberal and appreciative of cemetery needs than any other chairman with whom he had to deal.
Mr. Hayes contract as to cleanliness and order applies to the whole cemetery, private lots as well as public domain, graves of rich and poor alike. For any special work on private lots, planting and attending to flowers, etc., he receives extra pay. Lot owners are allowed to do this work themselves and many of them do. They are not however allowed to do any grading.
Mr. Hayes keeps three men in summer and one in winter. ALl hands are very busy now getting the grounds in order. Visitors also are becoming numerous and will continue so until snow flies. "I think the cemetery must have an average of nearly a hundred visitors every day during the summer," said Mr. Hayes.
The cemetery records require a good deal of book-keeping. This was sadly neglected in former years, but now a complete record of every lot and every burial are now kept, so that it is easy to find the location of the grave of any person. These records are made in duplicate, one set being retained by the superintendent and the other filed in the office of the town clerk.
Preparations are being made for the erection of a number of fine monuments in the cemetery this spring. Several are already placed. Among those expected to be placed by Memorial Day is one in memory of John Dieman of Duplainville by Mrs. Dieman, one to the memory of Nathaniel Ells and Silas Barber, and others to the memory of Mrs. C.A. Williams, Wm. Blair and members of his family,. George Cunderman of Brookfield and Seth Riford of Pewaukee will also erect monuments for members of their families.
The most expensive monument in the cemetery now was erected by T.D. Cook and cost $5,000. There are several others nearly as costly.Back to Prairie Home Cemetery