James Easterday

James Easterday, a Freemason and one of three trustees of the Culver Masonic Cemetery, was the first story among stones during the “Stories & Stones” presentation on Sept. 21. Easterday was born in Plymouth and raised in Culver. He graduated from Culver High School and Indiana University School of Law. He served for two years in the Army during the Vietnam Era and returned to Marshall County where he practices law. 

CULVER — James Easterday, attorney of Easterday Houin, LLP, was the first presenter during the “Stories & Stones” walk sponsored by the Culver-Union Township Public Library on Sept. 21.

Easterday was the first stop and presented the history of the cemetery. 

“There are three trustees who manage the masonic portion of the cemetery,” he said. “My presentation relates to the history of the ground. Where did we get the ground? How did it evolve? The other presenters will be talking about some of the colorful personalities who lay in the ground of the cemetery.

“The first recorded record that I could find to this piece of ground goes back to 1837. You have to realize that the state of Indiana was accepted into the union in 1816. So basically 22 years after we were a state, we have a record of what happened to this ground.

“June 30, 1837 a patent was given to a person by the name of James F.D. Lanier for everything across the road here and all of section 21 towards the lake. He got a patent.

“To me as a lawyer, a patent means that the property had never been deeded. That it was coming directly from the government. That also tells me indirectly that we were probably taking it from the Indians at that point in time.

“That patent occurred in 1837. Then in 1349 there was a deed off of that for that corner over there called the Marmont Cemetery. It was named after the town at the time which was Marmont.

“That particular deed occurred in 1849. Our belief is that the cemetery wasn’t established until ten years later in 1859. We get that from the burials that are in it.

“It looks to us like the very first burial was a Benjamin Street. His grave, if you want to look at it, is the first grave south of the first entrance over there. It is the first grave right beside the entrance post.

“I walked that area a few days ago. It appears to me that in those first rows there are two or three gravestones that I can read. They were all 1859 burials. So it looks to us that it started then.

“To determine where the Marmont Cemetery is, look at the concrete driveway. The concrete driveway that goes through there basically on both sides of that was the Marmont Cemetery.

“Then around 1960 a fellow by the name of John Easterday immigrated from Ohio and bought all the land around the Marmont Cemetery.

“He bought a farm of 218 acres that included all of this land and went all the way to Little Lake or Lost Lake.

“He operated it as a farm for a while. In the 1880’s and 1890’s, he started deeding off individual plots. They are all to the east side of the Marmont Cemetery. It became known as the Easterday Graveyard because it was all his family. If you walk through there you will see that it was all his family. You will see Easterday, and Gromm, and Crumley, and Mikesell. Those are all Easterday relations. He ran the Easterday Cemetery if you will. 

“Then around the turn of the century, right around 1905 or 1906, the local newspaper came alive with various articles saying that the Marmont Cemetery was full. That they didn’t have anyplace else to bury anyone and they were looking for more burial spaces.

“A fellow by the name of W. S. Easterday, a Culver undertaker, was looking for places and scheduled a committee. They tried to buy land around the cemetery so they could do more.

“One of the articles that made me laugh was about 1909. They said they were negotiating for the land that you are looking at right here. They were not going to be able to purchase it because the owner wanted an ‘exorbitant’ price of $1,000 for it. So they couldn’t buy it. That’s the difference in prices now I guess. 

“The town of Culver got involved. In 1910 they set up a second committee. They tried to buy more land and they weren’t able to do that.

“Then finally in 1915 the Masons of the Henry H. Culver Lodge announced that they had purchased 1.3 acres just east of the Easterday Cemetery and they were going to offer that to the public for grave spaces, which they did.

“That went along merrily until 1937 when they announced that they purchased an additional 5 acres and that takes us all the way over the East boundary. It was purchased in 1937 and they have sold grave spaces ever since.

“Then in the late 1970’s, early 80’s, this property that you are sitting on became available. Believe it or not, it had been a greenhouse. There was a gentleman before who had owned the greenhouse, when he passed away we were able to purchase the land. There was a house over there just about where those gravestones are now. We talked the local fire department into having a volunteer exercise to burn the house. They burned the house for us and we cleaned it all up. We have added 1,100 spaces in here. 

“We have about 1,100 more spaces to sell if we need to as things go on.

“We hope to carry on the tradition to provide grave spaces to the public in Culver, Indiana as those spaces are needed. 

That’s where the land came from.”

Everyone in attendance was given a stone with the inscription “Everyone has a story. What’s yours?”; a donut catered by Fingerhut Bakery sponsored by Culver Kiwanians and the Culver Lion’s Club; and apple cider donated by Park ’n’ Shop. 

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