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Burlington Vermont's
Elmwood Cemetery

By James P. Millard

Nestled between the city's old north end and its bustling downtown, is Burlington's Elmwood Cemetery. The tale of its establishment is fascinating:

In 1801 Levi Allen, the brother of Ethan Allen died, as did his brother Ira, bankrupt and penniless. He died within the Burlington gaol, confined as was often the case during those times, for his debts.

Unfortunately, relations between the Allen's were poor at the time and no one claimed poor Levi's body. This was because Vermont law specified that anyone removing a body from within the actual town limits assumed his debts and Burlington's only cemetery at the time- Green Mount, lay outside those limits.

The town fathers solved their dilemma by setting aside the five acre lot now known as Elmwood Cemetery as a burial ground. Levi Allen was the first person interred here.1

 

Marker at the entrance to Elmwood Cemetery. Photo by the author

David J. Blow in his excellent Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods, tells us that "hundreds of graves have been lost", either because they were buried in a haphazard manner, never received a marker, or fell prey to vandalism. Evidently due to the small size of the burial ground, some who were interred here were later reburied in Lake View Cemetery.

Buried at Elmwood, in addition to many of Burlington's earliest residents, are some individuals very familiar to students of local history. We were able to locate some of their graves during a brief visit in the Fall of 2001.

This is the plot containing the mortal remains of Fanny Montressor Penniman, Ethan Allen's second wife. Buried here in 1834, she lies alongside the remains of her third husband, Jabez Penniman. Interestingly enough, the family name, Montressor, is spelled Montezuma on the stone, and she is identified on the stone as being "Formerly the wife of Ethan Allen."

The Gravestone of Fanny Montressor Penniman, second wife of Ethan AllenThe marble slab that marks the final resting place of Jabez Penniman

 

The Penniman gravesite in Elmwood CemeteryClick on the thumbnails to see a full-size photo.

The badly weathered gravestone of Col. Ebenezer AllenAnother Allen, Ebenezer, distant cousin to the famous Ethan and a hero in his own right, is buried here. His badly weathered stone is located close to the front entrance of the cemetery, easily visible from the sidewalk.

Ebenezer was a hero of the Revolution, playing a key role in many conflicts occurring on the Historic Lakes. For many years he ran a tavern on the southernmost tip of what is now South Hero. For more information about Ebenezer Allen, click here.

Also buried at Elmwood are early Vermont historian Zadock Thompson and Vermonters prominent in the early maritime and transportation history of the region, Gideon King and Timothy Follett. Fortunately the lovely and distinctive homes of King and Follett still stand in the city. Harvey Blush, a deckhand on the ill-fated steamer Phoenix, sunk at Providence Island September 5, 1819, has a memorial stone here.

Interestingly enough, Joseph Barron, pilot of Macdonough's flagship Saratoga at the Battle of Plattsburgh, is listed as being interred here after he fell in battle on September 11, 1814. A visit to our All about Historic Plattsburgh, New York page shows Barron as having been buried in Plattsburgh's Riverside Cemetery. For a photo of the Plattsburgh grave of Joseph Barron, click here. If any site visitors can shed light on this mystery for us, we'd love to hear from you!

Gravestone of a child who perished in 1802 from SmallpoxBuried at Elmwood are other early residents of Burlington, less prominent perhaps, but nonetheless loved and mourned by those they left behind.

Not far from Ebenezer Allen's stone marker is this simple monument to George Keyes, eldest son of Elnathan and Jane. George died, the marker tells us, at the tender age of 5 years,
"on the 7th day of April 1802 with the Smallpox."

Sources/Notes:

1 David J. Blow,  "HISTORIC GUIDE TO BURLINGTON NEIGHBORHOODS" Edited by Lilian Baker Carlisle (Burlington, Vermont: Chittenden County Historical Society 1991) 191

 

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