About

Indian Mound Cemetery was established in 1863 by the citizens of Moravia in response to repeated inundation of the Village or Dry Creek Cemetery. The first burial was of Samuel Ely Day, who was a key proponent of the cemetery and provided the land for it. Civil War soldiers were buried here beginning in December 1863. In all, 23 Civil War soldiers who died during the war are honored here. 107 other Civil War veterans, who came home to their families and went on to make the Moravia area what it is today, are also honored here; the last survivor was interred in 1939. Altogether nearly 5,000 souls, veteran's of virtually all of our nation's conflicts as well as private citizens, are honored here.

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History

For over a half century after John Stoyell first settled in the village, Moravians buried their loved ones in the Old Cemetery located just south of town on the eastern banks of Dry Creek. This practice ended on July 21, 1863 when a violent downpour sent torrents of water down the hillsides overflowing the banks of Dry Creek. The surging waters scooped and carved away the soft gravel banks that bordered the cemetery and ripped loose over forty graves adjacent to the creek bank.

One of those graves contained the casket of the recently buried Civil War veteran, Lieutenant George Cobb Stoyell. The powerful current swept away Stoyell’s casket intact and swiftly carried it down the swollen creek almost to the Owasco Inlet. Sadly, many other caskets were smashed and their contents strewn helter skelter. The receding floodwaters left a scene so sickening and horrifying, it defied description.

The catastrophe devastated the entire community and the emotional impact that followed created the urgent demand for a new cemetery. A committee of responsible citizens was charged with the assignment to find a suitable cemetery location that was not only secure and easily accessible, but with pleasant surroundings and soil suitable for burial purposes. They found an ideal location on lands in Montville that belonged to Samuel Ely Day, a prominent Moravia farmer and father of S. Edwin Day, a Moravia lawyer who later served for many years as Cayuga County Judge.

On August 17, 1863, the cemetery committee consisted of Hector H.Tuthill, Dr. Charles C. Jewett, Rufus W. Close, Guernsey Jewett, Hector C. Tuthill, Thompson Keeler, Lauren Townsend, Rufus Warren, Cordial S. Jennings, S. Edwin Day, and Charles E. Parker. These gentlemen formally organized and established the Indian Mound Cemetery Association. The cemetery was so named because its grounds contained many unique mound formations and a topography characteristic of a American Indian burial ground. 

The association founders believed the mound formations were created by the Cayuga and Owasco tribes, former inhabitants who regarded the mounds as symbols of Mother Earth from which all mankind came and would ultimately return. According to Iroquoian historians, however, the mounds were probably built by a native culture that preceded theirs by several hundred years. Regardless of who created them, the mounds were considered sacred monuments of unity, identity, and pride. Section Six, a small circular area at the intersection of the main cemetery pathways that has for many years been thought to be one of the aboriginal mounds, and is in fact the cemetery's original Potter's field.

On September 22, 1863, the Indian Mound Cemetery Association purchased Samuel E. Day’s land and hired Fred E. Knight, a Civil Engineer to survey and plot a suitable design for the new cemetery. Sadly, Mr. Day died unexpectedly on the 13th of October before Knight’s design was initiated. At an emergency session, the Directors of the Cemetery Association unanimously voted that Day’s remains should be the first interment on the new grounds. Consequently he was buried on October 15th in what is now Section Three and not in Section One as one might expect.

Soon, under Fred E. Knight’s guidance, each section of the cemetery was laid out into individual plots and bordered by circular carriage paths and walkways that were beautified with shrubs and evergreens and shaded by majestic Elm and Maple trees.

Visitors to Indian Mound notice at once that many plots in the cemetery are not laid out in straight rows. Rather, they appear to run in all directions with some family plots delineated in a circle. The circular avenues around the various plots and sections were so designed so that horse-drawn carriages and hearses could exit without having to back up.

Late in October 1863, and thereafter, many bodies were removed from the Old Cemetery and interred in Indian Mound Cemetery. Among those removed were the remains of John Stoyell Sr. and members of his immediate family. After the Civil War, family members, who could afford the expense, traveled to battlefield or hospital cemeteries to search for and return the remains of their fallen loved ones. A few of the fallen heroes were found and returned for reburial at Indian Mound Cemetery. However, most of the fallen soldiers were left interred at their original burial places. To honor the memory of their loved one, they placed a marker or cenotaph in the family plots.

Over time, Indian Mound Cemetery’s almost 11 acres became an excellent example of the late nineteenth century American rural cemetery. On July 3, 1874, a receiving vault was constructed to temporarily hold the remains of the dead until a gravesite could be prepared or transportation arranged to inter the remains in another location. Measuring fourteen feet by sixteen feet, with walls two feet thick , the vault cost over one thousand dollars to build. For over one hundred thirty years this gothic stone structure has stood as a lonely sentinel guarding the cemetery entrance. Today, the circular avenues and walkways, its terraced sections with numerous shade trees and its quiet setting and picturesque vistas overlooking the Moravia village below, make Indian Mound Cemetery a beautiful and charming place to visit.

The cemetery remains active with a small inventory of unsold lots. Planning is underway to convert the receiving vault into a memorial columbarium that can permanently house cremation urns. The cemetery board is also evaluating the feasibility of using several acres of nearby land owned by the cemetery.