Pioneers, Manxmen and Shakers at the Warrensville West Cemetery

Located within a small business district at 3451 Lee Road, Warrensville West Cemetery offers a reminder of the individuals and communities that inhabited the area prior to the development of Shaker Heights. The headstones and markers adorning the small graveyard speak of an unfamiliar landscape, lost to time, that was the home of brave pioneer families and their descendants, immigrant settlers, and the North Union Shakers. Listed as a landmark on August 24, 1976, these symbolic grounds are among the oldest designated landmarks in Shaker Heights, and provide a fitting place of remembrance for Warrensville Township's earliest residents.

The history of the cemetery can be traced back to the first settlers, and namesakes, of Warrensville Township. Daniel and Margaret Prentiss Warren emigrated to the Western Reserve from Acworth, New Hampshire in 1808 with their infant son. Working as a brick-maker, Daniel earned rights to a $300 parcel of land for his work in the construction of the Court House in Jefferson, Ohio. Choosing a lot based on its vicinity to Moses Cleveland's settlement, the Warrens built a log cabin in 1809 and cleared land for crops in the heavily wooded forest. The Warrens then began to raise a family in the rugged environment, and were soon joined by relatives in what was eventually named Warrensville Township.

In 1811, the couple's two year old daughter, Lovisa, died. She was buried on a ridge at the edge of their property. When this land was purchased by Asa Stiles in 1812, the grounds were transferred to the township for use as a cemetery. The burial ground would continue to be used by the Warren family, as well as other early settlers of Warrensville Township. Similar to community burial grounds formed in other inhospitable areas of Cuyahoga County, the cemetery was small, rustic, and unadorned. With roads and trails that proved to be unsuitable for travel much of the year, no nearby church, and living conditions that tended to promote their frequent usage, the centralized burial grounds soon became a repository of the township's pioneer settlers and their descendants.

As Warrensville attracted new residents, the cemetery began to reflect the changing face of the surrounding community. In 1826, three families that had recently emigrated from the Isle of Man arrived in Cleveland. Within a year, more than 200 Manx residents had settled in the Newburgh and Warrensville area. As word spread that Warrensville was a desirable location for farming, the township quickly became the center of the region's Manx population. Often characterized as deeply religious, hard-working and clannish, many of the pioneers of Warrensville's Manx settlement purchased lots in the austere graveyard. A demographic shift within the cemetery resulted from the combined influence of this growing immigrant population, changes in popular taste of burial grounds, and improved routes of transportation into and out of the township. By the early 1900s, vver half the graveyard's population were Manxmen.

The community burial grounds became host to a new group of Warrensville settlers at the turn of the 20th century. A 40-foot lot was purchased by the City of Shaker Heights to re-inter bodies from the North Union Shaker cemetery. Located on land that was to be developed as a residential neighborhood, the Van Sweringen Company received permission from the Shaker Society in Union Village, Ohio, to relocate the bodies of the 138 members of the communal society to Warrensville West Cemetery. The remains of eighty-nine Shakers were located, placed in coffins, and buried in a common grave. The site would not be marked until 1949, when the Shaker Historical Society placed a granite boulder from an old Shaker farm above the grave.

While the cemetery markers reflect the history of Warrensville's founders, Manxmen and Shakers, they also offers clues to the lives led by those interred. The many children and infants buried in the graveyard are a reminder of the harsh living conditions endured by Warrensville's earliest resident. Engravings on headstones identify the veterans of five wars. Of these veterans, four served in the American Revolution, two in the War of 1812, one in the Mexican-American War, fourteen in the Civil War, and one in World War II. Familial relationships, birthplaces, and occupations are also memorialized. Although most markers have been weathered to the point of ineligibility, the grave of Mary Brogden -who died in 1843 - even offers visitors to the burial grounds advice:

"Friends as you pass me by, As you are now, So once was I. As I am now, So all must be. Prepare for death, And follow me."

Images

Moses Warren Jr.

Moses Warren Jr.

Moses Warren Jr., brother of Warrensville founder Daniel Warren, was also a pioneer settler of the township. Reflecting the influence of family ties that characterized the early development of the township, Moses emigrated from Acworth, N.H. to Cleveland with his father and brother in 1815. Images courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Pioneer Grave

Pioneer Grave

Asa Stiles, one of Warrensville's pioneer settlers, emigrated from Ostego County, N.Y., in 1811. Known as a kindly and good-natured man, Asa acted as township Justice of the Peace for several years and was a member of the Baptist Church. When returning to New York to visit his family around 1823, he was accompanied by his brother, a pet bear, a team of oxen, and six rattlesnakes. Asa stopped at country taverns along the way to exhibit the animals. Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

A Revolutionary Soldier

A Revolutionary Soldier

James Prentiss was the first known marked grave in Warrensville West Cemetery. A Revolutionary War veteran, James was buried with full military honor by four of his wartime comrades.Prentiss' final expenses were listed as follows: Doctor Bills and medicine for last illness - $10.00 Making Coffin - $1.25 Digging Grave - $1.25 Funeral Whiskey - $1.75 Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

North Union Shaker Cemetery, 1900

North Union Shaker Cemetery, 1900

The North Union Shaker cemetery, known as God's acre, was originally located on the south side of what is now South Park Boulevard and Lee Road. Sixty feet square, the grounds were divided into four equal sections; brothers of the community were buried on the North side, sisters were buried to the South. Simple sandstone graves were engraved with the initials of those interred. The bodies that could be located were eventually relocated to Warrensville West Cemetery. Images courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Monument to the North Union Shakers

Monument to the North Union Shakers

A granite boulder (right) was placed above the Shaker mass grave by the Shaker Historical Society, years after the bodies were relocated by the Van Swerigen Co. A commemorative plaque provided an epitaph, taken from the words of Mother Ann Lee: "Do All Your Work As Though You Had A Thousand Years To Live, But As You Would If You Knew You Were to Die Tomorrow". Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Manx Grave

Manx Grave

Edward Corlett and his wife, Mary Ann Cowley, were among the many Manx immigrants that settled in Warrensville Township. Considering the strong community ties that enabled these early settlers to relocate and prosper in Warrensville, it is very likely that Edward and Mary attended functions such as the annual Manx picnic. By 1926, the Cleveland area was believed to have the largest Manx population in the United States. Images courtesy of the Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Richard Raponi, “Pioneers, Manxmen and Shakers at the Warrensville West Cemetery ,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 27, 2017, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/423.
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