Mentor Pioneer (Center Street School) Cemetery


This now extinct burying ground was at the present Center Street Elementary School. It was on the northwest corner of Center Street (SR 615) and Mentor Avenue (US 20). It was probably where the current gymnasium and auditorium are. This corner property was deeded to the Village of Mentor School District No. 2 on 10 March 1832 by Warren Corning and Moses Kerr for use of the School District and the discharge of all necessary township business. It included no mention of a cemetery or burying ground. Nor did it mention a school, except that it was sold to the school district No. 2. This was recorded in Geauga County Deed Record Volume 16, pages 78-79.

According to a newspaper article, the first white person buried in Old Mentor was in the Mentor Pioneer Cemetery. He is said to have been Jesse Phelps and was buried in 1811. In a manuscript about David Abbot by Simeon C. Hickok, written between 1878 and 1901 (The Historical Society Quarterly May 1962) a similar story is somewhat different. It states that “Jesse Phelps, then living in the Village of Painesville subsequently owned, lived and died and was buried on the farm now owned by Eleazer Burridge in Mentor. Some years later it was called the Phelps lot.”

Now, according to the 1874 landowner map, Eleazer Burridge owned 281 acres of land on Mentor Avenue with Hopkins Road running through the middle of it. It butted up to the new Mentor Cemetery on Jackson Street. A house is located on Mentor Avenue, just west of Hopkins Road. The home would have been on what is marked as the Phelps lot. Burridge also owned another 30 plus acres further west, probably where Burridge Road is now, but not on Center Street. So, the unanswered question is whether Jesse Phelps was buried in the Mentor Pioneer Cemetery or the Burridge Farm Cemetery.

In 1854, as new plot of land was purchased for the purpose of a burying ground on Jackson Street at Hopkins Road, the current Mentor Municipal Cemetery. A Cemetery Association was formed for its care. (Recorded Meetings for Schools, Lodges, Churches… etc. Vol. 1, page 12, Lake County Recorder’s Office) Sometime thereafter, those stones from the Pioneer Cemetery were moved to the new cemetery.

The 1840 landowner map does not show a school, but the 1857 map very clearly does. The would coincide with the necessity to move the graves which may have occurred between 1854, the opening of the new cemetery, and 1857 when the school had already been built. It is also possible that the school and the cemetery coexisted for awhile. It was not unusual in the time period to have a cemetery close to the local school.

According to Soldiers and Widows of the American Revolution who lived in Lake County, Ohio by Mildred Hoyes Steed, 1985 page 30 and 91, two Revolutionary War Veterans were buried in the Old Mentor Cemetery which is now school property. Garrit Brass’ (1837) and Israel Fox’(1832) stones were both moved to Hopkins Road section 8A, and have since been replaced. Fox is in Lot 63, Grave 2, right next to Brass, denoted as Row 13, stones 3 and 4.

In 1971, according to an article in the News-Herald on May 14, three skulls were unearthed by contractors working to improve Route 615 near the Center Street Elementary School. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History examined the skulls and it was planned to bury the skulls in the new Municipal Cemetery.

Many of the stones in the new cemetery certainly predate the opening of the cemetery in 1854, and it is assumed that many of them must have come from this first Mentor Pioneer Burying Ground.