So Where Does Crown Hill Cemetery Fit Into This History?

A painting of the view of the land and city from the Crown (1861)

Crown Hill incorporated as a nonprofit, nondenominational cemetery on September 25, 1863, at a time when Greenlawn Cemetery (actually four cemeteries, collectively known as Greenlawn Cemetery) was the principal burial ground in Indianapolis. Because of concerns of health, Greenlawn’s limited acreage, lack of care, and proximity to the population, community leaders determined the necessity of a new cemetery.

The first suggestion of a new and modern cemetery came from Hugh McCullough, the well-known banker and longtime resident of Fort Wayne, IN. In August of 1863, while in Indianapolis on business, he talked with James M. Ray about a rural cemetery recently established in Ft. Wayne (Lindenwood Cemetery) under the supervision of John Chislett.

This led community leaders to request Chislett to come to Indianapolis for a consultation regarding a new cemetery. He determined that the ideal location of a new cemetery is an area of several farms comprising over 200 acres about four miles from the city center. Not only was the location perfect, it also contained the highest hill in the city, the “crowning hill among all hills in Marion County.” After the purchase of land, John Chislett hired his son Frederick to supervise the development of the first seven burial sections. Frederick remained the cemetery’s first supervisor for the next 30 years, after which his son, also named John, succeeded him. Lucy Ann Seaton became the first interment on June 2, 1864, one day following the cemetery’s dedication.