When Dayton Was Young
When Dayton was founded in 1796, Catholic families started to make their way up the Miami River from Cincinnati to settle here. By 1833, there were three parishes, German, Gaelic and English speaking, enough to establish a plot of sanctified ground in the middle of the rapidly growing town. This first Catholic cemetery was called St. Henry’s.
Dayton Becomes a Crowded City
As German, Irish, Polish, Hungarian, Italian and Lithuanian immigrants flooded into the Miami Valley during the 1840’s, Dayton’s Catholic community swelled and spilled over into the surrounding neighborhoods in all directions, creating new parishes and more need for burial ground. The epidemic illnesses that came with the 1850’s and the tragic deaths of so many in the Civil War in the 1860’s filled St. Henry’s remaining space. Now landlocked by a city grown up around it, St. Henry’s had no room to expand. The population continued to grow and finally in 1872, Calvary Cemetery was established on 100 acres of southern countryside, adding 100 more in later years. Calvary Cemetery was ideally located at the highest vantage point of the city and adjacent to the canal which was Dayton’s main thoroughfare at that time. (The canal is now South Dixie Boulevard).
St. Henry’s and Calvary Come Together
As the twentieth century drew near, Trustees of St. Henry’s realized the value of consolidating their grounds with Calvary. Over a twenty year period, the burial plots of St. Henry’s were carefully moved to new sites within Calvary. During this process, some of the earliest graves could no longer be identified from their markers and family and church records could not be found. For this group of faithful departed a special place of re-interment was created. On All Souls Day, 1902, St. Henry’s Chapel was dedicated on this site.
Calvary Cemetery Today
Much has changed in the world since 1872; Calvary Cemetery retains the traditions of Catholic burial on sanctified ground as its core mission. The Church has evolved to allow cremations and interment of non Catholics within the Cemetery, and Calvary has welcomed these changes. New areas of the grounds are developed to reflect them. More than 75,000 graves are here. Only half of the useable space of 200 acres is occupied. The Trustees of the Calvary Cemetery Association continue to guide the operating principles of the organization with perpetual care of the grounds as the top priority.