SOUTH BEND - Steve Nemeth runs his index finger along the pages of the old ledger pulled from a heavy metal safe in the sexton’s cottage of City Cemetery.
The cemetery is snuggled in a struggling urban neighborhood, bounded
by LaPorte Avenue along the north edge, its main entrance off Elm
Nemeth, in charge of the cemetery’s maintenance and record-keeping as
part of his duties with the parks department, isn’t a historian. But
the secrets buried in the cemetery fascinate him.
The lists recorded in the ledger, in the ornate handwriting of the
time, are clues to what life was like for even the prominent, wealthy
families of their time.
Names, burial dates and plots, and causes of death — Spasms. Brain
fever. Teething. Consumption. Whooping cough. Sillious fever — are
The first recorded burial: Peter Roof, a Revolutionary War veteran, in 1831.
Charity Studebaker, 1854, 3 days old.
Eddie Studebaker, 1857, 1 day old.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Nemeth says of the many recorded deaths of
children. “If you walk around, you’ll see families that lost four,
five, six kids.”