Elmwood Cemetery in Burlington, Vermont is located between the city’s old north end and its bustling downtown. It is the final resting place of many Revolutionary War veterans. The story of the creation of this old graveyard has become part of local legend.
In 1801 Levi Allen, the brother of Ethan Allen died, as did his brother Ira, bankrupt and penniless. He died in the Burlington jail, confined because of his debts, as was often the case during those times.
Unfortunately, relations between the Allen’s were poor at the time and no one claimed poor Levi’s body. This was because Vermont law specified that anyone removing a body from within the actual town limits assumed his debts and Burlington’s only cemetery at the time – Green Mount – lay outside those limits.
The town fathers solved their dilemma by setting aside the five acre lot now known as Elmwood Cemetery as a burial ground. Levi Allen was the first person interred there.
Unfortunately, hundreds of these early graves have been lost at Elmwood Cemetery, according to David J. Blow in his excellent Historic Guide To Burlington Neighborhoods. Either because they were buried in a haphazard manner, never received a marker, or fell prey to vandalism. Eventually, due to the small size of the burial ground, some who were interred here were later reburied in Lake View Cemetery.
One grave not lost is the plot containing the mortal remains of Fanny Montressor Penniman, Ethan Allen’s second wife. Buried here in 1834, she lies alongside the remains of her third husband, Jabez Penniman. Interestingly enough, the family name, Montressor, is spelled Montezuma on the stone, and she is identified on the stone as being “Formerly the wife of Ethan Allen.”
Another Allen, Ebenezer, distant cousin to the famous Ethan and a hero in his own right, is buried here. His badly weathered stone is located close to the front of the cemetery entrance, easily visible from the sidewalk.
Ebenezer Allen was a hero of the Revolution, playing a key role in many conflicts occurring on Vermont’s Historic Lakes. For many years he ran a tavern on the southernmost tip of what is now South Hero.
Also buried at Elmwood cemetery are early Vermont historian Zadock Thompson as well as Gideon King and Timothy Follett, Vermonters prominent in the early maritime and transportation history of the region. Fortunately the lovely and distinctive homes of King and Follett still stand in the city. Harvey Blush, a deckhand on the ill-fated steamer Phoenix, sunk at Providence Island September 5, 1819, has a memorial stone here.
Joseph Barron, pilot of Macdonough’s flagship Saratoga at the Battle of Plattsburgh, is listed as being buried here after he fell in battle on September 11, 1814. This has become somewhat of a mystery because there is a gravestone for Barron at Riverside Cemetery in Plattsburgh, New York.
By James P. Millard in America’s Historic Lake Region
Here is an amateur video visit to Elmood cemetery: