Neglected and virtually abandoned for over 130 years, Mount Hope Cemetery has been reopened, rededicated and is once again making plots available for burials. Situated atop a grassy knoll dotted with majestic and beautiful mature oak trees, the historic burial site presents a serenely comforting environment with a commanding view of the surrounding countryside.
Markers for the graves of members of the Patten family
Located in the Town of Spring Prairie on the eastern edge of Walworth County, Mount Hope Cemetery has a long and interesting history in the area. Its oldest recorded burial, that of 21-month old Mary Pool, dates back to 1846; however, there is some evidence that unrecorded burials may go back to as early as 1835. The last recorded burial, prior to 2017, was in 1888.
Over the years the cemetery has also been referred to as both Billings and Bell Cemetery; however the current name of Mount Hope has been the most enduring. It was originally part of a 160-acre parcel purchased by Charles Dyer from the Federal Government in 1839. In 1851, the 250’ by 250’ plot, along with a 33-foot-wide access to the road, was sold to the Trustees of the Mount Hope Cemetery for $25. It has been a part of the Stowell Family farm for over a century.
In 1929 members of the Burlington Historical Society visited the site, which by then had been abandoned for decades. They found it to be so overgrown with brush they could only identify twelve actual gravesites, though they suspected many more were undetected. Additional research in 1930 and later has been successful in identifying 28 people interred there.
It was learned that Palmer Gardner, the oldest settler in Walworth County, was buried there as well as Charles Dyer, father of Burlington’s first doctor. Several infants and children are buried there, along with at least eight men and women in their twenties, a testament to the hard times the early settlers endured.
In 2007, faculty and students of Wisconsin Lutheran College, in cooperation with the Burlington Historical Society and other community groups, began cleaning up the site and mapping the graves.
In 2010, the team from Wisconsin Lutheran College, headed by assistant Professor of Anthropology, Ned Farley, began scanning the area with ground-penetrating radar in an attempt to locate long-forgotten gravesites that no longer had visible headstones. Their search discovered a total of 38 burial sites, though it is possible that some may contain more than one person.
In 2014, Bob Stowell ceded ownership of the cemetery, and by State law, it reverted to the Town of Spring Prairie. Since then, the Town has put in a road to the cemetery, secured additional land for parking and has surveyed and mapped additional sites that can be made available to people desiring a peaceful, pastoral setting for their final resting place.