Tuesday, April 23, 2013

John Moon Clements: A Springville City, Utah Sexton

Springville City Cemetery

With the spring season in Utah struggling to take a hold, I can't help but notice the yards, flower beds and the cemeteries becoming more green and beautiful.

My husband and I have lived in Springville, Utah for about seven years now. I was born in Utah, reared in Idaho and never saw or heard of the town of Springville until I attended college. 

Nonetheless, I have strong family ties to the city of Springville through my ancestors on my father's side of the family.

In the last several years, I was able to copy the journal of my third great grandfather John Moon Clements who with his wife and children lived many years in Springville. John had written in a journal almost every day throughout his adult life. From what I have read of his life, I would describe him a fastidious man. 

He was the sexton many years for the Springville City Cemetery of which I live just three miles from and pass often. John Clements took this job very seriously. Not only did he dig all of the graves for those who died, but he kept meticulous records of which he turned over to the state once a year.

Digging a grave was very hard work for him especially when the weather was very hot or cold. But he always completed his work before the funeral and burial. 

He recorded many of the burials in his journal and if the deceased happened to be in his ward, he attended the funeral, sometimes even spoke and then he wrote in his journal a few of the words spoken at the funeral.  

John described in one of his journal entries that a man wanted his wife to be reburied in another cemetery and requested John to dig her up. In those days, caskets were wooden--sometimes made of whatever the family had lying around. At burial, a casket was lowered down in the ground with ropes. There were no cement linings as we have today and the process of embalming had not yet begun--at least in Springville. 

John wrote that he dug down and found the woman's casket, wrapped ropes around it and slowly began to bring her casket up when it fell apart. I will leave the rest to your imagination. John simply stated that after just four years in the ground, there wouldn't be much to rebury.

One day as John was digging a grave, a bereaved father rode up on his horse carrying his stillborn baby lovingly wrapped in a blanket and placed in a basket. Handing John the basket, the father asked him to bury the body of his baby.

Springville City Cemetery in early 1900s at right of the picture which is east.

It seems to me this would be a very depressing type of work, but necessary and probably very appreciated. John always wrote very respectfully of those he buried and seemed happy to be involved in the process.

I love the histories of my family, and I am so grateful John Moon Clements faithfully kept a journal for his posterity to read and learn from.

John is resting now in the same cemetery he cared for so much. His burial plot is beautiful, and I believe John would be very happy with the peaceful surroundings in which his early remains reside. At the bottom of of his monument are the words, "A sudden change in a moment fell. I had not time to bid my friends farewell. Death is not strange, it happens to all . . . [John Mees, Book of Common Prayer]

For those interested in viewing the death records John M. Clements recorded in his journal, they are searchable at http://jmcspringvilleburials.blogspot.com/


  1. I love a good cemetery story. It seems like Clement's journal would of interest to the descendants of people he mentioned in the journal. Are his records indexed and searchable?

    1. Thank goodness John Moon Clements created good burial records and turned in the dates to the states. But I have some great information for people writing histories of their families who lived in Springville, Utah in the mid to late 1800s. I would love to have a place where this information can be searchable. Utah County GenWeb was not interested. Any ideas?