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Willet Street Cemetery - 1840  1,500+ burials   (sometimes "Willett")
Cleveland's first Jewish cemetery.

In 1839, soon after the Alsbacher party of 15 arrived from Unsleben, Bavaria, the Israelitic Society was formed. In April 1840 it petitioned Cleveland City Council for a half-acre section of the Erie (East 9th) Street Cemetery. City Council said 'no'. City law allowed only the sale of family plots.

Read the story of that failed petition.

In July 1840 the Israelitic Society arranged to buy an acre of land in Brooklyn Township on the west side of the Cuyahoga River for $100 from Josiah Barber.  See the deed of sale on our pages.

The Israelitic Society soon became Anshe Chesed congregation.

On April 20, 1854 Tifereth Israel, founded in 1850 with many of its members having left Anshe Chesed, bought about one-third of an acre south of Anshe Chesed's land from Joel Scranton for $100. In 1871 and 1881 it added small adjacent parcels. In the drawing below, sections E - J were owned by Anshe Chesed. A - D by Tifereth Israel.

below: Google Satellite View

The cemetery is north of I-90, where Fulton Road (once Willet Street) and Monroe Avenue intersect. The address is 2254 Fulton Road in Cleveland.

Though headstones will be found here for burials as late as the 1950s, there are many empty spaces. They are the result of the removal of graves to Mayfield Cemetery, for reburial among children and grandchildren. Examples include Simpson and Regina Thorman and Moses and Yetta Alsbacher and their daughter Julia.

Since 1890 Willet Street Cemetery and Mayfield Cemetery have been owned and maintained by United Jewish Cemeteries, an association owned by The Temple - Tifereth Israel and Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple.

The website includes an informative History timeline 

For access to the cemetery, call (216) 321-1733, the office at Mayfield Cemetery.

Who was the seller, Josiah Barber?

Josiah Barber (1771-1842) and his partner in real estate development Richard Lord, owned the land along the lake west of the Cuyahoga River. They were son-in-law and son of Samuel P Lord, an investor in the Connecticut Land Company.

Barber had another brother-in-law Leonard Eckstein Case Sr. who had also married a daughter of Samuel Lord. Case managed the sales of the land east of the Cuyahoga River. In 1843 he would make the Great Gift to the Jews of Cleveland — land for their first synagogue.

Why buy on the west side?

To our pioneer Jews, who lived where Progressive Field stands today, near the Cuyahoga River, the near west side did not seem far away.
It was about two miles away ─ a 40-minute walk or 20 minutes on a horse-drawn wagon. To cross the river they probably used the Columbus Street Bridge, a toll bridge built in 1836.

For them, cemeteries were always outside the town. Cost, alone, would have ruled out a nearby burial ground. Their acre on Willet Street in Brooklyn cost $100. An acre in the city would have cost $3,000.

Is it spelled Willet or Willett?

Jeffrey Morris, chronicler of our cemeteries, notes that early maps and deeds spell the name both ways. City Council Archives say it was Willett. We prefer Willet. the way United Jewish Cemeteries, spells it. Perhaps because the deeds of sale, from Josiah Barber in 1840 and Joel Scranton in 1854  say Willet.

Arnold Berger  July 12, 2023

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