In the early 1800s, the “Oranges” in Essex County were not yet formed. The population of 4,000 was spread out over an area five miles long and three miles wide known as the “Mountain Society.” Up until 1840, all burials took place in the “Old Burying Ground” at The First Presbyterian Church of Orange, located at Main Street and Scotland Road. In existence for one hundred and forty years, the local population was facing the issue of lack of burial space. The community had to make the decision of whether to expand the Old Buying Ground into the heart of a growing community, or to acquire ground for a new cemetery elsewhere. Ultimately, those favoring a new cemetery prevailed.
On November 9, 1840, the Council of the New Jersey State Legislature were presented with a petition from the citizens of Orange for an act to incorporate a Cemetery Company. After multiple days and multiple committee meetings, the Council of the House of Assembly passed the bill unanimously. Thus, by act of the Legislature “The Proprietors of the Orange Cemetery” were granted the power “to take and hold in fee, the tract of land situated in the township of Orange, near the residence of Caleb Williams, containing about ten acres, late the property of John Quimby, deceased, for such Cemetery, and such other tract of land which the said Corporation may hereafter add thereto for the purpose aforesaid….”
On November 17, 1840, the Proprietors and others assembled on the grounds for the purpose of dedicating the Cemetery. The Reverend Mr. White delivered an address and offered prayer, after which the Managers proceeded to sell lots to those who were interested. The first page of the first meeting minute book records the sale of fifty-nine lots to those who were present.
With the incorporation of the Orange Cemetery, many families decided to relinquish their lots in the Old Burying Ground. The first re-interments in the Orange Cemetery took place in December of 1840. Thus began the removals from the Old Burying Ground which continued for a number of years, the last record appearing as late as 1859. Among those removed to the new cemetery were persons who had passed on as far back as 1804-5, even before the incorporation of Orange as a township.
The first addition to the original boundaries of the Cemetery appears to have occurred in 1843 with the purchase of thirteen additional acres adjoining the Cemetery. The peaceful setting of the “New Cemetery” was widely recognized and lots were sold to families residing not only in Orange, but in other surrounding communities. Because of this, many proprietors felt that the name “Orange Cemetery” was no longer appropriate. It was finally decided that the name “Rosedale Cemetery” be adopted. On March 8, 1844, the name “The Proprietors of the Orange Cemetery” was changed by legislative enactment to “The Proprietors of the Rosedale Cemetery.
With the passing of years the question of additional land became a serious problem. As a result, in December of 1869, the Board of Managers met to consider ways to acquire more land. The residents of Montclair showed interest in purchasing lots if a private entrance to the Cemetery could be arranged. Seeing the potential in this, Rosedale then expanded into West Orange and Montclair, adding the new entrance onto Orange Road, which is now Rosedale’s only entrance. With the acquisition of more land, Rosedale continued to provide final resting places in the beautiful park-like setting it is today.
As time went on and the grounds continued to develop, Rosedale decided to relocate the office from the former, small white structure on Washington Street in Orange, to a brand new building near the Montclair entrance on Orange Road. At the same time, the public’s interest in cremation was becoming more popular and more mainstream. Because of this, the new office plans were then expanded to include a full size chapel, state of the art crematorium and new modern columbariums. Rosedale once again set a precedent by being the first crematory in the area.
Today, Rosedale Cemetery is still maintained at the same level of beauty the original Founders envisioned back in 1840. As new developments in technology are released, Rosedale continues to grow, adapt and thrive.