From: The Woodland Daily Democrat, 25 September 1891, Page 3, Column 4

The First Grave

The Woodland cemetery, the silent city of the dead, is fast assuming large proportions. The dead occupy but little room if the body of but one poor mortal is taken into consideration, but when one counts the number that is placed there in one year, he will not wonder that the graveyard is growing so rapidly.

Someone was gazing around over the hundreds of tombstones and hundreds of other grave, with nothing but a headboard, and yet hundreds of which were not even marked by a board, and was wondering who it was that occupied the first grave in that silent city, and who it was who dug the first grave.

When the first spade full of earth was turned over, which was the beginning of the formation of the cemetery, Woodland was in her infancy, and tall oaks were so numerous in that part of the country that their branches met in many places, forming a shade the year round. The place was used for nothing but a pasture, and the early settlers hunted squirrels in the trees which stood where now the silent dead are lying.

This was away back in '55, on the 14th day of December of that year, and Joseph Cook who now lives on the outskirts of town, was the man who dug the first grave, and the coffin which was lowered into it contained the body of W. G. Lilly, a near relative of Jason Watkins, and a gentleman who will still be remembered by many of our early settlers. He was only eighteen years of age, and a native of Kentucky. There [sic] were just at that time building the old Christian Church, which stood out in the woods for so long. The carpenters were still at work, the church being incomplete when Mr. Lilly died, and Dr. Prather and Adam Geslach built the coffin inside the old church.

The graves were not made rapidly in those days, for the settlers were few, and when a man was very sick he was taken to Sacramento if he could stand the trip, and for this reason a great many were buried over there. Finally a church was built not far from where the first grave was dug. Mr. Lilly's grave being just to the left of the main entrance near where the Welch children were buried years ago, and the church was farther west one hundred feet or more.

The church was occupied by all denominations for years until it became an old house, then as the graveyard began to fill up a new church was built in town, and the one one moved away. Shortly after the cemetery was made larger. Several additions have since been made and by the time it is a century old it will be a vast burying ground and there will be few living who will know the history of the first grave.

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