Feature Story

The First Obit

On June 25, 1792, the first obituary was published in Vermont. On that day, the oldest newspaper in Vermont and the oldest family-owned newspaper in the United States began publication as The Herald of Vermont, shortly to become The Rutland Herald. Buried (pardon the expression) among a full page homage to Benjamin Franklin, a Notice to Farmers that linseed oil or English goods will be traded for flax seed, a warning that the town of Midway would conduct its first town meeting on the last Tuesday of August, and an item about the celebrated Indian Colonel Joseph Brandt passing through Albany, N.Y., is the following:

A correspondent informs, that the following melancholy accident happened in Poultney, on Friday the 14th instant. Mr. Hezekiah Logan, of that town, being employed in falling a tree, against which a dry tree lay partly leaning, was caught under it by its falling, and crushed in so shocking a manner as to render his life departed of. Mr. Logan’s relations live in Worthington, Connecticut. He buried his wife but a few months since, by whom he had no issue.

Of course, the more important question is: Where is the first obituary ever published interred? Andrea Mott of the Poultney Historical Society provides us with the answer:

Hezekiah Logan and the Mrs. are buried here in the East Poultney Cemetery in Row DD. As you can see in the picture below, they are located right next to Heber Allen and the Deweys. The picture is taken from Margaret (Peggy) R. Jenks’ Poultney Cemetery Inscriptions Rutland County Vermont, 1996, page 12.

Logan -?- d. June 18th,----in 36 th y "His death was occasioned by the fall of a tree." [ER Joseph; BT Mr. Hezekiah, 1792 (Name gone in 1982)]

-to--/--hon--/---/De-,--,/ 1791 in the--[CP: Patience; BT Mrs. Patience, wife of Mr. Hezekiah Logan, d. Dec 10, 1791 in 35th y. BT (Almost completely gone in 1982)]

(Abbreviations: ER = Miss Emily Ross, CP = Charles Parker, BT = Boston Transcript)

Jumping over to the East Poultney Cemetery in our VOCA on-line database (click here), we find that the cemetery was first used in 1777 and contains 1164 graves. I am going to ask Tom Ledoux if he will consider putting Hezekiah into the Prominent People Buried in Vermont. First obit ever is a pretty strong case!

Barry Trutor, VOCA member