The Union Chapel church and cemetery grounds 1929. Click to enlarge picture.

Established 1822

Located at 8306 Union Chapel Road in the Nora area of Indianapolis, Union Chapel cemetery and its nearly 11,000 graves (some dating back as far as 1822) sits nestled between the White River and Keystone Avenue.  

A portion of the 1889 Washington Township Atlas. The cemetery is located near the "19" on the map.

A portion of the 1889 Washington Township Atlas. The cemetery is located near the “19” on the map.

The oldest portion of the burial ground is located in the present South Section of the property and was known as the Whitinger Family Cemetery. An area pioneer, Joseph Whitinger, donated this property to the community via a land grant, with the understanding that it would be used as a community cemetery and for “divine worship without denominational ties.”

1880 - Men with names that still resonate in the area. Photo provided by the Marion County History Facebook group. Click to enlarge.

1880 – Men with names that still resonate in the area. Photo provided by the Marion County History Facebook group. Click to enlarge.

The earliest record of formal Christian worship in the Nora area is found in the Minutes Book of the Allisonville Circuit of the Methodist Episcopal Church  of 1827. Meetings were held in the Pursel Log School Building, located near 86th Street and Manderley Drive. However, the first Union Chapel was erected in 1864 on the site of the 1822 Whitinger Burial Ground, situated on a bluff overlooking the White River. That origin structure was used by Quaker, Lutheran, Methodist Episcopal and other Christian denominations. It was the Whitinger deed that stipulated all denominations could use the building — and thus the name Union Chapel. The Union Chapel United Methodist Church that stands near the cemetery today was built in response to the growing suburban population of the 1950’s. The congregation purchased a five acre tract at the northwest corner of East 86th Street and Haverstick Road and the current building was erected in 1954.

A turn-of-the-last-century Sunday School picnic on the Union Chapel Grounds. See document to the right for names. Click image to enlarge.

A turn-of-the-last-century Sunday School picnic on the Union Chapel Grounds. See document below for names. Click image to enlarge.

A well-documented event, chocked-full of names that founded the Nora area like Dawson, Newby, Bowen and Haverstick. Click image to enlarge.

A well-documented event, chocked-full of names that founded the Nora area like Dawson, Newby, Bowen and Haverstick. Click image to enlarge.

Back in 1836, an association was formed to manage the cemetery in 1901, the association was incorporated and in 2003, it was given the designation of “Indiana Historic Cemetery” by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The cemetery is now governed by a 12-member board of directors — many of whom have multiple generations of family members buried on the property.

Area families participate in honoring veterans by placing flags at the graves on Memorial Day -- a tradition that continues today.

Area families participate in honoring veterans by placing flags at the graves on Memorial Day — a tradition that continues today. Click to enlarge photo.

Burials of particular note include nearly 400 veterans gravesites, including a number of Civil War and Spanish-American War veterans. As a long-standing tradition, flags are placed on the graves of these veterans each Memorial Day. For many consecutive years, the American Legion 6540 Post in Broad Ripple has organized a flags-in ceremony in conjunction with Boy Scout Troop 18, but even before the post took over the activity, area citizens honored veterans by placing flags on their graves.

Indianapolis Boy Scout Troop 18, directed by Broadripple VFW Post 6540, identifies the graves of veterans and marks them with a flag on Memorial Day every year.

Indianapolis Boy Scout Troop 18, directed by Broad Ripple American Legion Post 6540, identifies the graves of veterans and marks them with a flag on Memorial Day every year.

Special thanks to Marion County Indianapolis History Facebook group for the use of their personal photos.
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