Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spotlight: Preserving Ohio Cemeteries, One Headstone at a Time

Linda Ellis of northeastern Ohio has been making a difference for Ohio cemeteries for over thirteen years.

It all started back in 1995 when Linda became a member of the Ohio Genealogical Society. At the OGS Annual Conference in April of 1996, Linda was inducted as a new member of the First Families of Ohio. This honor came because her great-great-great grandfather, Harmon Limes, Jr., was a resident of Ohio prior to December 31 of 1820 - in fact, he was the first marshal of North Lewisburg, Ohio. At the Conference, Linda - and her ancestor - received the First Families of Ohio Award and Pin, as well as their membership numbers.

After the Conference, Linda stopped at the small Quaker (Friends) Cemetery where her ancestor is buried. This photograph shows Linda "presenting" her newly acquired certificate to the ancestor she shares it with!

By June of 1997, Linda's pride in her ancestor prompted her to make two decisions: buy him a new headstone, and donate the original stone to the Champaign County Historical Society's museum in Urbana, Ohio.

Linda says, "I had to work at a distance by mail and phone to accomplish both. I ordered the stone locally and worked with a caretaker of the one nearby active cemetery. There was no water on-site at the Quaker (Friends) Cemetery, so the caretaker had to haul in water to pour the footer for the stone."

She continues, "The folks at the museum agreed to acquire the original tombstone. I do not have any children, and I didn't want to take the chance that if I kept the original stone that one day it might end up in a way that I would not want for it. Today, the museum has the stone sitting outside of a mock-up jail. The original stone has been on display for over ten years!"

Soon after Linda replaced her ancestor's headstone, the little Church next to the cemetery closed its doors for the last time. Erected in 1879 and the oldest building in town, its congregation had dwindled to just a few members, and its pastor had moved.

What would happen to the church and its cemetery? Their future was questionable. The church's options were to sell it to a developer or another congregation, donate it to a historical society, or donate it to the village of North Lewisburg.

Linda was afraid that if they sold it to a developer, the cemetery would be obscured by a double-wide mobile home, or worse yet, a neighborhood be built on top of it.

But the church decided to donate the church, the surrounding property, and the cemetery to the Village. And the village leaders had become aware of Linda's seriousness to keep the legacy of the Quaker (Friends) Cemetery alive. The cemetery was in very poor condition at the time - and the village administrator hoped that they could clean it up, locate its boundaries, build a fence around it, and eventually erect a monument there.

It took several years, but Linda's hopes for this little Friends Cemetery have finally been accomplished. The Church has now become a branch of the Champaign County Library. And the Village has taken over the care of the Cemetery, mowing it and installing a fence around it.

The most exciting moment for Linda was on July 29, 2006, when a beautiful Ohio historical marker was placed on the site of the Quaker (Friends) Church and Cemetery.

She says, "Almost a decade of time passed before recognition for this cemetery materialized - but when it did, it was in a way I never could have imagined."

"I would have never dreamt something as meaningful as that beautiful marker would happen to a cemetery that was almost lost and forgotten not that many years before," she says. "Many North Lewisburg and Champaign County residents worked tirelessly to make the plaque become a reality. I can never thank them enough; not only on my own behalf, but on the behalf of all those interred at the cemetery who can no longer speak for themselves. I can only hope that some small contributions from my husband and me aided them in their larger efforts."

The historical marker reads:

Side A : "Friends Church"
Among the earliest settlers to Rush Township were members of the Religious Society of Friends or Quakers, who emigrated from the eastern states, mostly Pennsylvania and North Carolina. At first religious services were held in the homes of devout Quakers who in turn built a small-framed meeting house on this site in 1842. The present Friends Church replaced the original structure in the 1870s at a cost of $4,245. Although not a stop on the Underground Railroad, the church supported local ardent Abolitionists who helped runaway slaves reach freedom in Canada. An epidemic during the winter of 1850-1851 reduced the Friends' membership and led to several Quaker families relocating to Iowa. The final religious service was held here on October 26, 1997, after which the church was donated to the village of North Lewisburg.

On the back of the marker are listed the names of prominent citizens of the community who are buried there, including Harmon Limes, Jr., Linda's great-great-great grandfather.

Side B : "Friends Cemetery"
The cemetery of the Quaker Church lies to the west of this building and was used from circa 1846 through circa 1885. It was one of the earliest cemeteries in Champaign County with the first recorded burial being Moses Winder on August 5, 1846, and the last recorded burial on May 18, 1885 of Caroline S. Pim. Among those interred here are Civil War veteran, William W. Fell; the first marshal of Lewisburg, Harmon Limes; and one of the first trustees to serve Lewisburg, Abner Winder Jr. As the church membership dwindled, the upkeep of the cemetery proved difficult and fell into neglect and disrepair. As with the Friends Church, the village of North Lewisburg took over ownership of the cemetery when it was donated in 1997.

Latitude / Longitude
40.13657 ° / -83.33536 ° - Map Marker

141 Winder Street
North Lewisburg, OH 43060
Champaign County

Village of North Lewisburg, Friends of North Lewisburg Branch of Champaign County Library, Champaign County Bicentennial Historical Marker Committee, and The Ohio Historical Society

Linda continues her great work to preserve and protect cemeteries. You can read more about her efforts at her blog, Exploring Almost Forgotten Gravesites in Ohio.

Thanks, Linda, for your hard work for Ohio's cemeteries!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Where Is My Unfinished Cemetery?

A great question came up today - and the answer will probably help all of the Grave Mappers working on the Test Mapping Project for Names In Stone...

I wasn't able to finish mapping my cemetery in one sitting. When I went back to Names in Stone, I couldn't figure out how to get back into it to finish mapping. How do I find my cemetery?

Answer: There are two ways to find your cemetery to continue mapping.
  • After signing in to Names in Stone, click on the Membership Box and select "My Profile." On your profile page above your personal information are several green tabs. Select "Cemetery Projects." This will give you a list of the cemeteries you are working on. Click "Work on Cemetery" and you'll be ready to begin mapping!
  • After signing in to Names in Stone, select "Cemetery List." Select the state where your cemetery resides. Find your cemetery and click "More Details." You will again see the button "Work on Cemetery." Click on it and begin mapping!

Hope this helps - if you have any questions while you are doing your mapping project, please let us know. Chances are, other people will have the same questions as you do. We'll help you find the answers and publish them here for everyone.

Vandals Destroy Small Cemetery in Kansas

There were only about 15 stones in the turn-of-the-century cemetery in Trego County, Kansas. Just a small quiet country cemetery that most of us didn't even know existed. But today this little cemetery is in the news -- because vandals have completely destroyed it.

In The Hays Daily News, Mike Corn reports that sometime Friday or Saturday, vandals went into the cemetery and damaged every headstone. The damage is very extensive - smaller headstones were even used to damage and destroy the larger pieces.

Rich Schneider, Trego County's Sheriff, says, "I can't believe it. I don't know what kind of people do that."

Anyone with any information is encouraged to call the Trego County Sheriff's office - (785) 743-5721. You can read the full article about the vandalized cemetery at The Hays Daily News.

About the Cemetery

A sheriff's deputy contacted the Trego County Historical Society, who said that the cemetery is called the Saline Valley Cemetery.

A little internet searching leads to some interesting information about this cemetery. Gayle M. Garrett, a relation to the Franklin family who are buried there, photographed, transcribed, and shared the information on this cemetery at the KS GenWeb website in November, 2000.

You can view some great (pre-vandalism) photos, headstone transcriptions, and historical information here. Aren't we grateful to Gayle, who took the time to record and preserve this priceless information!

And every cemetery has a story. Buried in this little country cemetery are four children who were killed in a house fire on March 15, 1886. They are Thomas E. Franklin, age 10 years; Ira E. Franklin, age 8 years; Charlie Franklin, age 6 years; Earl Franklin, age 2 years.