Exploring Almost Forgotten Gravesites in the Great State of Ohio

Dedicated to cemetery preservation in the great state of Ohio

"A cemetery may be considered as abandoned when all or practically all of the bodies have been Removed therefrom and no bodies have been buried therein for a great many years, and the cemetery has been so long neglected as entirely to lose its identity as such, and is no longer known, recognized and respected by the public as a cemetery. 1953 OAG 2978."

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

From Bluffton, Allen County, Ohio: Save Shannon Cemetery Committee Update - February 9, 2016

(Above photo and text courtesy of Mark Morton of "Gravestone Guardians of Ohio")
From Mark Morton of Gravestone Guardians of Ohio:

"The following was my proposed plan for the restoration & preservation of Shannon Cemetery that I put forth last evening. I was only 1 part of this debate & conversation. The real backbone has been the “Save Shannon Cemetery” group with their fact gathering & extensive research. Without them I would have had no platform or base to submit a plan from. We also had the cooperation of the cemetery commission & 1 member who did his own extensive research with a very impressive binder full of this work. So a big thanks to all.

The Preservation of Shannon Cemetery

This preservation plan should consist of the following guidelines.

First “Do no harm” This means do not use harsh chemicals or harmful products not intended for cemetery or historical stonework use. Only use specialized cleaners & masonry products from the preservation field & historical building industry. For example, do not bleach, sandblast, or polish the old stones
Second “Do nothing permanent that can’t be undone at a later date” This is for two reasons. First as in all things, techniques & technologies change as time goes on. Second, as in any type of structure big or small that is subject to outdoor physical changes, future adjustments will be necessary. For example, do not attempt to secure stones in place with concrete. This is detrimental to the stones because the concrete is much harder than the soft old tombstones & the freeze/thaw cycles will eventually crack them. This is doing harm. And concrete is a permanent thing that can’t be removed in most cases. Modern concrete is acceptable for the forming of new bases as replacements for tablets meant to be in original sandstone bases that no longer exist or cannot be used. These are pre-poured & molded with slots to accommodate the tombstones & lime mortar.
Third “Do all that is possible to keep within the cemetery’s historical character” Cemeteries like all such historical places have a set character & intent by those who constructed them. Changing this alters & can destroy the original intent as well as its historical value. For example, do not change the original placement of the tombstones by placing them in some gathered area. They were always intended to stay on the grave they mark. It is not unreasonable to make some small adjustments for row spacing to accommodate mowing equipment. And above all, it is never acceptable to place structures over known existing graves.
Shannon Cemetery consists of the following types of preservation repairs.
1. “The simple tablet set”. These are tablet style tombstones that did not have bases & were set directly into the ground. These are set generally by the rule of 1/3’s, burying the bottom 1/3 of the stone. Example...Shannon’s 3 marble govt. issue military markers.
2. “Marble tablet break & repair”. This is a repair done when a marble tablet breaks in 1 or more places. It consists of matching, cleaning, & adhering the pieces back together with a masonry epoxy meant for historic stone. A masonry infill is then applied to fill in gaps & cracks for both appearance & to keep out water that may freeze.
3. “Tablet set in base”. This is the procedure of re-mortaring in a tablet to the slot in the base stone. This is done with a lime mortar that is like the type used when the stone was first set. It is also much softer than modern mortar but also very strong & can be replaced during future maintenance.
4. The standard multi-piece monument re-stack” This is the process for building & re-securing multi-piece monuments. The base stone is reset & leveled, then the other pieces are stacked on it in their proper order. The pieces are adhered with lime mortar & monument compound to secure them & keep water out. This is done with a hoist in most cases due to the weight of the stone pieces.
Specific suggestions tailor made for Shannon Cemetery
Since it appears there are some tombstones without positive grave locations. It would not be out of the realm of keeping with the cemetery’s character to designate a spot in the cemetery for them in a group manner. I would suggest a place that according to the GPR scan does not cover graves. I would place them in a newly made row in an empty spot void of graves to maintain the character of the cemetery & make mowing maintenance easier. And they should as the others, not be permanently affixed in case their proper placement is later determined.
It would also not be out of the realm in keeping with the cemetery’s character to place appropriate structures such as benches & paths on the cemetery grounds. As long as they don’t cover the graves of the deceased. This actually harkens back to the Victorian era when cemeteries took on a very park & garden like feel. But reverence & respect was first & foremost concerning their placement in relation to the graves. And again I would reference the GPR findings for such ideas.
The last suggestion I have is a simple one concerning the labor aspect of this work. Who is going to actually do it? I can offer the village the same thing I offered the Save Shannon group. I will come in & teach a 2 day weekend class on cemetery preservation at no cost. I would like to see it open to anyone who has an interest in learning this process in a gesture of fairness to all. Where it goes from there is up to this commission. I will be happy to offer advice & answer questions that may arise after I have taught the class.
Cost of materials required.
Specific lime mortars, infills, epoxies, etc. estimated cost $700.00
A small amount of small grave, slag is best, is required to use for leveling purposes. A small amount of topsoil or suitable dirt is suggested also to fill in naturally occurring low spots estimated cost depends on local area materials companies.

Liability for & during the preservation process
Gravestone Guardians of Ohio has a liability policy to cover 1 & ½ million dollars in damages & injury. This would cover myself & anyone who subcontracts under me while at the same time freeing the village of liability. Classes I have taught were doubly covered with my insurance & signed waivers for those who participated. These measures have always sufficed & served me well over the last 6 years.

In summation
What this commission has to decide is actually very simple, do they want to do the right thing where this cemetery is concerned? The right thing would be to put it back the way it was intended to begin with & work from there. I still see a margin that has room for both sides on this issue that can accommodate a historic cemetery & a place originally purposed. The village wants an attractive green space they can be proud of & the Save Shannon Cemetery group doesn’t want to lose the character of the old pioneer cemetery. The important thing is that it’s not too late. Nothing extremely harmful or irreversible has occurred yet. This is a golden opportunity for the Village of Bluffton to shine by showing it cares about its history & put all this drawn out controversy behind. This could be such a great story of turning adversity into common good & community togetherness. And if everyone tries to work together in some small way, then no one is a bad guy or a loser. Everyone is a winner at the end of this day. This is why I so strongly advocate that all here involved work together with this plan.
Where there is great will, be it great government or planning. Even great feeling or passion, error is also great. Situations progress & mature through the controversies that arise between these elements. Truly great solutions come about when resentments & impossible loyalties are cast aside. I hope this is the course that will now come about.
Thank you for your time."

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Grave markers, thousands of pounds of plastic found in scrapyard sting

"A Columbus-area scrapyard sting led police officers to a few obvious finds: Copper wire, aluminum wire, about 4 tons of shredded plastic.

But when they searched one city scrapyard, they found a World War II grave marker meant to hold the American flag. When detectives looked more closely, they saw the name "Circle" on the back. The marker, police later discovered, belonged to the grave of John Circle, a World War II veteran who served as Franklin County's engineer from 1980 until his death in 2000 at age 78.
Circle's marker was one of 56 veterans' markers that officers found when police scoured the scrapyards, stolen from Union Cemetery on the North Side. Many of the markers, including Circle's, were returned to the cemetery, but some already had been destroyed by the scrapyards.
"That becomes a disturbing circumstance, when someone is in a cemetery stealing veterans' grave markers and turning them in for cash," Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said.

A Franklin County grand jury this week returned indictments against six area scrapyards and five scrapyard employees, with charges ranging from violating scrap-metal laws to receiving stolen property to engaging in a pattern of criminal activity. The scrapyards that were indicted are New World Recycling, PSC Metals, Masser Metals & Recycling, G-Cor, Sims Brothers Recycling, and A to Z Recycling Inc.

Lin Wang and Xiaodong Qu of A to Z Recycling; Adam Greenblott of G-Cor; Jeremy Webster of PSC Metals; and Yujian Wang of New World Recycling also were indicted.
O'Brien said all are scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 19.

The sting, the first of its kind in Columbus, began in January 2014, when detectives took metal that appeared to be stolen to 19 area scrapyards and tried to sell it.

Columbus Police detective Jack Addington, the department's scrapyard detective, said the police maintain a list of known thieves, and scrapyards are not permitted to buy material from those people. In March 2014, detectives returned to the scrapyards and again tried to sell materials that appeared to be stolen. Six scrapyards bought those materials again. Some of the detectives' undercover names had been added to the "Do Not Sell To" list, and in several cases, Addington said, those detectives still made sales.

That summer, police returned to scrapyards that had bought from detectives both times, this time with a search warrant. They found plastic crates and bins, beer kegs and thousands of pounds of shredded plastic being prepped to ship to China. Much of the plastic belonged to large soda corporations — the large shells used to stack bottles. Police believe it had been stolen from area grocery stores. The plastic can be expensive: The Pepsi Company reported a loss of $100,000 in the central Ohio area in 2013.

Addington, however, said that most central Ohio scrapyards are behaving well.
"The ones that are not doing it right are the ones that are indicted," he said."