Information provided by Mr. Harvey Looney regarding restoration of the Christian Cemetery in Williamsport, Ohio:
CHRISTIAN CEMETERY RESTORATION PROJECT
2005 – 2007
By Harvey Looney
The restoration of this old cemetery first began when Warren Gentzel, president of the Soldiers Monumental Association of Circleville, Ohio, called and said he was ordering headstones from the government for all the veterans buried in the Old Christian Cemetery on North Water St. in Williamsport and would I like to help set them.
I went to the cemetery for a close up look and what I saw wasn’t very pretty. As with most old cemeteries closed for burials, numerous headstones were laying on the ground, leaning in all directions, with a lot of them broken. There was brush and overgrowth all the way around three sides. Big tree limbs were hanging down, and old tree stumps that needed to be removed. The old dump site area was an eyesore. Rusty wire farm fencing had been removed from the front side of the cemetery a few years ago and thrown over the bank at the back. Tin cans, bottles, broken glass, brush etc. was deposited there also. Many loads of dirt would be needed to fill holes and low areas where some graves had sunk down over the years and topsoil for landscaping.
After my visit to the cemetery, I knew it should be cleaned up but I didn’t know if I wanted to tackle that big of a job. I also knew that I couldn’t do it alone. I thought about the project for a month or so without saying anything to anyone about my plans for the cemetery. It was late in August, when I said, if I’m going to do this I better get started.
Forming a restoration committee:
Harvey Looney, Chairman Cinda Justice, Correspondence
Marcia Horch, Treasurer Beverly Whitten, Ways and Means
Ray Horch, Volunteer Norma Jean Gilmore, Volunteer
Organizing a plan and finding volunteers for the cleanup:
Among the needs were the village backhoe for use in tree trimming, stump removal and loading of debris on to a 16’ trailer owned by the township trustees. After the line up of equipment and volunteers was complete, the date was set for the day after Labor Day in 2005 to start the project.
The first phase of the cleanup took several weeks. Trees and brush were trimmed or removed around three sides of the site and elsewhere as needed throughout the cemetery. Several old stumps were removed. The old dump site was cleared of overgrowth, brush and rusty wire fencing. Four pickup loads of trash cans filled with broken bottles, glass and tin cans were collected and taken to the dumpster. The entire cemetery was raked free of moss, walnuts, sticks, leaves, etc. Using the 16’ long trailer, 20 loads of debris were hauled away. In addition, four pickup loads of fire wood were claimed from the tree cutting.
There were 18 dump truck loads of dirt hauled in for free. Any time we heard of someone having a load of dirt, we would ask if we could have it. Dirt came from many places, local and county wide. It was used for filling around headstones, low areas, stump holes, sunken graves, landscaping etc. The truck loads of dirt were dumped into piles near the street. We would then sort the stones out, shovel the dirt into wheelbarrows and haul them to the needed areas.
Over two hundred headstones have been reset. Many broken stones were repaired. We also found headstones and broken fragments underground which were in good condition. Being underground helped to preserve the stones.
To repair broken stones we used a two part epoxy, recommended by the Wellman Monument Company of Circleville, Ohio, clamps, and a jig made of 4x4s to hold the pieces in line while the epoxy sets up. You will see stones standing now with two or three color changes. The part of the stone that is whiter and more legible was underground or lying face down in the dirt.
The earliest engraved headstone in this cemetery was Jacob Mitts, died Oct. 1810, Age 15 yrs. That was 197 years ago. This stone still stands today and is one of the few that weren’t reset.
Thomas C. Tipton read the stones in 1910. He estimated that there were twice as many buried here as there were headstones.
As of Dec. 15, 2002 there were 289 listed burials with 167 standing headstones. As of Nov. 1, 2006 there are 271 standing headstones. All the stones have been cleaned which enabled us to read most of the engraving. Some stones just weathered away with little of no engraving left. Some stones were identified by matching fragmented dates or letters to the existing list of burials.
We found nine legible stones that weren’t on the burial list. There were 83 additional stones identified after cleaning that we added to the reported list dated 15 Dec. 2002. for a total of 92 additional stones identified and added to the list as having a stone.
There are only 16 stones standing out of 271 stones that haven’t been identified.
The first recorded burial was Elizabeth Davidson in 1803. The last burial was Polly Shade July 8, 1886.
The earliest person born is William Kinney, born April 20, 1722. He was 10 years old when George Washington was born. He also lived to be the oldest. He died Sept. 10, 1820 at 98y 4 m. 22 d. All three of the above burials have new headstones engraved in 2006, funded by us with our established Christian Cemetery Fund. Many, many people have supported us with their generous donations.
Dr. J. B. F. Morgan had written June 13, 1889 about the first meeting house that was constructed of hewn logs in 1810. It stood on or near the site of the residence of Thomas C. Tipton which adjoins the south side of the cemetery. In 1816 that building was disposed of and a small frame building was erected on the grounds that were occupied by that society as a church. That structure also became too small and in 1869 a beautiful and commodious structure was erected by the society. Uncle Ebbie Davis donated the ground upon which a new Church was built on South Water Street. I found the cornerstones on which the 1816 building was erected. Before reading Dr. Morgan’s article no one knew where this 1816 building was erected.
The Soldiers Monumental Association donated a beautiful new flag pole and flag which was installed in July, 2006 by the Soldiers Monumental Association members and cemetery committee members. A brick walk and flower garden around the flag pole was added later.
The four cornerstones from the meeting house are now being used in the landscape theme around the flag pole. Behind each of the four cornerstones stand the American flag in the brass holders with medallions representing each of the four wars in which these veterans served, The American Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, The Mexican War, and The Civil War.
A 250 watt security light was installed by the Village, with dust to dawn timer to illuminate the flag at night. New and much brighter street lights were also installed.
We wanted a fence to go with the time period. Split rail and wrought iron seemed to be the best choice. The new entrance to the cemetery now has a restored wrought iron gate with 9 foot sections of wrought iron fence on each side of the gate. The fence and gate was originally installed around the Historical Octagon House in Circleville, Ohio. Two of the posts were broken off near the top of the ground. A twenty inch piece of 4” diameter pipe was welded to each post to repair the damage and allow us to secure them in the ground. Some straightening was also necessary in order to use the fence sections. Wire brushing, sanding, power washing and painting brought these sections of fence to a presentable state. About 450 feet of split rail fence was installed on either side of the new gate to finish the street side of the cemetery.
Every stone in this cemetery has been cleaned and read, if possible, and location plotted in 2006 by Harvey Looney. Sixteen of the standing stones couldn’t be read but all can be quickly located by contacting a member of the Christian Cemetery Restoration Committee or the Deercreek Township Trustee Office.
The high banks of Deer Creek were cleared of debris in the winter of 2005.
We sowed 100 lbs. of grass seed in the spring of 2006. We used 40 bales of straw, donated by various individuals, to cover the seed. After the grass came up most of the straw was raked off to allow the grass to thicken in. It is now the first of November 2006 and the grass is in great shape. I heard a lot of positive comments, mostly from local residents, that they didn’t realize that the cemetery was this big. Other comments were “I never knew there were so many headstones here.” or “Where did all those headstones come from?” I tell them the headstones were always here they just weren’t standing, many were leaning way over and some were laying flat on the ground while others were totally under ground. As far as the size goes we just made the place look bigger by cutting back and digging out the brush around three sides of the cemetery, in some places up to twenty feet.
The foot stone memorial:
There were 66 foot stones lying throughout the cemetery. Some were found over the high banks at the back of the cemetery, the dump site, the ravine or just underground. All sizes, shapes and thicknesses. I took them home and laid them out in my driveway. I had some old thick street brick so I started laying out a 5’ by 10’ brick frame and fitted the stones into it. All the stones were washed and cleaned. After digging out for the cement base at the cemetery, I took the stones back to the cemetery and set them in dry cement mix and then mortared the joints resulting in a beautiful and informative new addition to our cemetery.
A deep ravine on the north end of the cemetery was filled using 5000 yards of fill from a village street project. North Main Street in Williamsport was completely dug up and replaced in early fall of 2007 and the contractors needed to find a place to haul the rubble. It was agreed that they would grade and leave the site good enough to sew grass. We then prepared the topsoil and sewed 30 lbs. of grass seed and covered with 20 bales of donated straw. Grass has been up since early October of 2007. This deep ravine was transformed from an unsightly, overgrown, and worthless piece of real estate to a beautiful addition to the cemetery in six weeks time, by filling up level from one side of the bank over to the other side.
During the restoration two more veterans were discovered, one from the American Revolution and one from the War of 1812. This historic burial ground is the final resting place for the following 22 veterans.
American Revolution Mexican War
William Allison William Davis
War of 1812 Civil War
John Downing John Handlin
Isaac Hornbeck Abram Huntsbury
Simon Hornbeck Paul Ike
James Martin Joseph Lowe
John Martin Willis McGath
William McFarland William Oldham
John Mills George Powell
Samuel Phebus Stephen Ross
All the veterans now have new granite headstones.
The Veterans Memorial
The veteran’s memorial was installed in 2007. The concrete foundation was poured 32” deep. There were eight courses of multicolor bricks laid on top of the Foundation. The center of the brick walls was then filled with concrete using wall ties to strengthen the brick walls. The foundation and brickwork were all done by local volunteers. Wellman Monument Company installed a 4” granite base on the top of the brick work. On this base they erected a 4ft. high by 4ft. wide by 6” thick polished granite monument with the names of all the veterans and officers of the Restoration Committee engraved on it.
In the past two years while working at the cemetery I have talked to visitors from California, Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia, and Georgia. The Georgia couple’s ancestors were Edward Davidson and Elizabeth Davidson. Edward Davidson wasn’t listed as being buried in this cemetery on the 2002 burial list. They had documents to show he was a Revolutionary War Veteran and was buried in the Christian Cemetery in Pickaway County, Ohio. He was confirmed by the Soldiers Monumental Association to be a Revolutionary War Veteran. The wife of Edward Davidson was on the burial list, but no first name. They had documents stating her name was Elizabeth.
The following is an interesting excerpt from an old article in The Clarksburg Telegraph Newspaper, published in 1889.
Rise and progress of the Deercreek settlement
By Dr. J. B. F. Morgan
About the Christian Cemetery in Williamsport, Ohio
“There is one thing that is a disgrace to, not only the village, but to the surrounding country. That is the graveyard in the north part of town. We visited it in June last to look at some of the early graves and gravestones, that we might speak of the silent dead and their posterity. After making several efforts to get through the brush, briars, and burs, we abandoned the task as one not worthy of the effort. The posterity of the people there buried, are they not worthy of public mention. They should not only be named but to be rebuked. There, no doubt, lie the bodies of the pioneers. There lie the bodies of the fathers and mothers. The last resting place of many soldiers for the union was selected there. Had we not found a union flag or two that had, by much effort, been placed by the grave of a soldier, we would have concluded that these graves were not only neglected, but forgotten. The most neglected and wildest waste of all Pickaway County is to be found there. Is there none to mourn for the pioneer? Have the living lost respect for the dead?”
If only Dr. Morgan could revisit this cemetery in 2007 in an automobile!
Volunteers have been the backbone for completing this job. Without volunteers this project would never have gotten started let alone completed. Any volunteer project this big, lasting over two years with manual labor and heavy lifting involved, can burn people out pretty fast.
There were many volunteers in the past two years, too many to list in this article. Some may have worked a couple of hours and every hour does count. I would like to give special thanks to Ray Horch who donated hundreds of hours and personal tools for this restoration. There has been no tax dollars spent on this project. All money spent on this restoration has come from individual donations. There was a very productive fund raising drive as well. The use of any equipment is a valuable donation as well as any personal tools, etc.
Thanks again to everyone who gave time and money to make this restoration a success
Thanks to the restoration Committee Members.
Harvey Looney, Chairman
Corrections to Williamsport Christian Cemetery Information
Attn. of Ms. Linda Jean Ellis January, 8, 2008
Barnes, Lenox d. Apr. 7, 1843
b. Feb. 11, 1842 d. Aug. 8, 1843
Clarridge, Marinda R. d. Sep. 9, 1868
b. Jun. 26, 1847 d. Sep., 1868
b. 1750 d. 1827
Additional information-Edward was a Veteran of the Revolutionary War. (See below)
Davidson, Unknown Davidson, Elizabeth
b. unknown d. 1803 b. 1738 d. 1803
Information obtained from relative from Georgia who was visiting the area and hunting ancestors. She also informed us that Edward Davidson was a Revolutionary War veteran.
Hancock, Elizabeth Hancock, Elizabeth Davis
b. Dec. 4, 1799 d. Jun. 18, 1862 b. Dec. 4, 1799 d. Jun. 18, 1862
Mills, John Mills, Robert
b. unknown d. Jun. 14, 1800 b. 1782 d. 1842
Robert is the Son of John & Francis Hall Mills, native of Ireland. The person who died Jun. 1800 is the father. He died and buried in Virginia in 1800. The stone inscriptions are very confusing.
Misler, Corriller A. McAllister, Corriler A.
b. Dec. 13, 1846 d. Jun. 28, 1847 b. Dec. 13, 1846 d. Jun. 28, 1847
Ross, Stephen Ross, Stephen
b. unknown d. Jul. 4, 1904 b, 1837 d. 1865
Ross was a Veteran of the Civil War in 1862. When we had the marker made somehow the wrong date of death was engraved. We are hoping to get this corrected. The last burial in this Cemetery was in 1886. Research taken from Civil War Veteran Rosters.
Respectfully submitted by
Harvey Loony & Ray Horch
Exploring almost forgotten gravesites in 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 therefromand 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."