Sharing my letter to the editor:
Letter to the Editor
January 6, 2014
To the Editor:
"My reply is to Tonya Tuttle whose letter appears in the “Record-Herald” on January 2, 2014 regarding Walnut Creek Cemetery in Perry Township. I am the “friend up north” mentioned in the November 27, 2013 story submitted by Gail Allen. I live near Cleveland, Ohio.
Please know also, that I have indeed “dug deeper”, however, and unfortunately I saw what I consider the real issue with my own eyes during my last visit to Walnut Creek Cemetery in early August, 2013. It was my yearly visit to the gravesites of some of my early Fayette County Limes and Doster ancestors.
I expected the cemetery would need to be mowed as that would not be unusual, however, I was not prepared for the shock seeing weeds and wild grass that were taller than some of the largest monuments that sit atop high bases. Several flat markers and downed gravestones were completely obscured beneath dead weeds and grass left from earlier cuttings. I had to brush off thickened matted clumps to locate my great-great-great grandfather’s War of 1812 marker I had installed for him.
My first visit to Walnut Creek Cemetery was July 10, 1981 with Dr. Bill Limes and his wife, Rose, of Washington Court House. I have cherished my photographs from that visit. Dr. Limes was so pleased to take me on tour of the cemeteries where his Limes ancestors were buried in Fayette County. Sadly, Dr. and Mrs. Limes have since passed away. I’m sure they would be quite saddened to see the current deteriorated state of Walnut Creek Cemetery. They would have never imagined it could happen. The Hulda Limes stone Dr. Limes pointed out has now disappeared.
Since that time, I try to make yearly visits to these gravesites and have seen first-hand the results of the year after year decline of the regular care at Walnut Creek Cemetery; particularly at the older sections in the rear of the property and down the hilly slope abutting Walnut Creek Road. Many earlier settlers of Perry Township were buried there with family surnames of Doster, Ellis, Jury, Limes, and Todhunter to name a few.
As with every visit, I took several photographs at Walnut Creek Cemetery during my August 2013 trip. On August 16, 2013, I wrote a letter and sent it with my photographs to Mr. Richard Wilson, the Perry Township trustee whom I have communicated my concerns to regarding Walnut Creek Cemetery on several occasions over the years. I wrote to voice my latest concerns about the abnormally high weeds and overgrowth that were much worse than I had ever seen there in the past.
As I later learned from another Perry Township Trustee, the 3 trustees’ arrangements are such that each one handles their own cemetery and the other two handle theirs. Thus, Mr. Wilson has been the only trustee handling the mowing at Walnut Creek Cemetery. I also had learned that the other two township trustees have sought extra help from the Probation Department when needed, however, Mr. Wilson does not seek the same assistance.
I followed up with a phone conversation to Mr. Wilson and learned of his recent illness. He stated he would see that the weeds encroaching around and in between the gravestones would be cut.
By the middle of September, I inquired with Gail if she could be so kind to take some photographs at Walnut Creek Cemetery if she was in that area. I knew she had been photographing gravestones at other Fayette County cemeteries as a volunteer. I wished to have a clearer idea if indeed the overgrown weeds were cut down by that time.
Gail’s Walnut Creek Cemetery photographs of September 30 included an overflowing trash can and row upon row of larger monuments and gravestones covered with chopped up dead weeds that were cut down. In other words, the live overgrowth I contacted Mr. Wilson about was cut in the past 6 weeks, but had not been removed and hauled away as should have been done. As you know from Gail’s story, she took it upon herself to proceed further after her first visit to ensure those piles were removed.
The probation department was contacted and she personally worked with them raking and removing the piles of dead weeds on October 18, for no pay of course. I appreciate greatly her taking the extra steps that went beyond my original request to take photographs. A few days prior, Gail attended the October Perry Township meeting and provided a well-prepared presentation to visually document Walnut Creek’s worsened condition, and state that she and others were concerned because of it.
I feel Mr. Wilson neglected to have provisions put in place for continuing care of Walnut Creek Cemetery during his absence; which evidenced by the cemetery’s poor condition as stated above, he did not do.
If the other two township trustees could garner extra help to maintain their cemeteries when needed, then Mr. Wilson should have sought that assistance as well rather than let the cemetery’s grounds become overwhelmed with tall weeds and wild grass, including around the entrance gate itself and other areas like the driveway.
I have spent countless hours over the years at several cemeteries in Ohio cleaning overgrowth around my ancestors’ gravestones, washing them, and photographing them afterwards . However, I was not prepared for the towering stalks of weeds and wild grass that I had to walk around during my August, 2013 visit at Walnut Creek Cemetery. The lack of regular care was unmistakable and made more glaringly accentuated by the forlorn landscape of toppled and broken tombstones lying amidst other leaning markers encrusted in aged lichens rendering the inscriptions unreadable.
Walnut Creek Cemetery is Fayette County’s oldest active cemetery. It is one with a proud Quaker history having started informal meetings in Perry Township that led to establishing Fayette County’s first house of worship in 1809. Veterans from as early as the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 are buried there. It remains an integral part today of Perry Township and Fayette County. Its condition and appearance reflect the values and character of those who are responsible for it and the residents who reside near it.
Speaking for myself and those interred at this historic burial ground, I appreciate your husband’s work and that of others at Walnut Creek Cemetery, whether it was done with or without pay, Tonya. Hopefully others will be inspired to volunteer as Gail did. I would encourage area Eagle Scout groups to make it a clean-up project, for example. Walnut Creek Cemetery’s dignity and respect needs to be restored to its grounds and gravestones to properly honor those who chose it for their final resting place."
Linda Jean Limes Ellis
Photograph of the Hulda Limes' stone below marking her final resting place at the Walnut Creek Cemetery that has has been missing for along time.