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."

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sheep Pen Cemetery - My Story & an Update

Reporting Vandalism at Sheep-Pen Cemetery - Summer of 2011
Madison Township, Highland County, Ohio
By Linda Jean Limes Ellis, August, 2011©
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     My July 15, 2011 trip to Sheep-Pen (AKA Limes or Gustin) Cemetery came within one day of the 30th anniversary of my first visit to this early pioneer burying ground that straddles the Fayette and Highland County boundary line on the Greenfield-Sabina Road heading toward Greenfield.
     After arrival and even before getting out of the car, I could see that Sheep Pen had suffered a senseless and brutal attack on a large number of its gravestones, older and newer ones alike, that I had come to know so well over the years. Several of my Limes family ancestors were buried at Sheep-Pen Cemetery so I had done considerable research about their connection to it.
     As I opened the gate and walked first past the more recent indigent burials marked with smaller homemade plaques, I could see farther ahead two rows of completely knocked down gravestones. Appearing to me as an appalling array of slammed down slabs, I felt they must have suffered crushing hateful blows by either humans or machines capable of delivering such forceful strikes against them. The frail marble markers and even newer granite monuments were defenseless against such violent attacks. I knew that one by one they had crashed hard into the earth that once supported them. Naturally, those thin fragile tablets completely cracked upon impact and now lie on the ground in jagged pieces.
     I immediately took note of the three newer large gray granite monuments belonging to John and Jane (Kelley) Limes; Hiram and Elizabeth (Cory) Limes; and Margaret and Rebecca Limes who were buried with their devoted nephew Charles Alvin Crooks. The massive top monuments for these three had been thrust clean off their bases causing each of them to land ‘face first’ at a 90 degree angle.
     I couldn’t help but feel those 19th century frail markers the criminals targeted were tearfully staring up at me and asking: “How could this have happen to us?” “We bothered no one and stood here in peace for over one hundred years!” I felt they deserved an answer. I was still shaking in too much disbelief though to provide one that would make any sense. There was no reason that could justify what indeed did happen. I believe we have a connection to our ancestors and others from the past through reading and touching their grave markers. As I think of those weathered stones and their purpose, I am reminded of the title from the book: “By Their Markers Ye Shall Know Them.”
     It took me what seemed like an eternity to regain my composure and start the task of photographing the destroyed gravestones and then writing down the names engraved on them. As in the past, I had brought with me my list of burials at Sheep-Pen Cemetery to note any changes. This time, however, it became my checklist for identifying those markers and monuments now in varied degrees of damage.
     Afterward, I called the Highland County Sheriff’s Department and told a deputy on duty about the vandalism at Sheep-Pen Cemetery. I later learned from Eleanor Snodgrass, the Madison Township (Highland County) Clerk, that they had also called in a vandalism report. She thought the attack had taken place two or three weeks earlier. She also felt a vehicle might have been used, and I tend to agree given the severity of the damage.
     I wanted to be sure that more local people became aware of the vandalism done at Sheep-Pen Cemetery, so I sent emails to some friends living in the Greenfield, Ohio area, contacted the Southern Ohio Genealogical Society (Highland County’s chapter of O.G.S.) and called the Highland County Veterans’ Office.
     I contacted the Highland County newspapers: The Times-Gazette and The Highland Press. Within a few days, both ran stories and a panoramic photograph of Sheep-Pen’s widespread vandalism. The Record-Herald in Fayette County also published the story. I sent an email to WBNS - 10TV in Columbus. They covered it in a newscast and put it on the internet.
     Eleanor Snodgrass told me she is contracting with Hardy Memorials of Greenfield for the restoration of the destroyed stones at Sheep-Pen Cemetery, and promised the trustees would try to have the grounds mowed as best as possible given the circumstances. She said insurance should cover all the needed repairs.
     On August 5, 2011, I spoke with Mr. Hardy by phone and he conveyed his hope to begin working at Sheep-Pen Cemetery in a few weeks. Currently, his company is restoring a vandalized cemetery in New Vienna, Ohio.
     Also on August 5, I learned that “Find A Grave” approved a photograph I submitted to them of some of the damaged stones and it is now visible on Sheep Pen’s main page: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pis&PIcrid=43392&PIpi=46265609&PIMode=cemetery
     Please, if anyone has any information that could lead to the apprehension and arrest of the person or persons responsible for the destruction of grave markers at Sheep-Pen Cemetery, please contact the Highland County Sheriff’s Office at their crime tip phone line: 937-840-6243.

Or email: Sheriff Ronald D. Ward: rward@highlandcoso.com rward@highlandcoso.com

     The extensive and malicious damage done to so many grave markers at Sheep-Pen Cemetery is obviously an unforgivable offense to those buried there, to their descendants, and truly, to all of us.


Stones damaged or destroyed from the 2011 vandalism at Sheep-Pen Cemetery:
Sisters, Margaret and Rebecca Limes, and their nephew Charles Alvin Crooks – granite monument knocked off base.


John Limes and his wife, Jane (Kelley) Limes – granite monument knocked off base.


Hiram Limes and his wife, Elizabeth (Cory) Limes – granite monument knocked off base.


Hiram Limes and “EHL” - original thin stone tablet knocked down.


Pvt. Samuel Crooks – bent up new 2010 GAR flag holder. Rounded top stone tablet in slotted base knocked over and cracked in two.


Millie F. Crooks - rounded top stone with fancy scrollwork flowers knocked off base.


Maria (Limes) Crooks - white marble upright stone knocked over.


Jennie Crooks (AKA Hannah Jane Crooks) – the whole monument was knocked from the base and lies on the ground.


Henry Limes - Thin white marble tablet stone - cracked in half lying on the ground.


Julia Ann Limes - thin white marble tablet stone - cracked in half lying on the ground.


Jacob H. Geller, Jr. and his wife Eleanor Elizabeth (Patterson) Geller – both inscriptions on one white marble square monument - knocked off from the base.


Jacob H. Geller and Mary (Wilson) Geller - individual rounded top stones - each knocked over with bases attached and lying on the ground ‘face up.’


Priscilla (Beals) Rogers – wife of Joel Rogers - partial above ground slab with evidence of new damage from being pried open further in the front.




The Hiram and Elizabeth (Cory) Limes large gray granite monument in the foreground
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All known surnames of those buried at Sheep-Pen Cemetery:


Aber, Barkley, Beals (Bales), Bennett, Best, Boyd, Brock, Crooks, Daugherty, Dick, Dorman, Geller, Goodwin, Irwin, Kelley (Kelly), Limes, McVey (McVay), McWilliams, Penwell, Rogers (Rodgers), Roosa, Shepherd, and Yohn.

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