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, February 5, 2012

A Plea for Help for "Mount Union Presbyterian Cemetery" - Union Township, Ross County, Ohio

From the "Find A Grave" Forums for Ohio:

"Hello.
I am writing to bring attention to a local defiled cemetery. The dead and buried up there have amassed too many contributions to society to be forsaken and defiled beyond awareness of society.

I currently am doing an investigation of the history of the place, through visiting the Archives, and eliciting information from across the internet.
The obvious question, do you guys ever deem a place as too far gone? I am hoping to restore some measure of dignity and to commemorate somehow, the souls resting there. Some form of plaque, perhaps?

It is known locally as "Elizabeth's Grave", but on a map you will see the title "Union Cemetery". Neither term lends dignity to the place.It's true name is "Mt.Union Presbyterian Cemetery".

This area is located atop a plateau on a high ridge overlooking much of Union Township. The area was once a coveted farmland and a thriving mini-community, With their own church and schoolhouse and trade routes, dating back to the early-1800's. The very first white settlers of Ross county split their time between here and what was the budding settlement of Chillicothe, just down the hill from it. In time the area basically phased out it's usefulness to the more trade-friendly and job-friendly location of the City below it. The large plateau remained, abandoned, and was bought up by the VA hospital (Soldiers From Camp Sherman even used the area for military training) , then eventually the Government for use as a wildlife sanctuary - it's heavily-wooded remoteness were an ideal wildlife habitat.

The Presbyterian church and it's graveyard there was also phased out of use, the church having been rebuilt after an 1831 windstorm and finally abandoned. In the wake of it's churchyard, a sizeable cemetery where a high number of the areas first pioneers and their families were laid to rest, along with soldiers from the war of 1812, Civil War and even one from the Revolutionary war against the British. The first burial, around 1811. The last, around 1930.

The heavily wooded remoteness and geographic isolation made the area a forsaken and forgotten place by most in the County, save for the naturalists and hunters who appreciated it's virtue as a wilderness, and a few forays into it by logging outfits.

But the cemetery remained. The county made scant efforts in the ensuing years after it's abandonment to control the overgrowth of vegetation within it's boundaries, only showing up once in a great while to do modest landscaping, budget permitting. Township council members did, in 1953, formally petition for state funds to maintain the landscaping, but apparently all for naught.

Sometime in the last few decades, another group of people discovered the virtue of the place: wayward adolescents seeking a private place away from authority to be rowdy and drunk and whatnot. Practitioners of witchcraft also found the area to be very accomodating for that same reason, often holding black mass and ceremonies in the fields and cemetery up there. It isn't hard to imagine the toll all these wild young people took on whatever property that remained in that abandoned land - the grave markers of some 250 or more people.

The cemetery has been severely vandalized. Only a small percentage of the graves still stand in their original place. A high number of them are piled in a small corner of the cemetery, and probably even more than that have been tossed down hillsides, carried away, or stolen from the site itself. Attempts were even made to unearth bodies, to whatever degree of success, noone can say.

The place is still being vandalized even to this very day. Grave markers are still moved about and repositioned as though they were toys.Kids even ride four-wheelers across the cemetery from time to time.
Noone can say exactly who's body is buried where. There are probably a couple hundred buried individuals there who's exact names and resting place will be unknown until the end of time. Overseeing all of the history up there is a huge, majestic black walnut tree that is over 300 years old - a historical monument in it's own right.

The place has become a beakon for ametuer ghost hunters from all over the state and beyond, especially with the arrival of so much internet blogging to glorify the place. It has become an unofficial tourist attraction for many, and a beloved retreat for locals who appreciate the scenic beauty, the isolation, and for a good scare (or to get drunk and be rowdy). The Ross County Sheriff, who has jurisdiction of the place, has bigger fish to fry than patrol it. It's just too time consuming to get there. One sheriff I spoke to seemed nonchalant and disinterested, like it's a lost cause, too far gone.

The location does genuinely have merit for it's rich historic virtue.

So I wanted to tell it's story in hopes that those who partake in cemetery restoration will notice it and maybe raise funds or organize some kind of restoration effort there."

No comments :

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.