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."

Friday, January 31, 2014

Sharing an Update: Ohio Cemetery Law Task Force Meeting Minutes of January 24, 2014

The Ohio Department of Real Estate and Professional Licensing has a link to Ohio Cemetery Law Task Force information on their website.  

 Click on the word "Resources" (between "News" and "Contact Us") toward the top of the main page.  

There is a main category heading at the top of the middle column entitled:  "Cemetery Law Task Force" which has the following sub-headings listed:  

"Members" "Meeting Schedule" and "Meeting Minutes" 
The link does not open if you just click on the block to the right with the red background that shows the backs of rows of tombstones and the words "Cemetery Law Task Force" )

The formation of this Ohio Cemetery Law Task Force is an important step in the right direction toward furthering the cause for better cemetery preservation measures; hopefully for all cemeteries and burial grounds in the Buckeye State.  Their  recommendations for improvements and change will be presented to the Ohio legislature for enactment. 
 This is the first time to my knowledge that such a commission at the state government level has been created soley to meet and address the various and diverse issues of cemetery preservation. The cemetery task force members represent societies and organizations that have a direct interest in protecting and preserving gravestones and cemeteries in the Buckeye State.

The need is great and too much history has already been lost at the final resting places of our departed loved ones and ancestors.  

Endangered cemeteries and gravesites exist in every county in Ohio.
Sharing the Ohio Cemetery Law Task Force meeting minutes of January 24, 2014 below:  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ohio WPA Cemetery Plat Maps -- Where Are They Now?

The Works Progress Administration (later renamed in 1939 as the "Works Projects Administration") -- is often abbreviated and known simply as the "WPA" -- was created and existed during the years of the Great Depression to help put Americans back to work.  

"Interment.net" provides a comprehensive historical account of the  Works Progress Administration; its purpose, timeline, and list of accomplishments that gives the researcher a good start in understanding the types of records we have today because of these programs.  

A critical element to be aware of that impacts a search for Ohio's WPA Cemetery Plat Maps is that after they were drawn and completed, the maps were then deposited at each Ohio County Recorder's Office for their individual county.  Over the decades, unfortunately, due to space constraints and other issues, these maps in many Ohio counties now are kept elsewhere; so the question is:  "Where are They Now?" 

The WPA Cemetery Plat Map pages are larger size and were bound in heavy volumes making them difficult to handle and store.  In Allen County, for example, there are over 100 pages of WPA Cemetery plat maps.  There could be two or even three cemetery maps on one page if the cemeteries are small.  Conversely, for larger cemeteries, several map pages would be required to be drawn to illustrate the sections of the cemetery.  Also, the names of the veterans buried at a cemetery were included on the map page. A key was included on the map page that explains the number code by the veteran's name to identify his burial location at the cemetery and the name of the war he served in, if known.     

So it is that I have been working since July of 2013 to locate the WPA Cemetery Plat Maps for each Ohio County.  As most of us know Ohio has 88 counties so it required contacting each county individually; and in some counties, calling and/or emailing several county government offices (i.e. - Recorder, Engineer, Tax Map, Veterans' Office, County Archives if there is one) and/or libraries, historical, and genealogical societies, before it is discovered where a county's WPA Cemetery Plat Maps are now located.  

Unfortunately, however, in thirteen counties (see listing below) the location where their WPA Cemetery Plat Maps are located today still remains a mystery even after exhausting all of the logical contact choices mentioned above.  It doesn't necessarily mean the cemetery maps don't exist; it just means I haven't found them yet! 

During my investigations, I learned also that there is no one repository that holds all of the WPA Cemetery Plat Maps for each of Ohio's Counties. For example, Ohio Historical Society just recently acquired the Franklin County WPA Cemetery Plat Maps.     


On a related issue,  many of you may know, as a companion to the WPA Cemetery Plat Maps, the Veterans' Graves Registration Cards were created for individual veterans.  Today, these individual veteran's grave cards can still be foundat most Ohio Recorder's Offices and/or county veterans' offices.  

The Ohio Historical Society does have the veterans graves registration cards in their collection.  A wonderful website for these graves registration cards is in its beginning stages to be online accessible through the Ohio Memory ProjectClick here to access  their "Graves Registration Cards" collection.  A paragraph entitled:  "About this Collection" also explains Ohio-specific details.   Currently, this online collection is only up to the letter "B", however.  

"The Graves Registration Cards Collection is made up of digitized versions of the graves registration cards from State Archives Series 183 at the Ohio Historical Society. This series, created by the Ohio Adjutant General's Department, includes records of soldiers in every war from the Revolutionary War until World War II."   

Below is a sample veteran's grave registration card for Samuel Crooks who was buried at the Limes Cemetery AKA Sheep Pen or Gustin Cemetery: 


Please note, the alphabetical listing by county of the WPA Cemetery Plat Maps and contact information regarding them, if known, for their current location, is now shown on this blog on its own Page entitled:  

"Ohio WPA Cemetery Plat Maps - Location of Maps Listed Alphabetically by County Name".  

The PAGES heading is on the blog's right-hand column.  


The counties where the location of their WPA Cemetery Plat Maps remain missing are listed below:



Below is the title page for the "Veterans Graves Registration" project.  Also, below the title page is the WPA Cemetery Plat Map page of the Auglaize Cemetery in Auglaize Township, Allen County, Ohio to help illustrate what a typical WPA Cemetery Plat Map page looks like.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sharing a Quiet Winter Scene at the Greenfield Cemetery in Greenfield, Highland County, Ohio

Thanking Scott and Venus Andersen for sharing their photograph taken today of a portion of the Greenfield Cemetery in Greenfield, Ohio. 

We see the windswept snow hugging the bases of the taller monuments.  A white landscape of peace and quiet prevails; reflected in a glint of sun spotlighting the stones from a distance.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sharing My Poem -- "There Is No Tombstone Time Machine" -- to Help You Take the Time You Need to Become Knowledgeable and Learn Best Practices before Cleaning and Repairing Your Ancestors' Tombstones

Please take the following issues into consideration before visiting the cemetery to clean and repair the tombstones of your ancestors: 
The type of tools and products you will use:
--  Power tools with plastic wheels that rotate at high speeds that are pressed against the stone's surface remove its outer layer of marble.  The "marble dust" residue seen lying on the ground around a gravestone was created after this type of  a procedure had been done and is evidence that such aggressive measures were used.  Hand tools used to remove lichens, etc., on the other hand, do not remove layers of marble or stone, therefore do not leave such residue.  Thus, hand tools are less invasive and harmful to the stone's surface, and preserve its depth and thickness.  "Grinding away" on a tombstone can cause long term ill effects on it -- some that we may not even realize.  Once it's done, it cannot be undone. 
--  The type of cleaning products you choose -- Please check MSDS - Material Safety Data Sheets - before purchasing cleaning products and applying them.  Read reviews and consult with professionals if they use certain products and what is their assessment of them.  Always be sure to obtain more than one opinion.  Unfortunately, even 'before and after' gravestone photographs may not tell the whole story if a product applied to it has done or will do irreparable harm.  There can be lingering adverse effects evident only months or years later.  
This blog has several links to websites offering products. Also, listed are some gravestone conservation professionals; both Ohio based and outside of Ohio.  
Please take the time you need to read and ask questions before purchasing and using products and/or hiring professionals to conduct cleaning and repairing of your ancestors' gravestones.  Please remember that the long-term future of our ancestors' gravestones is at stake. The results will reflect the decisions we make and the paths we choose to take. 
To help you with your decisions, please consult with well respected organizations that promote the safest known practices for gravestone conservation and preservation.  
They include:  
I'm confident that the time you take to review your options will lead you to make the best decisions possible for your tombstone preservation work.    

I leave you with my short poem as a reminder that mistakes made while cleaning and repairing tombstones can be irreversible. 

By Linda Jean Limes Ellis
January 23, 2014
An old tombstone cannot be made new again,
No matter how hard we try.

There is no Tombstone Time Machine to turn back the clock,
So please don’t believe the lie.

We scrape and scrub the stone’s eroded epitaph,
Then rinse it well and pat the surface dry.

We see their names, ages, birth and death dates are now more clear.
But wait, before we take our photographs, is that their voices that we hear?

A moment is spent to bid our respectful goodbye, before we turn and depart,
Knowing that wherever we are the tombstone will always hold a piece of our heart.

We will return to that lonely tombstone because we just can’t stay away,
And bring with us more tools to work again on another day.

The tombstone belongs to another time,
Though it's standing in our sight.

Please treat it as your own,
Mindful to always strive to preserve it right!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Winfield Scott Limes (1875 - 1959) - Find A Grave Memorial

Sharing this "Find A Grave" memorial for my grandfather whose 139th birthday is today.  I am fortunate to remember him from childhood, and now getting to know more about him after researching his life long career spent with the Wood Wire & Metal Lathers' International Union. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ohio Dept. of Commerce - Div. of Real Estate & Professional Licensing - Ohio Cemetery Law Task Force -- First Meeting January 24, 2014

It has been a long time coming in Ohio, the formation of an "Ohio Cemetery Law Task Force":

SOURCE:  http://com.ohio.gov/real/

"The Cemetery Law Task Force will hold its first meeting on Friday, January 24, at 10 a.m. at the Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing, 77 S. High St., 22nd Floor, Columbus. The Cemetery Law Task Force was established by the 130th General Assembly in H.B. 59 to develop recommendations for modernization of Ohio laws relating to cemeteries."

 From what I have been told, the meetings are open to the public to attend.

Take Force Member List and Other Information from the Ohio Department of Real Estate and Professional Licensing from its website (below images):

 "Division of Real Estate & Professional Licensing"
77 South High Street, 20th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6133
Phone 614.466.4100
Fax 614.644.0584


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Thanking the "Record Herald" Newspaper of Washington Court House, Ohio for Printing My Letter Regarding Walnut Creek Cemetery in Perry Townhip.

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.