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."

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Side-By-Side of Before and After Gravestone Repair Photos of Noah McVay, Sr.'s Marker at Sheep Pen Cemetery in Madison Twp., Highland County, Ohio

Thanking Scott Andersen for his help with cleaning and putting the Noah McVay, Sr. marker back upright at the Sheep Pen (AKA Gustin or Limes Cemetery), in Madison Township, Highland County, Ohio.  

Every Name Index Veterans’ Burial Records Recorder’s Office Highland County, Ohio
Published by The Southern Ohio Genealogical Society, page 21:
McVAY/McVEY, Noah (the elder) buried in Madison Township (MAD) at Limes (LIM) Cemetery,
recorded in Volume 5, on page 25.  Possible War of 1812 service.

Noah McVay/McVey (the elder) died December 17, 1875 at 78 years 1 month and 18 days per the D.A.R. tombstone reading transcription completed in 1953.  However, this D.A.R. transcription does not designate military service for this Noah McVay/McVey who died on December 17, 1875.  Possible War of 1812 service, per the Highland County Recorder’s records.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

My Open Letter to Ohio Townships - Because Gravestone Cleaning Methods Matter

Because Gravestone Cleaning Methods Matter
Keep Power Tools and Harsh Chemicals Out of the Cemetery
So it is that township trustees are entrusted with the solemn duty of ensuring their cemeteries are well maintained.  However, often upon a closer inspection of them, the realization becomes that those blackened, sinking, and broken gravestones can no longer be ignored.  This understanding precipitates adopting a plan to renew the integrity of the cemetery, and regain the respect of the gravesites and the gravestones that identify them.

After a cemetery assessment is made, sometimes the decision is to seek paid help for those monuments and markers flagged with condition issues; with much of the proposed work to include seemingly basic stone cleaning.  But could problems loom if the wrong cleaning choices are made? 

In a couple of  moments we’ll learn why gravestone cleaning methods matter – that there are some products and practices that should never be used on any gravestones.

First, we’ll consider that you may wish to hire the same business utilized from past projects where you have been generally satisfied with their work like a local monument company because they are close by and convenient.  Maybe you have hired someone you know, or a person who was referred to you by another township in your county. 

Further, it is possible the person under consideration may also point out that they have attended accredited hands-on cemetery preservation workshops, and might themselves be holding such types of classes in Ohio or in another state.  However, unfortunately, this does not necessarily guarantee that they will adhere to all of the “Best Practices of Do No Harm” principles that they were taught at those workshops.  They could be choosing quicker and easier shortcuts that are not appropriate for gravestones.

Thus, to learn in-depth specific details of the “Best Practices of Do No Harm” methods please reference the following material from professionals who are well regarded in the field of cemetery preservation and gravestone conservation, both at the national level and from Ohio.

Websites below for the National Park Service’s NCPTT (which include a link to an article by Dr. Mary Striegel), and for author and conservator, Lynette Strangstad.  Statements follow from Ms. Strangstad, and Nathan Bevil of the Preservation Office of the Ohio History Connection.:

1.         NCPTT -The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training with the      National Park Service - The NCPTT conducts hands-on cemetery preservation      workshops.

      Abrasive Cleaning of Gravestone Markers”:

      The above link is to a comprehensive article written by Dr. Mary Striegel of the NCPTT, and published July 24, 2014.  Details cite the reasons why the NCPTT does not condone the use of power tools, including power drills with attached Nyalox® plastic brush wheels that rotate at high speeds, on any type of gravestone.

      NCPTT – “Best Practice Recommendations for Cleaning Government Issued

      Many of the best practice recommendations provided in this document are applicable to
monuments and markers other than government issued ones, including:

      “Never aggressively scrub the surface, or use wire brushes or mechanical methods
such as sanders or grinders to clean the surface.”


2.         Lynette Strangstad

·         http://stonefaces.com/home/  Stone Faces & Sacred Spaces

      Website of Lynette Strangstad, nationally known author of “A Graveyard Preservation Primer” – 2nd edition published in 2013.

·         http://stonefaces.com/graveyard-preservation-primer/  A Graveyard Preservation Primer  By Lynette Strangstad

Statement from Lynette Strangstad, Author of “A Graveyard Preservation Primer”:

"Briefly, in my opinion, "polishing" an old gravestone is not appropriate.  The entire stone is altered. Some of the surface is removed. And that fragile surface is the very reason most consider the stone valuable (though that is only part of the significance). 

In grinding the surface (that is, polishing), one is removing part of the lettering. Three or four such abrasive cleanings (over time, say, 15 or 20 years) could easily equal the stone loss that would occur naturally in a hundred or more years.  It's good to remember that care for gravestones is not just to satisfy our aesthetic desires in the present; it is to preserve the stone for future generations.

The important thing to remember is that "less is more" and the least aggressive treatment that can clean effectively is the best.  Also to be remembered is that no old gravestone should "look like new."  It's not; it's historic.”

Statement from Nathan A. Bevil - Community Planning & Preservation Manager
Ohio History Connection (formerly the Ohio Historical Society):

"I have also worked with some cemeteries in the past, including those that have had some restoration work.  Most of the stones used, especially in older cemeteries, are extremely soft due to stone type and exposure to acid rain and nature in general.

Any abrasive method of cleaning is discouraged, much less using power tools.  Even power washing is discouraged, as this can deeply groove sandstone and marble.  Any cleaning of a gravestone must be taken with careful consideration.  I have seen enough stones that have deteriorated to the point that I would not even use a simple bristle brush.  Always conduct thorough research on the materials before undertaking a specific action, and feel free to contact our office for additional information.

In any case, power washing and power tools are always discouraged and can have disastrous results for historic gravestones.

If you have some specific cases you would like to discuss, please feel free to contact me
(nbevil@ohiohistory.org or at 614-298-2000).  I hope this information helps."

Nathan A. Bevil | Community Planning & Preservation Manager
Ohio History Connection | 800 E. 17th Ave., Columbus, OH 43211


I feel a polite request of the person you hire to agree to a “No power tools / No harsh chemicals promise” would provide peace of mind.  It would serve to ensure the less likelihood of their causing damage, which could be irreversible, to the historic gravestones that are waiting to be properly cleaned.   Yes, the key word is properly!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Sunday, October 18, 2015

October 24, 2015 Old Burying Ground Volunteer Work Session Scheduled to Start at 9:00a.m. in Greenfield, Ohio

Calling all who wish to join in the volunteer effort to restore the Old Burying Ground in Greenfield, Highland County, Ohio!  
Here is your opportunity to participate and contribute to the two-year progress that continues at this historic pioneer Ohio cemetery.  

The event is scheduled for Saturday, October 24, 2015 from 9:00a.m. to 'whenever' I have been told.

"Please join other volunteers as we continue to make improvements to the Old Burial Ground. We'll start at 9 a.m. and work as long as we have the energy. Come help and stay as long as you can."

The Greenfield Historical Society members have been spearheading this vigorous ongoing effort since 2014 to clean, repair, and reset gravestones and markers of all shapes and sizes that denote the gravesites of some of the area's earliest settlers.  

This all-volunteer work group effort has been led by Scott Andersen and his wife, Venus, who are also members of the Greenfield Historical Society.  The number of trained volunteers has grown during this year to include non-members alike. 

Scott would be the first one to tell us how well the group has been advancing with their elbow grease efforts, that for most, has now gone beyond the basics of  scrubbing and rinsing lichen-covered headstones.  
(photos below courtesy of Scott Andersen)
Currently, there are 537 known interments listed for the Old Burying Ground in Greenfield on the website "Find A Grave."

As a side note, co-incidentally, this morning I received notifications for edits on "Find A Grave" Memorials for two people buried at the Old Burying Ground:
 Eleanor Taylor Irwin (maiden name was added)
and her husband,
Jared Irwin  (his birth and death locations were added)


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sharing an Update from the Members of "Save the Shannon Cemetery" - Bluffton, Allen County, Ohio

Sharing some of the latest information from the "Save Shannon Cemetery" committee in Bluffton, Allen County, Ohio.  

The "Save Shannon Cemetery"organization has been working tirelessly during this past year to ensure that gravestones will be returned to their rightful gravesites at the Shannon Cemetery following their removal that was permitted by the leaders of the village of Bluffton.  

Recommendations sent to the Commander In Chief and Council of Administrations of the Sons Of Union Veterans of the Civil War by Bruce D. Frail, PDC, National Graves Registration Officer SUVCW. Copies were sent to us and Mayor Augsburger.

Office of the National Graves Registration Officer
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
19 Briar Point Avenue, Coventry, Rhode Island 02816

To: Commander-In Chief & Council of Administration
Date: 12 October 2015
Re: Report on Shannon Cemetery and proposed plan

Dear Brothers,

      I have been in contact with all parties involved with the Shannon Cemetery issue, who would return my emails or phone calls. The issue that was brought to our attention on 24 August 2015 by Mr. Ray Mumma thru the SUVCW Executive Directors Office is stated as follows.

      The cemetery was determined to be an eyesore to the incoming visitors coming from Rte 75 and plans were made to remove the headstones and create a park/picnic area over the graves, which are not planned to be removed and relocated. This action has caused a desecration to the graves of all of those who had their headstones removed, but I will center my concerns the two graves of two brothers who gave their all during the American Civil War, William and Samuel Hipster.

      The brothers are buried in Row 8, Plots 05 & 04 respectfully and are not in an unknown location as the Mayor states in her conversation and emails; she also stated to me that the man Dick Boehr who started this whole problem logged the locations of the headstones as he removed them. Then, she has also stated that no one knows for sure where they really go, that they could have been moved before but she didn’t go into any detail.

      The people who have started the Friends of Shannon Cemetery/Save Shannon Cemetery Facebook group and contacted the SUVCW have their documents in order and offer them to all that wish to learn more about the desecration that is being committed by the Village of Bluffton in regards to Shannon Cemetery. I have talked with several other groups that support the Friends of Shannon Cemetery/Save Shannon Cemetery Facebook group and their plan to restore the cemetery to its original condition. I throw my support to them as well. They have been straight forward with their plan and haven’t attempted to deceive me in any way.

      I have an email from the Mayor to prevent meetings of the Commission in which members of the Friends of Shannon Cemetery/Save Shannon Cemetery Facebook group would be allowed to speak and to try to delay the Commission that she put in place, until after the election in November, in which she is running for office as Mayor. This is not a reelection as she was appointed by members of the council. The Shannon Cemetery Commission which was appointed by Mayor Augsburger consists of the following members: John Murray, Evan Skilliter, Fred Rodabaugh, Bob Amstutz, Nathan Ulrey, Sammuel Diller, Richard Boehr (the man who committed the desecration), Harriett Moyer, Jesse Blackburn (this man holds village employment at the pleasure of the Mayor and the council), David Steiner (the mayor’s former boss and current council president) and the mayor, the commission recorder is Paula Scott, the Commission has no representation from the Friends of Shannon Cemetery/Save Shannon Cemetery Facebook group. 

      The mayor told me in a telephone conversation that there was no approved project for any work at Shannon Cemetery, than about a week later she said in an email that the Shannon project was approved in 2013. She has also stated that there is no relevance to the cemetery project towards political issues, but as stated above she doesn’t think there will be a Commission meeting until after the election because of interruptions and outbursts from the public, personally, I don’t see how there is a difference in how to control a meeting whether it is held before or after a election. If there are no political issues tied to the cemetery project why can’t it be held prior to an election? The mayor has gone from someone who wishes to work with others to correct the issue to being defensive and paranoid over my use of information she was providing me as well as towards other groups that support Ray Mumma. She went from praising me for contacting her to get both sides to stating that she thinks I am feeding her answers to the Save Shannon Cemetery Facebook group, or Ray Mumma in particular because of my use of the word “desecration”.

      I informed her that I was not forwarding her answers to anyone and that her answers would only be used for the purpose of this report to the Council of Administration and that I would forward her a copy and I would do the same for Ray Mumma in the interest of fairness to both parties. I did reach out to Nathan Ulrey who was appointed the Chairman of the Shannon Cemetery Commission by the mayor, he choose not to reply to my attempts to hear the commission’s view.

      With the above background, I have the honor to submit my report and recommendations to the Commander-in-Chief and the Council of Administration of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

1. That the SUVCW draft a letter of support for the Friends of Shannon Cemetery/Save Shannon Cemetery Facebook group’s plan, as their plan will end the current desecration of the graves of Shannon Cemetery that have been striped of their headstone and return the proper identification to the graves within the cemetery.

2. That the SUVCW draft letters against the Village of Bluffton’s park project and the four groups that have been mentioned to be in support of this desecration, by Fred Steiner in his letter to local clergy dated 6 Oct 2015, to their National components, the four groups are as follows: Bluffton American Legion, Bluffton Boy Scouts, Bluffton Tree Commission and the Bluffton Chamber (the Chamber of Commerce has gone as far as to create an award to give to Dick Boehr for in part and as listed, “currently working developing Jefferson Street-Shannon Cemetery into a park” They gave this man an award for desecrating graves, how wrong is that.

3. Release a statement to the local and national press detailing this desecration and those who are pushing for its completion.

4. That the SUVCW file a written complaint with the Department of Veteran’s Affair’s of this disregard of their VA policy on the mis-use and removal of government headstones that has occurred at Shannon Cemetery, by the removal of three veteran’s headstone, two (2) Civil War and one (1) Rev War who was also a village founder.

      I am unaware of the true reason Dick Boehr has chosen to commit this unthinkable act of desecration or why the mayor and some other members of the community have also taken part, but I am against it and I believe the SUVCW should voice to our membership and to the general public, that this type of desecration will not be accepted. 

In Fraternity, Charity & Loyalty,
Bruce D. Frail, PDC
National Graves Registration Officer
Veteran USMC