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."

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Sharing this story: "Vandalized historic Union Baptist cemetery gets $400,000 for repairs" - Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio

This in-depth story is from Channel 9, WCPO, in Cincinnati, written by Kristen Swilley. She confirmed that these funds were received through the National Parks Service African American Civil Rights Grants Program.  
At present the African-American Burial Grounds Network Act has not yet been passed into law.  The Senate version, SB 2827, was introduced by Ohio's senator, Sherrod Brown. 

Sharing the Second in Series of: " Money for indigent burials not being used in Ohio"

By Conor Morris

"Editor’s note: 
This is the second in a three-part series on a little-known Ohio law about townships and cities’ responsibility to pay for the burial of those who are indigent (we had to break it into a third part due to space limitations in this edition). Check out the third part in our next edition on April 30." 

"As The NEWS reported last week, one can scan the websites for dozens of Ohio’s cities, townships and villages and not find a single reference to their responsibility to pay for these burials, which, granted, are typically done at minimal costs, meaning the indigent person is typically cremated and only given a simple marker in a graveyard of the localities’ choice."

Taking a Brief Look at Cemetery Laws in Ohio

Cemetery Laws in Ohio
A brief review of the Ohio Revised Codes
and their Amendments
Sharing some observations pertinent to the Ohio Revised Codes and how they affect Ohio’s Cemeteries.  These codes are the laws in the State of Ohio that can ultimately determine what kind of future our cemeteries will have.
A couple of small, but nonetheless important, key elements should be mentioned beforehand.:
1.  The Ohio Revised Codes are subject to amendments when newer laws are passed that affect them, in whole or in part, that can alter the meaning(s) as originally stated. Thus, it is important to check the “ORCs” regularly to learn if there are any updates to them.  It is especially true for those ORCs that will be shared and cited.  For example, attorneys have interpreted the ORCs in ways that suit their needs to support one side or the other in a dispute. So, the most current version of an ORC is the one that needs to be used.

Note:  Here is a LINK to a short explanation about the Ohio Revised Codes (AKA "ORCs").

Note:  Here is a LINK to "LAWriterOhio Laws and Rules" main page where both the Ohio Revised Codes and the Ohio Administrative Codes can be found. 

2.  "Basically, four words that can mean the most that pertain to the cemetery laws in the Ohio Revised Codes (ORCs) are the ones that state:  “May” and “Can” instead of “Will” and “Shall”. That is our problem and the prosecutor (which is necessary to move forward in the courts) and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office have been interpreting “May” and “Can” as being a Non-mandated action and a voluntary act."
My above statement is a quote from Mr. Dave Robertson who has been “leading the charge” with his own continual maintenance work at the Floral Hills Memory Gardens in Ross County, Ohio, and spearheading the enlistment of additional volunteer help.  
He has been quite successful at both endeavors for at least 7 years at this Active yet Abandoned cemetery, one which we'll discuss more about in this post. 
 Thus, it is important to take a moment to  look at what is happening with active cemeteries, those that have burials within the past 25 calendar years, that have "fallen through the cracks" and lack protection in ways that have been long associated with cemeteries in these categories:  Inactive; Abandoned; or Family cemeteries - those with no burials in the past 25 calendar years.
Most represented in this "Active yet Abandoned" category seem to mostly come from the growing number of cemeteries that are owned by For-Profit or Private Association type organizations operating in Ohio.  
Sadly, some of these types of cemeteries have fallen into the hands of individuals or associations who have taken the monies they received from lot owners who paid them in good faith for goods and services that were not delivered as promised. Instead, these cemetery owners used the funds for their own personal gain, even gambling them away.  Some current or recent examples include:  Fairview Memorial Park in Delaware County, Ohio and Grandview Memorial Park in Portage County, Ohio where the husband and wife former owners have been sentenced for their crimes and are now serving time in jail. 
Below is a link to a good article that helps explain what has been happening with some of these cemeteries which had irresponsible and unethical owners who abandoned them after committing crimes against them and the burial lot owners.:
From the “Columbus Dispatch” 
Posted October 3, 1919 
by Sheridan Hendrix:
Thus, my eyes have been widely opened to this illegal activity that all Ohioans should come to understand the seriousness of these crimes that can spread to other cemeteries -- ones where our familes and friends are buried.  
This is how this more recent category of Active But Abandoned cemeteries has emerged in Ohio and across America.  I also use the term “Orphaned Cemeteries” because, in the end, they are left without owners.
These active cemeteries lose their registration when the legal owners leave and are not there to renew them when due.  
For-Profit cemeteries and Association owned cemeteries must renew cemetery registrations yearly
If the registration lapses due to lack of ownership, a cemetery’s status is taken down to the level of that of the Inactive/Abandoned/Family cemeteries with no burials during the past 25 calendar years.  At this level, the Active yet Abandoned cemeteries are not eligible to be Registered.
"(D) Sections 4767.02 to 4767.04 of the Revised Code do not apply to or affect a family cemetery or a cemetery in which there have been no interments during the previous twenty-five calendar years. As used in this division, "family cemetery" means a cemetery containing the human remains of persons, at least three-fourths of whom have a common ancestor or who are the spouse or adopted child of that common ancestor."
Moving ahead to 2019 and the passage of HB 168; the latest amendment impacting Registrations
 It is imperative that we keep in mind that until the passage of HB168, the Ohio Cemetery Dispute Resolution only considered complaints about cemeteries that are Registered

This requirement was strict and its stipulations illustrate just how crucial it is for a cemetery in Ohio to be Registered and retain its Registration.  

See Ohio Revised Code 4767.07A “Complaints” listed below.  Note, the number of amendments this ORC has had thus far.:
Amended by 132nd General Assembly File No. TBD, HB 168, §1, eff. 10/29/2018.
Amended by 128th General Assembly File No.9, HB 1, §101.01, eff. 10/16/2009.
Effective Date: 12-02-1996
Yes, many ORCs have had several amendments since the date they became effective.  
On the other hand, there still exist several ORCs that were enacted in the early 1950s and have remained in effect as such without any amendments. It is easy to see how many are in need of current review because they have become outdated.
By law, the townships should be taking over abandoned cemeteries in their jurisdiction and be responsible for them and maintain the grounds and records.  However, as we have seen all too often that isn't always the case -- at least not for as long as they can stall off doing so.
Another aspect to consider is that once it is determined that a crime is involved, the Ohio Cemetery Dispute Resolution Commission turns over the handling of a cemetery dispute case to the prosecuting attorney in the county where the cemetery is located.
It would seem that Ohio’s state government shies away from becoming too involved with cemetery problems.   

Below are some representative links to cemetery preservation websites in other states.:

Categorizing cemeteries in the way the Ohio Cemetery Dispute Resolution Commision "OCDRC" has done leaves out our historic early cemeteries where the local pioneer settlers and founders of villages were buried. 
Those who have complaints against responsible parties for such cemeteries cannot submit them to the Ohio Cemetery Dispute Resolution Commission because the cemeteries have not had a burial in the past 25 years; or are family cemeteries – and thus they are "pigeon holed" into the Inactive and Unregistered categories.
In Ohio, there are three basic types of cemeteries.: 
Cemetery Registration affects each type differently:
Political Subdivision/Government: 
These cemeteries are typically operated by a township or municipality, or a combination of either or both. Although this type of cemetery must be Registered, the Registration never expires
Registration must be renewed every year with the Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing.
Cemetery Associations or Companies: 
Registrations for cemeteries operated by corporations or not-for-profit cemetery associations must be renewed every year." 
Thankfully in ORC 4767.07 (see below), we come to better understand how HB168  keeps an Active Cemetery from facing an uncertain fate and perhaps saves its very existence.
 "cemetery registered, or a cemetery that is not registered but is required to be registered"
4767.01 [Effective 10/29/2018] Cemetery registration definitions.

(3) Administer the cemetery grant program established under section 4767.10 of the Revised Code;

(11) Establish and maintain an investigation and audit section within the division of real estate in the department of commerce to conduct investigations pursuant to division (A) of section 4767.08 of the Revised Code and to audit the financial records of a cemetery to ensure compliance with sections 1721.21 and 1721.211 of the Revised Code at least every five years, or more often as the section deems necessary. The investigators or auditors of the section may review and audit the business records of cemeteries during normal business hours.
4767.07 [Effective 10/29/2018] Complaints.

(A) Any person may file a complaint regarding the activity, practice, policy, or procedure of, or
Regarding an alleged violation of section 1721.19, 1721.20,1721.21, 1721.211, 4735.02, 4767.02, or 4767.09 of the revised Code by, any person operating or maintaining a cemetery registered, or a cemetery that is not registered but is required to be registered pursuant to section 4767.03 of the Revised Code that adversely affects or may adversely affect the interest of an owner or family member of the owner of a cemetery lot or burial, entombment, or columbarium right. All complaints shall be in writing and submitted to the division of real estate in the department of commerce on forms provided by the division.

(B) With respect to complaints filed pursuant to division (A) of this section, the division of real estate shall do all of the following:

(1) Acknowledge receipt of the complaint by sending written notice to the person who filed the complaint not more than twenty days after receipt of the complaint;

(2) Send written notice of the complaint within seven days after receipt of the complaint to the person responsible for the operation and maintenance of the cemetery that is the subject of the

(3) Before taking further action, allow the owner or the person responsible for the operation and maintenance of the cemetery that is the subject of a complaint thirty days after the date the division sends notice of the complaint to respond to the division with respect to the complaint.

(C) The cemetery dispute resolution commission shall hear each complaint filed pursuant to division (A) of this section within one hundred eighty days after its filing, unless it has been resolved by the parties to the complaint.

Amended by 132nd General Assembly 
File No. TBD, HB 168, §1, eff. 10/29/2018.
Amended by 128th General Assembly 
File No.9, HB 1, §101.01, eff. 10/16/2009.
Effective Date: 12-02-1996 .

517.27 Transfer of cemeteries to board of township trustees.

When a public cemetery in a township is not under the control of a municipal corporation, and the title or control thereof is vested in an association or the trustees thereof, or is vested in a religious society, whether incorporated or not, or in the trustees thereof, and such cemetery is used exclusively for cemetery purposes, such association, society, or the trustees thereof may convey such grounds to the board of township trustees and its successors in office. Subject to the rights of the original grantor, his heirs or assigns, the board shall accept and take possession of such grounds, and take care of, keep in repair, hold, treat, and manage them in all respects as required by sections 517.01 to 517.32, inclusive, of the Revised Code.

517.10 Title to certain burial grounds vested in board of township trustees.
The title to, right of possession, and control of all public cemeteries located outside any municipal corporation, which have been set apart and dedicated as public cemeteries, and any grounds which have been used as such by the public, but not expressly dedicated as a cemetery, except such as are owned or under the care of a religious or benevolent society, or an incorporated company or association, or under the control of the authorities of any municipal corporation, shall, severally be vested in the board of township trustees.

Effective Date: 10-01-1953

517.11 Care of cemetery.

The board of township trustees shall provide for the protection and preservation of cemeteries under its jurisdiction, and shall prohibit interments therein when new grounds have been procured for township cemeteries or burial grounds. Where such old cemeteries are in or near village plats, and the public health is liable to be injured by further interments therein, the board shall institute suits to recover possession thereof, remove trespassers therefrom, and may recover damages for injuries thereto or any part thereof, or to any fence or hedge enclosing them, or to any tomb or monument therein.

The board may enclose cemeteries under its jurisdiction with a substantial fence or hedge, and shall keep any such fence or hedge in good repair. It may re-erect any fallen tombstones, regardless of the cause of the falling, in such cemeteries. The board, as it considers necessary, may purchase, maintain, and improve entombments, including mausoleums, columbariums, and other interment rights. The board may levy a tax to meet any costs incurred for these purposes, not to exceed one-half mill in any one year, upon all the taxable property of the township.

Amended by 131st General Assembly File No. TBD, HB 413, §1, eff. 9/28/2016.
Effective Date: 07-24-1986 .

1301:13-7-03 Grant applications.
(A) Grant applications shall be submitted on forms prescribed by the division and shall bear the original signature of the principal administrative officer or financial officer of the applicant.
(B) All grant applications shall include, at a minimum, the following documents and information:
(1) Federal tax identification number;
(2) Internal revenue service tax exempt certificate, if applicable;
(3) Contact information for the fiscal representative of the applicant;
(4) Contact information for the programmatic representative of the applicant, if different than fiscal representative;
(5) The acreage of the cemetery, how much acreage is fully developed and at capacity and how much acreage has inventory of available interment spaces;
(6) Number of interments made in the two previous years;
(7) The operating budget of the cemetery;
(8) Designation of the percentage of the estimated total cost of the project for which the grant will provide funding;
(9) Description of how the applicant will provide the remainder of the estimated total cost of the project, if applicable;
(10) Project description and purpose along with the goals of the project;
(11) Description of training, including agenda, syllabus or other content material, how the training relates to the maintenance and operations of cemeteries, name and contact information of the provider, if applicable;
(12) How grant funds will be accounted for separately from other sources of funding, if applicable;
(13) Additional information as required by the division as set forth in its grant guidelines.
(C) In addition to submitting a grant application, all applicants must submit an original W-9 form to the division.
(D) All completed grant applications must be received by the prescribed deadline.
(E) Incomplete or illegible applications, or applications that are not consistent with the terms of section 4767.10 of the Revised Code and this chapter, will not be considered for funding.

Effective: 6/7/2019
Five Year Review (FYR) 
Dates: 06/22/2022
Promulgated Under: 119.03
Statutory Authority: 4767.064767.10
Rule Amplifies: 4767.10

Real Estate Land Code is 690 for graveyards, monuments, and cemeteries.
Too much history has already been lost
because our cemeteries have become neglected, lost, and forgotten. 
The life stories of those buried in them remain untold.  
Further, it is sad to know that it may not take 25 years for an active cemetery to resemble in appearance a typical inactive cemetery that is over a 100 years old which will happen if it does not keep receiving necessary proper maintenance.
The language of current cemetery laws need strengthening.  New ones need to be enacted and made enforceable.  Otherwise, our cemeteries will not have the bright futures they deserve.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

A brief study of one early Ohio grave marker's date inscription

Sharing this photo of the 1823 gravestone for Mary "Polly" Linnabary Strong posted on Find A Grave.  
Please take a moment to enjoy viewing the beautifully carved inscriptions that look almost as crisp and clear as probably the day that they were carved almost 200 years ago!  
Take note of her age that appears after the Æ - At first glance does the number look like a 37? Or a 57? 
Keep in mind the inscription notes that two infant sons were buried in the same coffin! 
Also, look at the other numbers.
She died in 1823 on Oct. 3
Thus, her age was 37 !
The font is a "flat top" 3 !

Friday, April 17, 2020

Sharing this story: "Little-known law: In Ohio, localities must pay for indigent burials"

Sharing this story titled.:
Conor Morris
April 15, 2020
from "The Athens News"
Pedigo Cemetery, in York Township, Athens County, Ohio is mentioned in this story.  
Pedigo is a small cemetery.  
A link to the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) that applies to the subject of indigent burials quoted in this article.:

Monday, April 6, 2020

From the Ohio History Connection - 2020 - State Historic Preservation Office Awards - Deadline to submit is June 1, 2020.

"2020 State Historic Preservation Office Awards"

"Do you know of a great rehabilitation project? A special person or group who should be recognized for a significant preservation effort?" 
"An effective program, event or campaign that increased awareness of historic preservation?"
"Each year, the Ohio History Connection's State Historic Preservation Office recognizes achievements in historic preservation by presenting awards in two categories.": 
"Public Education and Awareness and Preservation Merit." 
"People, organizations, businesses and public agencies are eligible for the awards."
"Even if you are working from home right now, you are invited to submit a nomination for the awards."
Nominations must be 
submitted by June 1
"A selection committee comprising members of the governor-appointed Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board and State Historic Preservation Office staff will choose recipients in each category." 
"Awards will be presented at the State Historic Preservation Office Awards luncheon in the fall."
"Your award nomination must be submitted electronically."
"When clicked, the link below will automatically begin to download the application to the downloads folder on your computer."
"Due to changes with Adobe Acrobat, the fillable form will not open in some browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.).
 If this link takes you to a page with the message "Please wait...", hover your mouse over the top of the page to show the download icon to download the application." 
"You can also right click
 on the link below and 
choose the"Save As
 to download the
  SHPO Awards PDF File
 to your computer."
"Contact our office if you have any questions at.:"

State Historic Preservation Office
800 E. 17th Avenue 
Columbus, OH 43211
Phone: 614.298.2000  Email: shpo@ohiohistory.org