Wishing Everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and A Reminder to Stay Safe Visiting Cemeteries!

Sharing Messages below courtesy of Mark Morton of Gravestone Guardians of Ohio

Thanksgiving Day meme from Mark Morton - 2015Talking Tree safety message - 11-25-2015

Sending these messages and reminders as we look forward to Thanksgiving and the upcoming Holiday Season when more of us tend to visit cemeteries and decorate relatives and ancestors gravesites. 

Please remember to be safe while at a cemetery.  And staying safe at a cemetery includes being careful when walking around monuments that could topple over.  They don’t have to be large or old monuments; just unstable ones. 

Since we may not always be sure if a monument is entirely stable, to be safe rather than sorry, please be mindful not to lean against or accidentally push on a marker or monument. 

Please stay near and watch children that come with you to the cemetery.  Children are curious and often play hide and seek around monuments or other games, and tragedy can strike so suddenly.  

The monuments below may be unsecured to their base; they are leaning and could topple over.

Nancy A. (Mitchell) Smith’s Gravestone is now Clean, Readable, and Standing Tall at the Old Burying Ground Cemetery in Greenfield, Ohio

Sharing two photographs courtesy of Scott Andersen who, along with several other volunteers, have been restoring for the past two years Greenfield’s oldest cemetery – the Old Burying Ground. 

Below are the before restoration and after restoration photographs of the Nancy A. (Mitchell) Smith gravestone that is the oldest gravestone found to date at the Old Burying Ground. 

“The Hills of Highland”

Copyright 1971

by Elsie Johnson Ayres

Hillsboro, Ohio
Page 644



            The first cemetery in Greenfield known today as “The Old Burying Ground” was a four-acre tract on the west bank of Paint Creek, set aside by Duncan McArthur for a church, school and a burying ground. It is located between Front Street and Paint Creek, from South to Jefferson Sts. A schoolhouse built on the ground in 1815 was abandoned in 1837 as a school. A stone church erected in 1821 was replaced with a brick church in 1854, called the First Presbyterian Church of Greenfield.

            The first entry in the cemetery was a small child of John and Ruth Coffey. The first adult burial was William Wallace Bell. When the new cemetery was selected, descendants of Bell removed his body to the new cemetery. Bell and William Smith were veterans of the Revolution. Smith was the son of Robert Smith and Jean (Buchanan) Smith. His mother was a sister of Pres. James Buchanan.

            William Smith died Mar. 4, 1836. His son, Robert, 1786-1856, served in the War of 1812, as did the following men buried in the “Old Burying Ground”: Robert Adams, 1768-1843; Andrew Arnott, 1791-1853; Edward Byram, 1783 – 1865 (named for his father, a veteran of the Revolution); John Coffey, 1772-1853; Robert Duncan, 1777-1846; James M. Milligan, 1774-1848; Capt. Wm. Murray, 1784-1871; William Patterson, 1785- 1843 and Christopher Shrock, 1782-1847.

            Many who fought in the Civil War are buried in the oldest cemetery in the town. One of the oldest legible tombstones is that of Nancy (Mitchell) Smith, wife of Samuel and mother of Dr. Samuel Mitchell Smith, surgeon during the Civil War. She died at the age of twenty, in 1816.

            It also contains the graves of Joshua Merrill, 1791 – June 28, 1851 and his wife, Rhoda, 1797 – Mar. 17, 1850, parents of Bishop Merrill; Dr. Thomas McGarrough, 1780 – 1860, and his wife, Margaret, 1780 – 1859; members of the McMullen, Bonner, Crothers, Ferneau (Fernow), Fullerton, Murray, McWilliams, Robinsons and many many more.”

Sharing a New Video from the “Save Shannon Cemetery” Group of Bluffton, Allen County, Ohio

Click HERE to view the Save Shannon Cemetery Group’s  “Youtube” Video.  It tells the sad story of a small town’s cemetery demise at the hands of its own leaders and officials.
Shannon Cemetery is the pioneer cemetery in Bluffton, Allen County, Ohio where the town’s officials continue to push to proceed with their plans to turn their historical Shannon Cemetery into a “cemetery park”.
Already, the Shannon Cemetery has been vandalized by its own town government because the officials have allowed the willful removal of the remaining standing gravestones, some of which are veterans’ markers, and have put them in storage to be later placed in concrete with the idea they could then comprise a “headstone display” elsewhere on the property.
Ask yourself, would you want your ancestors’ gravestones removed from their proper gravesites because of a plan as disrespectful and ill-conceived as this one is that would normally be deemed as illegal?

How sad it is that such a shameful plan has had the backing of the town’s officials who one would think should want to honor their own town’s history by protecting it; instead of purposely destroying it.  Moreover, they still refuse to acknowledge the error of their ways.

Save Shannon Cemetery on Facebook

The Shannon Cemetery on Find A Grave


Vernam & Hill Underground Mausoleum at Elmwood Cemetery in Lorain, Ohio


The Vernam & Hill Mausoleum is actually an underground mausoleum.  The steel doors lead to a set of steps going down into the structure.


The names of the people entombed in the structure are:

Lloyd Wilcox (ashes) 1978

Florence Lawler (ashes) 2001

Dorothy Wilcox (ashes) 2001

Law V. Hill (ashes) 1950

Mrs. Almeda Vernam 1914

Baby McKinney Vernam 1928

Fred Hill 1933

 Most if not all were residents of Pennsylvania at their times of death.


Thanking Susan Munch Frank for sharing her photographs and Mike Darmos of Elmwood Cemetery for his information.

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. NCPTTThe 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.”


  1. Lynette Strangstad

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

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

  1. 614.298.2000|nbevil@ohiohistory.org


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!