Spotlighting the recent complex repair and restoration of the Thomas and Mary Iiams obelisk monument at the West Point Cemetery, Congress Township, Morrow County, Ohio

Please Note:

First and most importantly, it cannot be stressed enough that because this was a complex repair and restoration of a tall obelisk that was broken in two heavy large pieces, this type of work should only be attempted and undertaken by a licensed and insured professional working in the field who has undergone training and has had experience conducting this type of work in the same or similar setting.

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The photographs below are being shared courtesy of Tim Foor of Hallowed Ground Cemetery Preservation LLC who was hired for this project.  

Tim, with assistance from his son, completed the needed repair and restoration process.
The photographs were taken during the stages of this complex repair of the monument for Thomas James Iiams and his wife, Mary Polly Hardesty Iiams.  

As can be seen in the series of photographs, the obelisk had been lying on the ground in two large pieces.  

The Iiams gravesite and family plot is at the West Point Cemetery in Congress Township, Morrow County, Ohio. 

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The West Point Cemetery on Find A Grave 

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A link to the Iiams Family memorials on Find A Grave

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Here is a link to the June 18, 2008 photo of the partial Iiams monument and surrounding area as it appears on Find A Grave.

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 Facebook Group for Hallowed Ground Cemetery Preservation LLC

How about adopting a “Adopt a (you fill in the blank) grave marker Project to save original gravestones, replace those that can’t be saved, and in the process save a whole cemetery? It can work!

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We are often asked how we can go about getting a cemetery restored/preserved?  A simple answer is one grave marker at a time.  So, this is one approach to accomplish that worthwhile goal with the “Adopt a (you fill in the blank) Project.  It could be for a veteran or anyone’s grave marker. 

“The Project” could be to restore and/or replace one marker, or monument, or several.  

It could also be for a stone wall ,or a wrought iron fence, or railing.  It could be for stone steps.  It could be for a chapel.  It could be for a mausoleum.  It could be for a receiving vault.

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The possibilities for preservation are almost endless.  

Your Project can start small and “go big” later!

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A cemetery by definition is a living breathing landscape with sacred grounds having special needs that go beyond those of garden or park landscapes.  The needs include how important it is to retain respectfulness for those who came before us and their final resting places. 

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Initially, this type of a project might require a “Friends of (you fill in the blank) Cemetery” or even a Cemetery Preservation Society that operates as a non-profit.  

Seeking and enlisting participation from like-minded people to help coordinate each step along the way and divide up the duties among the members lightens the load on individuals.  

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This type of a program can help to preserve original gravestones and literally rescue them from toppling over and breaking or sinking out of sight.  

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We have noted that most of the time it is much more economical and practical to preserve and protect an original grave marker than replacing it with a new one.  That includes seeking out professionals, or well trained volunteers with proper equipment who will conduct the work in a “Do No Harm” manner.  

Most likely, a new granite marker will lack the true essence of the time period during which the deceased person lived. A replacement most likely won’t be as ornately carved as the original that had stood at the gravesite for decades. 

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Preserving an original grave marker also preserves the artistic creation of the carver chosen by the family of the deceased who knew and cared about their loved one.  The descendants could have carried out the wishes of the dearly departed for what they would want for a permanent marker to stand at their gravesite.  

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Granted, not all grave markers can be saved, but assessing those that can be saved is a good first step before moving forward in the preservation process. 

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Turning local apathy into local pride that stems from local participation for the cause of preservation can, and often does, take time.  

Patience is paramount during the process, but the final results can be so rewarding!  

So, think about this approach and consider adopting a “Adopt a (you fill in the blank) Project” for the benefit of your cemetery of concern.  

Lacking a legal owner for over 116 years – The Walnut Grove Cemetery /AKA Butcher Cemetery in North Lewisburg, Champaign County Ohio

This blog post was compiled to help clear up any misconceptions some folks may have regarding the legal ownership of the Walnut Grove Cemetery AKA Butcher Cemetery in North Lewisburg, Champaign County, Ohio

(Linda Ellis and Mr. Richard “Dick” Holycross in 2005 standing next to the the marker for Mary E. Good.  

Her marker was repaired in 2004 by Mr. Holycross. Sadly, we lost Dick in 2007.)

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Both the Recorder and Auditor in Champaign County, Ohio  have replied to my various requests for information and copies of documents, such as Wills and Deeds, going back as far as 1995 after my discovering that my 3rd great-grandfather, Harmon Limes, Jr., was buried in the Friends AKA Quaker Cemetery in North Lewisburg

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It was not long afterward that I learned one of Harmon Limes’ children, Adaline D. Limes Winder (Winder Ballinger, Dailey), was buried at the other cemetery in North Lewisburg – The Walnut Grove / AKA Butcher Cemetery, that I became interested in her life and the cemetery where she and her first husband Aaron Winder, her daughter Phebe Annie Sherrett, and grand-daughter Birddie B. Sherrett were buried. 

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In 1997, the Friends Church in North Lewisburg closed and the ownership of the building and the adjacent Friends Cemetery were transferred by deed to the Village of North Lewisburg.  The former Friends Church became a branch of the Champaign County Library. 

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So,  I turned some of my attention to communicating with local people and researching the Walnut Grove Cemetery/Butcher Cemetery.   I quickly ran into a brick wall trying to learn who really owns it today and is responsible for its care.  

I was able to visit the  Walnut Grove / AKA Butcher Cemetery at least once a year for many years.  The cemetery’s property has had long-standing condition issues. 

There isn’t much for grass left these days.  It is mostly weeds of one variety or another that grow at the Walnut Grove Cemetery/Butcher Cemetery.  More routine trimming needs to be done around the markers and what is left of the standing monuments.  

The cemetery may be mowed on a somewhat regular basis, however, the trees are not pruned and the downed branches pile up and require removal.  

Needless to say, the cemetery landscape, particularly in the back portion, is where several downed monuments are strewn about lying in pieces on the ground.  Some of them could be put back up if someone with a tripod and experience could be hired to do the work.  I have seen it done numerous times at other cemeteries; even some like the Walnut Grove / AKA Butcher Cemetery.

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Recently, the Recorder’s office again answered my questions about the ownership of the Walnut Grove Cemetery AKA Butcher Cemetery in North Lewisburg.   

I was prompted to revisit this subject yet again due to some remarks published recently that the Walnut Grove Cemetery was “gifted” to the Village in 1963.  

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That information was not what I had ever heard before from anyone in North Lewisburg or anywhere in Champaign County.   

The Walnut Grove Cemetery AKA Butcher Cemetery in North Lewisburg was never sold to anyone since the time it was deeded to the Walnut Grove Cemetery Association in 1882 by Dr. John Butcher.   

(Above photo courtesy of Christine Roby of 

Roby’s Memorial Design and Lettering of Madison Ohio)

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1882 is a long time ago of course, and all of the members of that cemetery association have long since passed away themselves.  The last one to depart this life was  Dr. William H. Wagstaff in 1904.  Dr. Wagstaff had been an ill man for a number of years when he died.  Several searches were done to see if he deeded the cemetery to the Village of North Lewisburg, but none could be found.  

Sharing below one of the latest replies received from the Champaign County Auditor.: 

Glee Knoop gknoop@co.champaign.oh.us 

 Fri, Jul 17 at 3:18 PM

“The Auditor gave me your information and through the records at the recorder’s office I have found that this property is deeded to Walnut Grove Cemetery Association and until we have a deed that transfers to a new owner, it will remain in that name. I did see where a split off that parcel was processed in our office like you said, the 0.09 acre tract, it is now part of a parcel that is owned by a Alice M O’Brien.

 I hope this answers your questions.”

 Thank you,

Glee Knoop, Deputy for Karen T. Bailey

  Champaign County Auditor

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This goes back over five years ago:

June 12, 2015 8:58 AM

 My question: 

Butcher Cemetery 

Lot #268 in North Lewisburg

“The cemetery is still owned by Walnut Grove Cemetery Association of North Lewisburg.  

There has not been any transfers since they bought it from John Butcher in 1882.

Prior to that sale, Mr. Butcher gave a small piece of land to the Village of North Lewisburg to put in a road to the cemetery.  

The road way was to be for the Walnut Grove Cemetery (AKA Butcher Cemetery), however, it was never built.”

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  What did happen in 1963 was that the Village of North Lewisburg sold the .09 strip of land to Mr. and Mrs. James Freshwater. 

Per the Champaign County Recorder’s Office in a reply dated July 17, 2020: 

“The Village of North Lewisburg split 0.09 acres off of the 2.50 acres of cemetery land and sold it to James and Kathleen Freshwater.  The survey is not attached to that deed.”

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Thus, the Freshwater couple never owned the Walnut Grove Cemetery / Butcher Cemetery itself to be in a position to gift it or deed it to anyone.  

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  Sharing below another quote from the Champaign County Recorder:

“It looks like it was combined with the parcel you are inquiring about by an amended certificate of transfer in 2003.  

It is part of 88 Tallman.”

 Sincerely, Glenda L. Bayman Champaign County Recorder

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I believe the Champaign County Recorder’s and Auditor’s offices answers to my questions.:  

“Who owns the Walnut Grove Cemetery / AKA Butcher Cemetery in North Lewisburg? ” The legal documents they possess prove legal ownership of the cemetery. I wish to thank them here for all of their assistance with my requests.  

Sadly, the Walnut Grove Cemetery / AKA Butcher Cemetery in North Lewisburg wasn’t ever deeded over to anyone when the last trustee of the Walnut Grove Cemetery Association died in 1904, that’s 116 years ago.  I feel it is long past due to change that! 

Every cemetery deserves to have an owner, a legal owner that properly cares for it.  So does the Walnut Grove Cemetery / AKA Butcher Cemetery!  

“All Cemeteries Matter!!

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From the Ohio History Connection – “Cemeteries for Genealogy Research Webinar” – Saturday, July 18, 2020 – 10:30a.m. – 12:30p.m. – Presented by Krista Horrocks – Project Reviews Manager, State Historic Preservation Office

Sharing an announcement of this upcoming free webinar:

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(Click on link below:)

Advance registration required.

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Ohio History Connection

 “Cemeteries for Genealogy Research Webinar”

Saturday July 18, 2020

 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Online

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 “Hunting for an ancestor’s gravestone can be an exciting adventure or a frustrating series of dead ends. When we find our ancestor’s gravestone, we often are in awe, as it can give important birth, death, and marriage dates. 

To provide this information, cemeteries need to be preserved and be taken care of.

Join cemetery expert Krista Horrocks as she explains how the gravestones and historical documentation on cemeteries provide important genealogical information, how Ohio law treats cemeteries (all 14,637 of them), and cemetery preservation.” 

***Free***

Advance registration required.

Sheriff’s Sale Notice – Floral Hills Memory Gardens – Circleville, Pickaway County, Ohio

What is happening with the Floral Hills Memory Gardens in Circleville, Pickaway County, Ohio  — should not happen to any Ohio cemetery regardless of its status; most certainly it should not be happening to one that is active.  The township should have taken it over and assumed responsibility for it when it became abandoned by its owners.  Ohio law mandates this is what should be done.  

Sharing an April 3, 2016 story in the Columbus Dispatch about the Floral Hills Memory Gardens which spotlighted the Pickaway County location and included information about the Ross County location and its plight as well.

Excerpt from: 

MATTHEW J. DeTEMPLE, Executive Director

House State & Local Government Committee

May 16, 2017

Proponent Testimony

HB 168 Modify Cemetery Law

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“Townships and Cemeteries”

“Townships maintain over 2400 cemeteries in Ohio. Township cemetery law may generally be found in Ch. 517 of the Ohio Revised Code. A township is required to have a cemetery laid out in lots, number the lots, and the township fiscal officer must keep careful records of said actions (ORC §517.06). The board of trustees is required to make and enforce all needful rules and regulations for the division of the cemetery into lots and the allotment of lots to families or individuals, and for the care, supervision and improvements of said lots. ORC §517.06 further requires that the grass and weeds in the cemetery be cut at least twice a year.

The ORC mandates that a township provide for the protection and preservation of cemeteries under its jurisdiction (ORC §517.11). While the Code states that townships may re-erect any fallen tombstones, a 1975 Attorney General Opinion (OAG 75-083) states that “boards of township trustees have a duty to repair and re-erect monuments and tombstones in public cemeteries within their jurisdiction when the repair is necessary to keep the cemetery in good repair.” The opinion further states that “a board of township trustees has a duty to repair and re-erect monuments in a cemetery that has been vandalized.”

The township may choose to enclose township cemeteries with a fence or hedge but should they do so, the township is required to keep the fence or hedge in good repair (ORC §517.11). When a board of county commissioners has enclosed with a fence all abandoned public cemeteries in the county from which remains have not been removed, the board of township trustees shall keep the fence in good repair and remove the undergrowth and weeds at least once a year (ORC §517.32).

Townships, per ORC §517.11, are charged with the protection and preservation of cemeteries under their jurisdiction. If a public cemetery or a cemetery association wishes to have a board of township trustees take over responsibility of said cemetery, the board of trustees shall accept the transfer (ORC §517.27). Furthermore, a municipal corporation may abandon a cemetery outside the boundaries of the municipality and the trustees shall assume responsibility for the cemetery (ORC §517.28).”

The Pickaway County Sheriff’s Department has announced on its website the upcoming Sheriff’s Auction of the Floral Hills Memory Gardens, which is an active cemetery with at least 672 interments:.

Auction Date & Time: March 3, 2020 @ 1:30 p.m.
If Not Sold Second Sale Date: March 24, 2020 @ 1:30 p.m.
Case Number: 2019DLT003
Address: Floral Hills Cemetery
City: Circleville
State: Ohio
ZIP: 43113
Parcel Number: M30-0-004-00-037-00, M30-0-004-00-033-02, M30-0-004-00-048-00, M30-0-004-00-038-00, M30-0-004-00-039-00
Appraised Amount:
Start Bid: $100,853.78
Minimum Deposit: $15,000.00
Attorney Name: Jeffrey A. Catri
 Phone:740-474-6066

“Vandals Destroy Cemetery from 1800s” — An NBC4i.com Spotlight Story about the Moonville Cemetery in Vinton County, Ohio

This horrific story of what may have been repeated vandalism attacks over a period of time at a small Ohio cemetery that has been circulating on Facebook in the last day or so, is now more publicly covered.

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On January 3, 2020, Channel 4, an NBC Affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, offered further details including a link to the county sheriff’s office for submitting tips.

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Vandals Destroy Cemetery from 1800s” by Tony Mirones

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The Moonville Cemetery is quite small indeed.”  

Find A Grave” lists only 26 known burials for it.

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Although the Moonville Cemetery is located in a remote location in Ohio’s least populous county, it has attracted attention over the years for paranormal reasons.

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From the websites:

“The Ghosts. The Legends. The Town.”:

MoonvilleTunnel.net:

The link for the Moonville Cemetery.

 And,:

“Ohio Ghost Stories, Legends, and Haunts”

“Ghostly Geocaches – “Moonville (the town and tunnel)

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Moonville on Wikipedia

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“Vinton County Sheriff’s Office Captain Lydel Cain confirmed with NBC4 that the cemetery was vandalized.”

“It’s under investigation. 

We have a little bit of information, 

and we would like more. 

We are trying to pin down

 a certain area of time,” said Cain. 

“Until we get more information 

there is no police report.”

“Anyone with information is asked to call

 the Vinton County Sheriff’s office at

 740-596-4222 or, 

you can drop them an email by clicking this link.”

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We look forward to reading follow-up stories that bring news of the apprehension of those responsible for desecrating this early Ohio cemetery.

HB168 – Ohio Cemetery Grant Program – Recipients Listing Released

September 9, 2019: 

From the Ohio Department of Commerce

 Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing:
“The Division received 143 on-time cemetery grant applications! 

What a tremendous response to the first year of this grant program.” 

October 9, 2019:

Sharing a Ohio Department of Commerce 

“News Release”

HB168 Ohio Cemetery Grant Program 

Listing of Recipients for 2020

If you have any questions or require additional assistance, 

please contact the Division at: 

614-466-5384 or 

CemeteryGrants@com.state.oh.us. 

Complete information and forms can be found at www.com.ohio.gov/real.

From the office of Rep. Dick Stein – House Bill 168 Sponsor:

“Each year/ grant cycle, $100k will be transferred from the Division of Cemeteries burial permit fund to the Cemetery Grant Fund. Annual issuance of burial permits exceeds the grant fund amount to ensure its future availability. There is an existing statute that caps distribution of many state grants to 80% of the total fund–this is to account for administering funds and financial market fluctuations. It is possible for leftover monies to carryover to the next grant cycle. We are very happy to see so much interest and hope those projects not funded this round have a future opportunity.”

Please keep in mind that inactive cemeteries with no burials during the prior 25 calendar years, family burial cemeteries, and for-profit cemeteries are not eligible to receive a grant under this program. 

Ohio Administrative Code – 1301:13-7 Eligibility for Grants

Link to Cemetery Grant Forms

Scroll down to find the

 Cemetery Grant Application Instructions

and

The Cemetery Grant Application

Floral Hills Memory Gardens at both the Ross County and Pickaway County locations are heading toward a resolution of their long-standing problems

Sharing two newspaper reports about two Ohio cemeteries – with the same name – one in Ross County and the other one in Pickaway County.  

They are Floral Hills Memory Gardens.  News about their situations has been shared in several posts on this blog. 

First, thanking Sheridan Hendrix for researching and writing this news story primarily regarding the Floral Hills Memory Gardens location in Ross County that was published in the “Columbus Dispatch” on October 3, 2019. :

“Despite Law Change, Ohio’s abandoned cemeteries still in limbo” 

Abandoned, yet active, cemeteries are an increasing reality in Ohio. 

Because of this fact, a broader outreach to educate the general public about them is important.

This feature article also cites and has links to stories that have been published about Fairview Memorial Park in Delaware County, and Grandview Memorial Park in Portage County — both cemeteries were victims of criminal activity committed by their owners who are currently in prison. 

A sobering focus details the ongoing maintenance issues for those left behind  through no fault of their own.   

It has been six years since Dave Robertson began tending to the 37-acre lawn of Floral Hills Memory Gardens near Chillicothe.”

I’d rather we don’t ever need to write and read stories like this one, but since they are a reality, bringing increased awareness about them IS needed. 

This is a sobering story indeed.  So sad because it should not have to be that in the 21st Century, and in Ohio, we have abandoned and orphaned, active cemeteries that have also lost their registration with the state.  

Those with complaints about such cemeteries must proceed through the steps of first submitting them to the Ohio Cemetery Dispute Resolution Commission (“OCDRC”)  The OCDRC will investigate the complaint and act upon it accordingly.Because of the passage of HB 168 in 2018, the OCDRC can refer the case to a local Court of Common Pleas. Next, will be the appointment of a suitable Receiver who will have the duty of handling the operations of the cemetery, which includes re-registering it with the Department of Real Estate; until a permanent owner can be found.

 

Meanwhile, the adversely affected cemetery sits with no legal owner to care for it in all of the ways a cemetery deserves to be maintained. 

 

 Hopefully, the Floral Hills Memory Gardens in Ross County gets the much-needed and long-awaited help in the form of a Receiver and finding a suitable and permanent owner for it.   

“Clean Up Floral Hills” – on Facebook Ross County Location. 

  

Now, we turn our attention to this notice published in the “Circleville Herald”:

“Notice:”

Publish Date:

Friday, September 27, 2019

Notice Content

NOTICE OF COMPLAINT FOR FORECLOSURE OF REAL ESTATE TAX LIEN 

“Notice is hereby given that an action against Ronald L. Downey and Joseph L. Miller, in the Court of Common Pleas, Pickaway County, OH, 207 S. Court Street, Circleville, OH 43113, was filed on 3/14/19 styled Ellery Elick, Treasurer, Pickaway County, Ohio, Plaintiff v. Ronald L. Downey, et al, Defendants, Case No. 2019DLT003. 

The Complaint is to foreclose the lien of real estate taxes due and payable on the real property known as Floral Hills Cemetery, US 23 and Little Walnut Road, Circleville, OH 43113, PPN M30-0-004-00-037-00, M30-0-004-00-033-02, M30-0-004-00-048-00, M30-0-004-00-038-00 and M30-0-004-00-039-00, last transfer OR Vol. 615, Pg. 2642; OR Vol. 646, Pg. 2365. Legal description can be viewed on the Pickaway County Recorders website at countyfusion2.kofiletech.us. The prayer in the complaint is: 1. The Treasurer be found to have a good and valid lien on the within described real property, in the sums of $55,246.63, 11,974.61, 8,648.27, 8,648.27 and 976.67, respectively, plus accrued taxes, assessments, penalties, interest and costs. 2. That all defendants be required to set up their claims or be forever barred. 3. That unless the amount found to be due to this plaintiff be paid within a reasonable time as established by this Court, the equity of redemption be foreclosed and an order of sale issue to the Sheriff of Pickaway County, Ohio directing him to sell the real property which is the subject of this action as provided in 5721.19 ORC. 4. Such other and further relief in law and in equity as proper. All defendants are required to answer the complaint within 28 days after the last publication of this notice which will be published once each week for six successive weeks. The last publication will be made on 11/01/19 and the 28 days for answer will commence on that date. if defendant fails to answer or otherwise respond as required, judgment by default will be rendered against you for the relief demanded in the complaint. Jeffrey A. Catri Asst. Prosecuting Attorney Pickaway County, Ohio 203 South Scioto Street, P.O. Box 910 Circleville, Ohio 43113 (740) 474-6066 Phone JAMES W. DEAN, CLERK OF COURTS 207 SOUTH COURT STREET CIRCLEVILLE, OHIO 43113 (740) 474-5231 September 27, 2019 October 4, 11, 18, 25, 2019 Nov 1, 2019 Circleville Herald – 561581″

At this time, it is unknown if there is a precedent in Ohio where an active, yet abandoned, cemetery went into foreclosure and was sold at a Sheriff’s sale. 

 

Questions remain.:

It is unclear what the reasons are that the Pickaway County Floral Hills Memory Gardens apparently would not also have a Receiver assigned to it rather than the cemetery be offered in a Sheriff’s sale?

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Or, why hasn’t the municipality where the cemetery is located accept responsibility for its ownership during the past decade?  Would it finally agree to accept it if the cemetery fails to get a new owner through the Sheriff’s sale?

Sharing side-by-side before repairs and after repairs photos of the Henry Wilson Irwin Family markers at the Old Burying Ground in Greenfield, Ohio courtesy of Scott Andersen

It is my pleasure to share these side-by-side photographs taken by Scott Andersen on August 22, 2019 of the row of Henry Wilson Irwin family grave markers at the Old Burying Ground in Greenfield, Highland County, Ohio.  

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Another step in this process remains to be completed for these grave markers.  That is cleaning them with D/2 Biological Solution.

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All of this restoration progress for these nine grave markers was made possible through the efforts of Greenfield Historical Society volunteers, Scott Andersen, John King, and Michael Lee Anderson who largely handle the repairs and re-settings of grave markers; as well as the heavy lifting for the larger monuments at the Old Burying Ground. 

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One of Greenfield’s most notable native sons and decorated Naval hero was Rear Admiral Noble Edward Irwin.  

His parents were Henry Wilson Irwin and his fourth wife, Lavinia Ann “Lavina” Rogers Irwin.  

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Rear Admiral Irwin graduated from the United States Naval Academy in June 1891. He was wounded in action on May 1, 1898 while aboard the USS Baltimore at the Battle of Manila Bay. Admiral Irwin was awarded the Navy Cross for meritorious service as director of Naval Aviation during WWI.
The U.S. Destroyer, the USS Irwin, was named in his honor.”

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REMINDER: Thursday, August 22, 2019 – Volunteer work session at the Old Burying Ground in Greenfield, Highland County, Ohio — Exploring Almost Forgotten Gravesites in the Great State of Ohio

The Greenfield Historical Society of Greenfield, Highland County, Ohio is making great strides in 2019 during their sixth year of volunteer work preserving and restoring their village’s Old Burying Ground; often referred to as the “OBG”!Mr. John King is the contact person at jfking@earthlink.net. :”Please join other volunteers as we continue to make improvements to…

via REMINDER: Thursday, August 22, 2019 – Volunteer work session at the Old Burying Ground in Greenfield, Highland County, Ohio — Exploring Almost Forgotten Gravesites in the Great State of Ohio