“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.”
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.
MATTHEW J. DeTEMPLE, Executive Director
House State & Local Government Committee
May 16, 2017
HB 168 Modify Cemetery Law
“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).”
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.
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.
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.
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. :
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.
Now, we turn our attention to this notice published in the “Circleville Herald”:
Friday, September 27, 2019
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.
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?
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?
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.
Another step in this process remains to be completed for these grave markers. That is cleaning them with D/2 Biological Solution.
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.
“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.”
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 email@example.com. :”Please join other volunteers as we continue to make improvements to…