Epitaph – Clay Henry Cooper

via Epitaph

From Eli Allen.:

“We think of cemeteries being conveniently located open spaces. Places where passers-by would contemplate their mortality and family members would commune with those gone before, but the places and how we travel has changed much in the last century. Folks once navigated the ridge lines instead of the valley floors, and there they buried their dead. Shawnee State Forest has many of these burial grounds. Here they were placed not because it was unfarmable waste ground because hillsides and tops were farmed as well, but because the ridges were free of flooding and were the highways of their time. Here is the Clay Henry Cooper burial ground, high above the valley in Shawnee State Forest. “


Clay Henry Cooper (1858 – 1913)

Behold ye stranger

As you pass me by

As you are now

So once was I

As I am now

So you must be

Prepare for death and

Follow me.

Thus reads the epitaph of Clay Henry Cooper of Upper Twin Creek whose memorial obelisk and grave is located on the ridge top, high above the old Cooper homestead.

When Clay Henry died in 1913, he was buried according to his wishes. Buried in a pine box with his “squirrel riffle,” Cooper’s death, according to popular telling, would lead to another round of conflict on Upper Twin, one that pitted the younger Cooper brothers against the older Cooper brothers. His burial became the opening scene of a feature-length article in the Cincinnati Enquirer, which published “The Coopers of Twin Creek: The Story of a Hill Feud in Ohio in 1929.” Written by Wilmer G. Mason and subtitled, “A Page Plucked Out of History, ’20 Miles and 100 Years From Portsmouth,’” the Enquirer’s article played upon popular stereotypes of Appalachia as “relic culture,” and described Clay as the “King of the Cooper Clan” and the Twin Creek region as “the place where hill history still lives and breathes and hates.”

Clay Cooper died of natural causes, not from a gunshot or knife wound, as would a number of his neighbors, relatives, and children.  That’s not to say he didn’t have his own stories of moonshine and near brushes with death.  In July 1897, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported on a fight between Clay Cooper, Thomas and J.R. McGraw and William and Thomas Lewis.  “Rocks, clubs, knives and a rifle were all used. All were more or less hurt. Tom McGraw placed a rifle against H. Clay Cooper’s head and pulled the trigger. Luckily the cap failed to explode. Warrants have been sworn out for the arrest of the two McGraws and the two Lewises, who have all taken to the woods.”

Clay Henry Cooper died before Prohibition was enacted throughout Ohio and the rest of the nation. The conflict, violence, and death that followed his ridge-top burial had more to do with the intrusion of the state’s law enforcement powers and expanded efforts to crack down on illegalities.  Prohibition in Ohio coincided with the creation of the Shawnee State Forest, which came to include large tracts of land in the watersheds of Lower and Upper Twin Creeks. As the old hillside stone quarries that had once provided work closed after the turn of the century and the ridges had been largely stripped of timber for the manufacture of railroad ties and other timber products, tax delinquencies grew and the state moved to add these so-called “unwanted lands” to their new state forest lands. Thus, in addition to new local, state, and federal prohibition related law enforcement efforts, the introduction of State Forest Rangers, with an eye for moonshine operations on state land, added to the increased presence of state power in the region.

When Clay Henry Cooper died in 1913 the old ridge-top roads were still commonly used by residents of the area.  The all-weather forest roads constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the WPA in the 1930s had yet to open up the region to the automobile and the location of Cooper’s memorial obelisk would have been known by everyone on the creek.  It marked the ridge road address of the Cooper homestead on Upper Twin, and its message to the passing stranger would have reminded many that life is short and that we will all one day follow Clay Henry Cooper in death.

On the 26th of January, 2018, Brian Richards, a longtime resident of Twin Creek, led an outing to locate Cooper’s grave and document the site for inclusion in the Ohio Historic Inventory (OHI). Richards, whose Elliot family tree traces back to one of the earliest settler families on the creek, first stumbled upon the obelisk back in the early 1970s.  He memorized the epitaph and would recall it near verbatim some forty years later when we struggled to read the original carved sandstone memorial.

Derrick Parker, an Ohio History Service Corps (AmeriCorps) Community Surveyor, accompanied Andrew Feight, the local site supervisor for the OHI Survey. The Cooper Memorial Obelisk and its associated history will be entered into the inventory, which is maintained by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) at the Ohio History Connection.

Eli Allen, the President of the Scioto County Genealogical Society, joined the outing to Cooper’s Obelisk in hopes of adding the site to the Society’s records of lost and forgotten cemeteries. Allen brought along his 360-degree camera and uploaded an image of the historic site to Google Maps and Streetview.


Halloween was more than Ghosts & Goblins in Greenfield! Recapping the October 31st Old Burying Ground work session

John King and Scott Andersen were undaunted by the threat of rain on the last day of October, 2018 to proceed and conduct a work session where over a dozen gravestones were repaired and restored by them. 

Below are ‘sneak peek’ photos which illustrate the type of  preservation work that John and Scott, and other volunteers from the Greenfield Historical Society, have undertaken throughout their 5-year total restoration project of Greenfield Ohio’s earliest burial ground.  

The historic cemetery is adjacent to the historic Travellers Rest. 


Above composite photo courtesy of the 

Greenfield Historical Society

October 31, 2018 work session

Old Burying Ground – Greenfield


From the Greenfield Historical Society’s web page

for the October 31, 2018 “OBG” work session:

“Volunteer Session – October 31, 2018”

“Halloween turned out to be another productive morning at the OBG. Although it looked like rain would drown us out, we managed to work on over a dozen stones before quitting just minutes before rains came. 

Scott Andersen and John King leveled and straightened tombstones and planned for the next area to address in the cemetery. Venus Andersen stopped by to offer encouragement and bring us soft drinks. This might have been the last session for the year, but maybe with a break in weather later in November or December we might be able to do some more work in 2018. This was probably one of the more productive years at the cemetery! 

Many thanks to ALL the volunteers who help throughout the years making this a very successful project.”

Old Burying Ground Restoration Project  

Photos below from the June 9th, 2018

Old Burying Ground Work Session:

Above – Left to Right:  

John King, Jackie Doles, 

and Michael Lee Anderson

June 9, 2018

Photo belong is a scene from

the June 9, 2018 work session

Check out the Past Events Page

for “OBG Preservation” to

view the Recaps and photos 

of each of the work sessions

at the Old Burying Ground

since 2014! 

Be sure and check out!:

The Old Burying Ground in Greenfield

on “Find A Grave”


25 new memorials have been added

by Scott Andersen in the last 30 days

at the Old Burying Ground

many with grave marker photos!

Total burials at the “OBG” on “Find A Grave”

now at 801!!!   

Sharing a wonderful video about historic Central Ohio Cemeteries

Sharing this video from OSU Public Media produced by “Columbus Neighborhoods” about Central Ohio Cemeteries.

Below are links to the “Find A Grave” pages for the cemeteries that are featured in this documentary.:

Pickaway County, Ohio:

Harrison Township Cholera Cemetery on Find A Grave

Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio:

Franklinton Cemetery on Find A Grave

Green Lawn Cemetery on Find A Grave

Green Lawn Abbey Mausoleum on Find A Grave

Eastlawn Cemetery on Find A Grave

Hillard, Franklin County, Ohio:

Wesley Chapel Cemetery, Hillard, Franklin County, Ohio

Old Burying Ground in Greenfield volunteer work session coming up! – Reminder: Wednesday, October 3, 2018 – beginning at 8:30a.m.

If you missed joining the volunteers at the Old Burying Ground for the work session of September 30, 2018, this is a reminder that another one is scheduled for Wednesday, October 3rd starting at 8:30a.m.
Always check the calendar on the Greenfield Historical Society’s website for upcoming events which include the “OBG” – Old Burying Ground work sessions!

To keep up to date with the latest progress made by the all-volunteer group who has been working for five years to restore the Old Burying Ground in Greenfield just click on the Past Events Section on the “A Look Back” tab found on the Greenfield Historical Society’s website.  

Next, take note of the “Tombstone Repair” and the dates of each of their work sessions thus far.  

Click on each of them to see the photographs and a recap of the type of work conducted during each of the work sessions.  

The Greenfield Historical Society volunteers are a well organized group of caring people who are well trained with cleaning, repairing, and resetting grave markers from the smallest to the largest; including the more difficult ones like the “Box Tombs” shown below.  

Spotlighting the Brecksville Cemetery in Brecksville, Cuyahoga County, Ohio

Below are some photographs taken during the September 23, 2018 tour of the Brecksville Cemetery 

The tour was almost two hours and it was quite well presented with the theme of “Headstones, Heroes, History, and Horticulture” — so the attendees, who also received a brochure about the cemetery, were treated to a guided study of these elements of this historic Northeast Ohio cemetery.  


Click Here for the Brecksville Cemetery Tour Booklet posted online by the Brecksville Historical Association. 

Spotlighting the Box Tombs of the Old Burying Ground, Greenfield, Ohio

Congratulations to Scott Andersen who has done a fantastic job of restoring these box tombs seen in this photograph.  The one on the left with its sides of individual stones is the more intricate of the two.

As we can also see, the dirt area around these box tombs has been tamped down to make it ready for grass to be planted.

We know that tombstones and monuments need grass around them to add ground support so they do not start to lean.  Without grass they can eventually topple over.

One of the big mistakes cemetery groundskeepers make is to over-weedwhack around a gravestone, leaving a large circle of just dirt around it.

As we can see from the markers sitting in slotted bases and some installed directly into the ground, the grass around them not only looks good, but is helping to keep them upright.

Restoration work at The Old Burying Ground is now in its fifth year!  Almost monthly during the Spring and Summer months organized day-long work sessions are held to revitalize this early Ohio cemetery.  Improvements come one grave marker at a time as the dedicated volunteers work carefully row by row.  The transformation has been phenomenal!  Indeed the volunteers of the Greenfield Historical Society, and others who have so kindly volunteered with them, have much to be proud of!

The results of their work now sit impressively right in front of their eyes.  It is a treat to visit the  “OBG” – and to view the photographs showing all of their progress!

The Greenfield Historical Society

Old Burying Ground Project Summary

A Look Back at Past Events – Tombstone Repair