At rural Sheep Pen Cemetery there is a rather plain looking white marble tablet gravestone that was left to lean against a large slow sinking table top slab that holds the marker made for Maria Dick. This scene had been undisturbed for years that sadly turned into decades, that is until now.
In 1858, the flat topped gravestone was carved and installed to mark the final resting place of William R. Irwin, Sr. who came to America from Ireland in 1798. His life story was well written up in the book: “History of Ross and Highland Counties, Ohio.”
William and his wife, Margaret McCormick Irwin, were the parents of 11 children; 10 of whom lived to adulthood. The children lived out their lives and made their own mark in their community and for some, far beyond it.
William and Margaret Irwin are an example of how couples (like countless others who rest in peace at so many of Ohio’s early burial grounds that have now been deemed to be inactive or even abandoned) whose children became builders in their communities through service as teachers, doctors, lawyers, shopkeepers, and farmers – and at professions no longer in existence.
Thankfully, through biographical information and drawings published in 1880s era county history books, (and Ohio has several of them!), we are privileged to learn more details of the generations of ancestors, who during their lifetimes, fulfilled the dreams of their pioneer parents.
Living descendants may not always be aware of the stories of the lives led by their great or great-great grandparents who are now buried in grave sites with sunken or unreadable gravestones.
However, there is renewed hope because of a resurgent interest to restore, and in some cases even unearth, gravestones at cemeteries like Sheep Pen.
The interest has become a concerted effort through volunteers working independently and in like-minded groups.
Thus, I would like to thank the dedicated group of volunteers of the Greenfield Historical Society ! Since 2014 they have worked together to clean, repair, straighten up, and reset markers, like those of William Irwin, Sr., at the Old Burying Ground in Greenfield. They have inspired new folks who desire to learn and participate to come and join them.
Extending my personal thanks to Scott and Venus Andersen for their immeasurable contributions at Sheep Pen Cemetery to make it the cemetery it is today. They have also volunteered and contributed regularly at the Old Burying Ground since the work sessions began.
Thanking also John King of the Greenfield Historical Society who has done so much of the physical digging work that has led to discoveries of bases, and fragments of gravestones that were needed to make one whole again. All this work that has become the remaking of a cemetery is indeed utterly remarkable! Everyone who contributes is appreciated!
It is my pleasure to share Scott Andersen’s three photographs’s below of the William Irwin, Sr. gravestone, before, during, and after it was put back where it belongs at Sheep Pen Cemetery.: