Paris Cemetery’s future uncertain

PARIS, Pa. – The Paris Cemetery has accepted burials for nearly 200 years from throughout the Tri-State Area, but the cemetery’s future is uncertain.

The Paris Cemetery Association, which oversaw the cemetery’s operation and care, literally died out with member Tom Vincineti, leaving the cemetery in care of volunteer caretaker Leslie Grossmann of Paris. However, a perpetual care fund was never established, and funding to address basic maintenance is nearly depleted.

A citizens’ committee has formed to explore options for the cemetery, including the possible reformation of the cemetery association. The group will meet at 12:30 p.m. Friday at the Gathering Place Coffee Shop at the Paris Presbyterian Church located at 127 Steubenville Pike. Members encourage all interested residents – especially those whose families have burials at the cemetery – to attend to discuss the cemetery’s future.

The committee also will hold a clean-up at the cemetery beginning at 9 a.m. on Oct. 19-20. Any interested residents are encouraged to assist. Those participating are asked to dress appropriately and bring gardening gloves, rakes and brooms. The clean-up will begin at 9 a.m., but will be ongoing throughout both days, and those participating are welcome to come at any time convenient to them. If necessary, the rain dates are Oct. 26-27.

At a recent committee meeting, those attending discussed a variety of options for the cemetery, including re-formation of the cemetery association, attempting to turn the cemetery over to a local church or other interested group, or signing a lease with a natural gas company to provide the necessary income to care for the cemetery.

Those attending also discussed the legal issues surrounding the cemetery, including to whom the property is deeded, who owns the mineral rights associated with the property and what steps are necessary for re-forming the association.

Those attending agreed legal concerns need to be addressed and discussed soliciting pro bono assistance from a local lawyer. Members noted there are four separate deeds for the 19 and one-half acres making up the cemetery and a title search may prove difficult, as the area was claimed by Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

Committee members also noted a formal board needs to be put in place as early as possible to accept donations, seek grants and pursue nonprofit status. The tax status of the cemetery is unknown.

The committee also agreed the cemetery’s immediate upkeep and eventual establishment of a perpetual care fund are priorities. Finally, residents noted preserving the history of the cemetery – perhaps with the assistance of a local historical society – and a letter-writing campaign to solicit donations and assistance in the upkeep and governance of the cemetery are projects that can be pursued during the winter months, when maintenance is not so pressing.

The group may be able to pursue grants because the cemetery includes the grave of Medal of Honor recipient Uriah H. Brown, a Civil War soldier who fought with the 30th Ohio Infantry Co. G. In addition to Brown’s grave, the cemetery holds numerous military graves, from Revolutionary and Civil War era to the Gulf War. It may meet historic landmark criteria.