Guest column/Cemetery tour very revealing

My husband and I went to visit the various cemeteries in Jefferson County on Memorial Day.

While we were waiting for the Amsterdam parade to begin, we took a hike up the hill behind the Catholic church to see the Methodist Cemetery. On our way down the hill, we noted two World War II plaques at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, listing an honor roll for veterans from 1941 to 1945. I bet not many know those plaques are there.

We visited the northern most part of the county, in Bergholz and Amsterdam, which are in Springfield Township in Jefferson County and Loudon Township in Carroll County. The Bergholz cemetery was in excellent condition with the grass mowed and trimmed and flags dotting the landscape. We saw folks out decorating their loved ones’ graves and planting flowers, and of course visited the piano tombstone for the Everhart family.

Then it was a wonderful surprise to head to the Old Pioneer Apex Cemetery. It had a brand new split rail fence and the perimeter was cleaned and neat. Some of the oldest pioneers are buried in that graveyard. Passing by the Shane and Bacon Ridge Pioneer cemeteries in Ross Township, we noted that the fence was down in the Shane Cemetery, and the Bacon Ridge graveyard, where there are several Revolutionary war veterans and War of 1812 and Civil War veterans buried, were dotted with flags and the fence was holding up well.

As we headed down state Route 43, on the right we stopped at the East Springfield Cemetery, which was established in 1808. The old section was clean and mowed and flags were throughout the the cemetery. There is a Methodist church that sits in front of the cemetery. Heading in a circle, we ended up in Salem Township. All of the cemeteries in Salem were restored from the leadership of Terry Bell with the assistance of Terry Hosenfeld and the township trustees a few years ago. It is so impressive to visit these old graveyards in Salem Township.

You might ask, why? Because I didn’t find even one tombstone on the ground in the Richmond Union or the Annapolis cemeteries. Annapolis has many sandstone and marble-style tombstones that possess the remains of the earliest settlers, the pathfinders, who settled into Jefferson County.

We moved to Richmond and the Methodist cemetery that sits beside the church, and it was mowed, but that wall of tombstones still sits as a reminder to never move fallen tombstones from their original spots. Richmond Presbyterian is right up from the Methodist cemetery, and it was well-mowed and trimmed and many early pioneers are buried there with dignity. We drove to Center Chapel Cemetery, which is out near the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Island Creek Township. It was mowed and neat and flags were blowing on top of the hill.

From there we arrived at the Island Creek Cemetery. It was not all mowed, to my disappointment and the weeds and trees and brush had overgrown the area down at the bottom of the hill and we could see, as we peeked through the overgrowth. more tombstones to be seen. Then we took state Route 7 to Steubenville Township and located Harmony-Point View cemetery. It was mowed, clean and flags were placed on the old veterans’ graves. It went from cool and rainy to sunny and mild. We did find a couple of large tree limbs on top of my husband’s ancestors graves near the bottom.

New Alexandria cemetery looked well mowed and beautiful from the road driving up state Route 151 on the right. However, as we entered the pioneer section in the back corner, we peeked through the overgrowth, which revealed many of the earliest burials in that cemetery – some of whom were veterans. It was sad and my heart sunk at the thought of the earliest veterans having no flags on their graves. This area needs to be brought to the attention of the trustees of this cemetery and needs immediate attention before the tombstones are lost to the woods and overgrowth forever.

We then traveled up state Route 151 to Wells Township to see the Center Cemetery. It was well mowed and flags were nicely placed, but in the old pioneer section, around the perimeter of the cemetery, we peeked through the woods once again, and we saw tombstones buried in the weeds and brush. I then noted to my husband a theme we were seeing all day of these cemetery perimeters closing in on the out laying tombstones. Many of the oldest tombstones are down on the ground, broken or sunken. It was very dishearten that these tombstones haven’t been repaired. There are two known Revolutionary veterans buried there.

Heading back toward home, we ended up in Steubenville’s Union Cemetery. It is on the National Register of Cemeteries. It was beautiful, with its various purple and pink rhododendron brushes and bright orange azaleas in full bloom. My husband and I have many ancestors buried there. We found the cemetery to be clean, most of it freshly mowed but suffering from fallen branches (breaking tombstones) and roots from large trees, toppling tombstones everywhere. I even ended up in the old Methodist church section, where my great grandfather who fought in the Civil War is buried and it hadn’t been mowed or trimmed and a large branch was preventing me from viewing some of the graves in the family plot, much to my sadness.

From there, close by is Mount Calvary Cemetery. It was mowed, trimmed and beautiful and flags were everywhere. We headed out Sunset Boulevard to the Wintersville United Methodist Church Cemetery, which is in Cross Creek Township near Kroger. I must say that I was surprised and pleased to see it mowed with flags on the veterans’ graves. I could see that the church volunteers had previously worked on resetting some tombstones and leveling others. This cemetery appears to be a work in progress. I hope that it continues until all of the old tombstones are reset and repaired. There are still many down or in need of repair.

Our last two stops were at the Fort Steuben and the Two Ridges Presbyterian cemetery. Fort Steuben Burial Estates is beautiful, with rolling freshly mowed hills and more flags then one can see without turning your head. There is a veterans’ section and it was very neat and clean and we found a beautiful veterans honor monument with a tank sitting up on the hill in a secluded area. The front hedges were trimmed.

The final pioneer cemetery was the Two Ridges Cemetery. It was mowed, but not freshly mowed and the back section, where the oldest pioneers are buried wasn’t mowed in areas and there were large tree branches on the ground and it had appeared to be mowed around for some time. I was very disappointed to see this area in this condition because there are three Revolutionary War veterans buried there, with no flags, under the tree limbs and the deep brush. This area needs immediate attention and cleaned up. I counted about 10 flags in the entire cemetery and I know and could plainly see veterans, as far back, at a glance, from the Civil War, who didn’t have flags on their graves.

We began our day in the rain at 9 a.m. and ended it at 8 p.m. with mild and sunny weather. All in all, we visited 19 cemeteries.

(VerStraten-Merrin is president of the Jefferson County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society.)