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Remains interred in deteriorating mausoleum in Mount Pleasant to be buried in cemetery

DESCENDANT — Christopher and Olga Milliken of Columbus participated in a unique hearing on Tuesday in Jefferson County probate court about a deteriorating century-old mausoleum in Mount Pleasant. The Jefferson County prosecutor’s office asked the probate court to disinter the remains of 29 people from the mausoleum and rebury them in Highland Cemetery. The body of Christopher Milliken’s great-granduncle, Watson A. Meredith, shown in the picture, who died on April 16, 1927, is located inside the structure. -- Mark Law

STEUBENVILLE — Jefferson County Assistant Prosecutor Cerryn Cottrell Marshall spent nearly a decade doing genealogical detective work to find descendants of 29 people buried in a deteriorating century-old mausoleum in Mount Pleasant.

Marshall found the descendants for all but two of the people who were interred there in the structure.

A hearing was held on Tuesday before Probate Magistrate Frank Noble Jr. about removing the remains for burial at Highland Cemetery in Mount Pleasant.

Several families established the mausoleum, transferring 3,330 square feet of property from Highland Cemetery in 1917 for construction.

The Highland Mausoleum Association held its last meeting in the late 1940s. The structure has deteriorated to the point where the back wall and part of the roof are falling in.

Mount Pleasant Mayor Charles Banannio said Highland Cemetery is owned by the villages of Dillonvale and Mount Pleasant and Mount Pleasant Township. He also is a trustee of the cemetery and said the cemetery wasn’t allowed to repair the mausoleum.

Banannio contacted Marshall about eight years ago to ask what had to be done to have the bodies removed from the structure and buried in the cemetery.

Banannio said Wilson Funeral Home donated its services to oversee the disinterring of the bodies as a licensed funeral home. Staff at the cemetery will dig individual graves. He said a monument will be placed at the graves with the names of the persons buried there.

Marshall said there is a potential health hazard associated with removing the bodies because some of those in the mausoleum died from contagious diseases. She also is concerned about the discovery of additional bodies in unmarked vaults.

“We are hoping the empty (vaults) remain empty,” Banannio said. One of the vacant vaults was opened and it was, in fact, empty, he said.

The cemetery association has spent thousands of dollars on the matter. He said there will be an additional expense in reburying the bodies.

Marshall had to find the death certificates of those in the mausoleum, some of which date back a century. She searched records in Ohio, West Virginia and other states.

“Just because they were buried in Ohio doesn’t mean they died in Ohio,” she said.

Some had died in Cleveland, Chicago and Texas.

Marshall said she couldn’t find the descendants of an 18-year-old female who died in Texas. The woman’s father died shortly after her, her mother never remarried, and there were no siblings.

Marshall and staff at the prosecutor’s office relied on ancestry websites and obituary services to build family trees. That information was given to descendants, along with a waiver that had to be signed to allow removal of the bodies, she said.

“It was a lot of work. It would have been fun or interesting if there were one or two, but 29 about did me in. It was interesting to do the research. I gave the families their family tree, and they were grateful,” she said.

A mausoleum which falls into disrepair without an association reverts to the township, officials explained.

Marshall said she had to have the mausoleum transferred to the township and then to Highland Cemetery by filing an affidavit in the county recorder’s office.

Banannio said the bodies will be moved once the weather breaks in the spring. Highland Cemetery will then have 30 days to complete the moves to the new graves.

Christopher and Olga Milliken of Columbus traveled to Steubenville on Tuesday because the body of Christopher Milliken’s great-granduncle, Watson A. Meredith, who died on April 16, 1927, is interred inside the structure. Olga Milliken commended Marshall and her staff for the work they did on the case.

Noble said the move has to be treated as any other funeral with dignity and respect, adding Highland Cemetery will have to make contact with descendants to let them know where their relative is buried.

He said he will issue an opinion, which, if there are no objections, will be placed before Probate Judge Joseph Corabi for final approval.

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