Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Cemetery Is A Cemetery, Right?

I love to visit cemeteries. I think they are excellent places to learn some history about your area. To me they are interesting because I like to see what some people leave behind. Sometimes it is just a name and birth and death dates, but sometimes there is even more than that. This story discusses the types of cemeteries there are.
The first cemetery is a Memorial Park. In this case, Columbiana County Memorial Park. I don't exactly have a picture of it, so I used the grave site of Mike Williams, an unsolved murder victim here in this county. This park is the one with the big cross made out of shrubs and lit at night with red lights. Memorial Parks, with their flush stone markers were designed to eliminate all suggestions of death. The markers are all level with the ground so that lawn mowers will pass right over them. To look at it from a distance, you might not think it was a cemetery at all.
The first Military Cemetery in the United States was established in 1863 at Gettysburg, PA. It was here that President Lincoln gave the famous Gettysburg Address and consecrated the place as hallowed ground. There are 119 National Cemeteries in the U.S. including Arlington. All of them are filled with row after row of identical stone markers indicating the graves of men killed in battle, or who were discharged from the military. This picture is from Riverview Cemetery, a memorial for the Civil War more than anything else in East Liverpool, Ohio. There are many veterans buried here. The statue is the Roving Sentinel that finally came to rest here in 1942. He overlooks a circle shaped mass grave of Civil War Soldiers.

The Family Plot or private burial grounds would often not only hold the remains of a single family, but friends and neighbors as well. These burial plots were usually on the persons property and could be found in a garden or orchard and often on high ground. As cities and towns grew around them, they were either moved or turned into the actual city cemetery. Some were lost altogether and even built over, leading to gruesome finds years later. The plot above is in St. Pauls Cemetery near Dunganon.

The Urban Cemetery is usually public and operated in the cities they are found in. Because they are not very historic or picturesque, they are often ignored. The rows of ordinary markers tend not to get too much attention and little documentation is generally kept about them. This is the little German Cemetery in Lisbon, Ohio that is virtually forgotten. Buried somewhere on this property are three American War Veterans that no one knows about. Don't get me started.....

The Church Cemetery is one of America's first cemeteries. Located on the East Coast church cemeteries are where you will find the oldest burials. Early churchyards will not usually be laid out in neat rows. The alignment of the graves tends to be haphazard and close. This is the West Beaver Church Cemetery on Rt 518, just outside of West Point, Ohio.

Rural Cemeteries are the most interesting and usually spooky of all graveyards. They are easily found on highways and back roads across the country. They are often hidden and even forgotten by the general populace. This is Bowman's Cemetery, outside of Elkton, Ohio. There are many markers here that are made of wooden crosses. It is considered to be one of the most haunted little cemeteries in Columbiana County, Ohio.
The last graveyard type is called a Potter's Field. This is where you will find the poor, the unknown, the unclaimed, criminals, suicides, and even illegitimate babies buried. They will be found either in mass graves or individual graves with no markers. The names of the dead, if known, are usually only placed on the coffin itself. With the mass graves, the pit is often loaded with coffins until it is full, and then given a single numbered marker. No mourners are present when this grave is smoothed over. No clergy is there to offer a prayer for the dead. They can be dark feeling and forbidding places. I do not currently have an example of this type of cemetery from Columbiana County because I don't know if we have one. I hope not.