This week my mind has been focused on Shannon Cemetery in Bluffton, Ohio. I have no known connection to this town, but I feel strongly about preserving our nation’s cemeteries and so it has become a hot topic for me. You see, one of the local influential men in the area decided that he didn’t like seeing that poor cemetery and thought, “Why not renovate and create a park?” And so he began working with local officials to round up money for this project. As far as I can tell they have not consulted anyone about the legalities of such a thing. They have not attempted to contact descendants of those buried. You can read for yourself some of the articles on this project at the Bluffton Icon website
Reading these articles makes me sick to my stomach.
Believe me when I say that I don’t have a problem with re-purposing land, but when they fail to consider the feelings of those whose ancestors are buried there and JUST MOVE THE HEADSTONES… I get a bit riled up. All told there is expected to be 150 or so graves there and some have been documented on FindaGrave. The vast majority have not- which is nothing new when you look at older cemeteries. I put a call out to my friends in the Facebook group “Preserving Ohio’s Cemeteries” and asked if anyone was aware of this project. So I got a few more people riled up and encouraged others to send emails, call, or whatever they felt comfortable doing. Right now they have a pile of headstones, torn out old trees, and planted some new ones. The plans include a gazebo, more trees and landscaping (which will require more upkeep for the city), a parking lot, and a cemented area with the headstones. They also plan to include a list of those buried there. Which is nice and all, but are they doing anything with those buried? Nothing like a nice stroll when you don’t know where your great grandpa Joe was buried. Ick!
A co-worker of mine was originally from Bluffton and when he showed me pictures from his recent visit back home to see his mom… I knew I had to step up my efforts. You can see in the pictures that it’s a pretty open area now with no headstones. Pretty different compared to the FindaGrave photos for the cemetery. The bare patches are probably locations of graves or where they removed the stones. Just awful!
I am sharing this story with all of you in the hopes that you’ll reach out to the officials in Bluffton and encourage them to do the right thing. I’m sure it’s a matter of they were uninformed and didn’t know any better, but let’s get this fixed before they pave over somebody’s ancestors! Below is what I emailed to the Mayor and City Council of Bluffton. If you’d like to send your thoughts as well, please do! The email addresses and phone numbers follow this letter.
Dear Mayor and Council Members,
(A) No person, without privilege to do so, shall purposely deface, damage, pollute, or otherwise physically mistreat any of the following:(1) The flag of the United States or of this state;(2) Any public monument;(3) Any historical or commemorative marker, or any structure, Indian mound or earthwork, cemetery, thing, or site of great historical or archaeological interest;(4) A place of worship, its furnishings, or religious artifacts or sacred texts within the place of worship or within the grounds upon which theplaceofworshipis located;(5) A work of art or museum piece;(6) Any other object of reverence or sacred devotion.(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of desecration.A violation of division (A)(1), (2), (3), (5), or (6) of this section is a misdemeanor of the second degree. Except as otherwise provided in this division,a violation of division (A)(4) of this section is a felony of the fifth degree that is punishable by a fine of up to two thousand five hundred dollars in addition to the penalties specified for a felony of the fifth degree in sections 2929.13 to 2929.18 of the Revised Code. If the value of the property or the amount of physical harm involved ina violation of division (A)(4) of this section is five thousand dollars or more but less than one hundred thousand dollars,a violation of that division is a felony of the fourth degree. If the value of the property or the amount of physical harm involved ina violation of division (A)(4) of this section is one hundred thousand dollars or more, a violation of that division is a felony of the third degree.(C) As used in this section, “cemetery” means any place of burial and includes burial sites that contain American Indian burial objects placed with or containing American Indian human remains.
Effective Date: 09-20-1999
154 N. Main St.
Bluffton, OH 45817
David Steiner, Council President