For those following along in the saga of Shannon Cemetery of Bluffton, Ohio I wanted to share some of the developments of the past few weeks. On June 1st concerned citizens of the area gathered to voice their concerns at the Village Council meeting. The hope was to get some answers regarding where the tombstones were being stored and to have their opinions heard. While I could not attend I was able to keep up with the developments through the Facebook page. I must say it was pretty interesting. While I am not a Bluffton native and have no known connection, I had a coworker whose family lives next to the cemetery and wanted help in making others aware of the plans for a memorial park. I was happy to reach out to others who are concerned about cemetery preservation and light a spark that soon kindled. That was the extent of what I planned to do. I thought I’d just put it out there and let the locals move forward however they chose.
So I was happy that the locals were taking action and getting involved. At the meeting they were told a lot of things by Dick Boehr who is heading up the project. Some of which they later learned were not really true. You see, the headstones were stored in one location, but they were not secure and not covered as promised. They were lying horizontally on the ground and could become even more weathered as they were just outdoors and had no protection. Fortunately the mayor is working on getting a storage unit to move the headstones to and with the help of volunteers this will be done carefully and with a preservation expert’s assistance. All good news in my opinion.
The Lima News covered the story and you can read it here. The map referenced in the article was developed by my coworker using a combination of aerial photography and GIS to determine coordinates for the headstone locations. Luckily there were some excellent quality images available and later he will combine the locations with existing photographs that were taken at the cemetery over the past years. Then they will be able to determine exactly where the graves were located for each individual. It’s not a fool proof method, but it is inexpensive and fairly accurate. According to the Facebook group they are looking to raise some money to do Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and get a really good “map” of the cemetery. The group also has an online petition going that you are encouraged to “sign” if you are interested. You can see for yourself here.
Hopefully the groundswell of support will continue to grow and volunteers will step up to make this situation better. I personally would like to see the locals get the headstones back where they belong AND spruce up the cemetery to something they can be proud of. If the research has actually been done and a list of those buried exists this is a great opportunity to make that information available and make a memorial to those who don’t have headstones. After all, this is the place of many Bluffton residents’ beginnings. Wouldn’t you want to honor your founders?