TWIN TOWNSHIP — We call them gravestones, monuments, memorials, plaques, tombstones, and even tablets but whatever their title they all share one similar trait – they all tell a story. However, when visiting the Ithaca Cemetery on State Route 503, just north of Ithaca, those stones and maybe even their stories are at risk of being lost.
Annette Stewart of the Arcanum Wayne Trail Historical Society (AWTHS) pointed out the tipping stones, some broken with signs of attempts to repair, while others have been lost to time and soil. The latter’s only indication of existence a stone base or nothing more than a swath of grass amongst other stones.
Trying to preserve and save buildings is just the tip of the iceberg, says Stewart, with cemeteries like Ithaca are another area that needs help and action by qualified people. That’s why AWTHS and Twin Township Trustees are working together to sponsor an upcoming workshop with instructor Mark Morton from Gravestone Guardians of Ohio.
Gravestone Guardians of Ohio is dedicated to the preservation of tombstones and grave markers, using the latest techniques in cleaning and repair work.
“It’s the person’s responsibility,” explained Stewart of the stones upkeep and maintenance; however, many families may be unaware their ancestors are even buried there. “If they have not done genealogy, they probably have no idea. There are stones here that I wouldn’t have known if I had not gotten into that (genealogy).”
Stewart has spent considerable time in the Ithaca cemetery (and others) where many of her family are buried; cleaning stones with her grandchildren. She shared information on the names, sometimes unreadable on the stones, explaining how a book written by Anita Short has helped to reveal those buried there, from founders to soldiers.
Noting the pages upon pages of names in Short’s book, one can see the author was dedicated and meticulous. She was known in the 1960s as an excellent researcher and genealogy person. She had visited area cemeteries, reading every stone, moving down each row to catalog the information.
“I am so thankful that she did that, so we have this to go by,” said Stewart pointing to an entry of the oldest burial in the cemetery:
RICHARD ROBBINS – d. 3.7.1825 ae 44-7-14 War of 1812
Not far below Robbins was the name Peter Fourman, a distant relation to Stewart who had found the stone in the cemetery, then lost it, only to find it again. It became something of a humorous family inquire – where was Fourman?
“He was really back in there,” explained Stewart, pointing across the cemetery to a row of gravestones right before a line of trees hiding farm fields. It was amongst some of the oldest stones in the cemetery including those belonging to Ithaca founder John Colville and Arcanum founder William Gunder.
For Short and individuals like Stewart, the work of cataloging names, restoring headstones was and is a labor of love, and labor is needed now along with funding. After the tax levy for Twin Township failed, help is needed to fix up the cemetery as well as to help maintain it.
The upcoming workshop is an opportunity to learn how to properly fix the stones with Stewart’s clear statement not to wait until it’s too late.
“These are the people who came here before us, and settled this area,” said Stewart. “Why would we not want to preserve that, out of respect?”
AWTHS and Twin Township Trustees are sponsoring the workshop from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 20 at Ithaca Cemetery. They encourage all historical societies, those interested in preservation, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) groups as well as township trustees and cemetery caretakers to participate.
Those interested are encouraged to register soon as class size is limited, and preregistration is required with a fee of $30 per person. Checks can be made out to AWTHS.
A registration form is available at www.arcanumhistoricalsociety.org under “workshop” and details are also available on the AWTHS Facebook page under events. Participants are encouraged to keep informed on Facebook in case the workshop is canceled or rescheduled due to rain. Rain date is slated for July 27. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Reach reporter Bethany J. Royer-DeLong at 937-548-3330 or email email@example.com. Read more news, features, and sports at DarkeCountyMedia.com.