Beyond the fence
|Photo courtesy of Mark Myers
|James Crawford, a Reynoldsburg settler and soldier during the Revolutionary War, is buried in Seceder Cemetery.
Nestled among modern-day buildings along S.R. 256 in Reynoldsburg is a parcel of land some call priceless.
Though seemingly cut off from the hustle and bustle of the nearby highway, Seceder Cemetery is very much alive with history - a treasure for history buffs or those simply wanting to pay respect to soldiers who fought for America's freedom more than 200 years ago.
While the cemetery is the final resting place to more than 150 area residents - most of who lived in the 19th century - it also features the graves of 13 veterans - five Revolutionary War, four Civil War, three War of 1812 and one War with Mexico.
Though details of their lives have been lost over time and photographs are hard to find or don't exist (modern photography wasn't invented until the early 1800s), local historians have researched the cemetery and its inhabitants and have discovered how one soldier in particular played an important role not only in the Revolutionary War, but in the city's history as well.
Beyond a chain-link fence that surrounds Seceder Cemetery sit several partially worn away original sandstone tombstones.
Barely legible, some rely on the newer marble stones that sit behind the original stones to tell their stories.
One stone in particular, that of James Crawford, tells visitors of his service in the Continental Navy during the Revolutionary War.
But it's Crawford's role in Reynoldsburg's history that puts him alongside well-known are family names, including the Spragues and Livingstons.
Nearly 50,000 acres east of central Ohio were subdivided into small parcels in the early 1800s, including land where Reynoldsburg and Truro Township sit today. Crawford acquired 640 of those acres.
"I consider James Crawford a true American hero," said Mark Myers, an archivist and trustee with the Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society. "If he had only been the first settler in this area with a wife and 12 children, that would in itself be a claim to fame."
After enlisting on the colonists' side in the Revolutionary War, Crawford was imprisoned by the British twice - once for nine months in a dungeon where he was crippled by the manacles around his ankles, according to "History of Reynoldsburg and Truro Township Ohio," written by Cornelia Parkinson.
"He escaped both times and landed in Boston, where he saw action in the Continental Navy," Myers said.
The U.S. government didn't have money to reward the Canadians who fought with the colonists against the British. Crawford was one of those soldiers, since he was born in Ireland and emigrated to Nova Scotia as a teenager.
So he was instead given land "out west" in the Ohio territory, Myers said.
"That's what brought James, on a flatboat down the Ohio and up the Scioto, to the wilderness that was central Ohio," he said. "At age 51, he built his cabin alone near the present-day intersection of S.R. 256, Livingston and Graham Road in Reynoldsburg."
Though many of the tombstones feature the names of residents who lived nearby during the 19th century, nearly 40 stones are illegible and must rely on the name of the cemetery to tell their story.
Seceder comes from the word "secede," and refers to the group that broke away from the original Presbyterian Church and formed a branch of their own, Myers said.
"How ironic that these 'separatists,' so steadfast in their beliefs, are still isolated in a way, on a hill, with their own cemetery," he said. "Still resistant to conformity, they are hidden, locked behind a six-foot fence, for the gravesites' own protection since they are so historic."
It's an area of the Eastside rich with history, and one local organizations have worked feverishly to preserve.
The local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution has placed a plaque of honor to the five Revolutionary War soldiers buried at Seceder Cemetery.
The cemetery also has been included in a project out of the Franklin County Auditor's Office called Operation Flag, with the project's mission that no veteran's gravesite should be forgotten or neglected.
History buffs also can use the Internet to research Seceder Cemetery, with a complete photographic inventory of the cemetery's residents online at www.genealogybug.net/Franklin_Cemeteries/index.html.
"I'm amazed that we still can visit the grave of James Crawford, the original settler in Reynoldsburg and four of his comrades in arms from the Revolutionary War, all in one cemetery," Myers said.
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