A grave matter in Groveport

 
 Photo courtesy of the Groveport Heritage Museum
 This is a view of the Groveport Cemetery from around 1900. In recent years the cemetery has been expanded and undergone renovations including the erection of a wrought iron fence and gate.

Old gravesites hold some unseen mysteries and the Groveport Cemetery is no exception.

The village of Groveport is considering either purchasing imaging equipment, or contracting out the service, in order to locate old, unmarked graves in Groveport Cemetery.

"This is an old cemetery with the oldest known grave dating to 1809," said Councilman Ed Rarey at Groveport Village Council’s Aug. 11 meeting. "Imaging equipment can help us locate burials. It can show you what is underground."

Rarey said the old fashioned way of checking for filled graves by sticking a probe through the ground until it hit a solid coffin is not always effective on old graves because the wooden coffins of long ago eras may have decayed to the point of disintegration and are no longer solid.

"We want to confirm where people are buried in the cemetery," said Rarey.

He added that many of the old graves from the 19th century once had wooden grave markers and that time and weather simply rotted them away leaving no trace of identification for who lies in the ground below.

Councilman Shawn Cleary noted that it is important to find the old graves so they are not disturbed by new burials.

"We’ve had embarrassing moments in the past," said Cleary

Rarey noted that, while digging a new grave, workers sometimes accidentally hit an old coffin in an unmarked plot. In one instance he said the workers then moved over to a different spot only to hit another one.

Inadvertantly opening unmarked, occupied graves is not just a recent problem. Rarey recalled a time in the mid-1940s when he was helping Bill Spence dig what they thought was a new grave in the cemetery.

"Bill was just about finished digging the grave, had about a foot to go, and I offered to finish it for him. Bill climbed out and I hopped in the grave, but instead of hitting ground I just kept going and one foot broke through an old coffin lid. I jumped out of that grave in one fast step and just kept running."

Interim Village Administrator Ken Salak said the village is obtaining estimates on imaging equipment and it is expected the cost would be less than $18,000.

"It would be worthwhile to find the old graves and locate the ones we don’t know about," said Salak.

Salak added that, unfortunately, it would be hard to identify the remains in the old, unmarked graves as cemetery records are incomplete.

Rarey said about 430 to 450 grave plots remain available in section five in the west end of the cemetery and about another 200 in section six, located southwest of the log house. Sections five and six are the newest parts of the cemetery.

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