By Rick Palsgrove
We can only imagine what it was like the day in 1801 when loved ones held the funeral and burial of Joseph Flemington in what was then the first grave in what would become the Hendren Cemetery.
The mourners must have picked the spot because it was serene and beautiful – a grassy knoll surrounded by trees and meadows in pastoral Madison Township.
According to the historian George Bareis, Flemington’s grave is believed to be the oldest marked and recorded grave in Madison Township.
Sadly, Hendren Cemetery fell into disrepair over its more than 200-year-old history with many of its 35 gravestones scattered in the nearby brush, some of them broken and others eroded by time. Some of the graves showed signs of collapsing.
The city of Groveport annexed the land that included the Hendren Cemetery in 1987. Then, beginning in 1998, Groveport Public Works Superintendent Dennis Moore and his crew retrieved the gravestones, spread topsoil over the collapsing graves to refill them, seeded the site with grass, and regularly mowed the site.
“In 1997, there were severe depressions in the graves from settlement over the years, some areas up to a foot,” said Moore in a recent interview. “We filled the area and graded it.”
In a 2005 interview, Moore said the cemetery was originally marked by four oak trees at its corners and the 35 graves are arranged in three rows. The dates on the gravestones range from 1801 to 1876. The surnames of many of those buried there are familiar in Madison Township and Groveport history.
The Groveport Cemetery Committee and city of Groveport made plans in 2005 to repair the Hendren Cemetery and a few years later it was restored to its former nobility.
The restoration included: the addition of a boulder with a bronze plaque containing all 35 names of those who are buried in the Hendren Cemetery, resetting some of the gravestones, grass seeding and landscaping. Moore said that, because of the condition of some of the gravestones, they could only be laid flat on the ground.
“The work took a few years to complete,” said Moore. “It was all made possible by the Cemetery Committee.”
Today warehouses and a four lane highway border the small, rural Hendren Cemetery, but the cemetery is not diminished by these developments and it remains a place of peace and honor as trees and fields buffer the site from the modern world. (Note that the spelling of the name of the cemetery, “Hendren,” is based on references in Bareis’ book, “A History of Madison Township: Including Groveport and Canal Winchester, Franklin County, Ohio.” The cemetery has also been referred to as the Hendren-Barnhart Cemetery.)
Visit Hendren Cemetery on Sept. 7
The Groveport Cemetery Committee will open the historic Hendren Cemetery to the public for visits on Sept. 7 from 9-11 a.m.
The Hendren Cemetery is located in Groveport on the west side of State Route 317, about a half mile north of Main Street/Groveport Road and about a quarter mile south of the railroad tracks. Its gravel driveway on State Route 317 is protected by a locked gate because of the cemetery’s isolated nature.
Groveport City Council President and cemetery committee member Shawn Cleary said the gate to the cemetery, located along the west side of State Route 317, will be open on Sept. 7 to allow vehicles to enter and parking is available near the cemetery. To enter Hendren Cemetery go southbound on State Route 317 and turn right at the cemetery’s gate. Do not turn left from northbound State Route 317. Cleary said temporary banners will mark the cemetery’s gate to make it easier to locate. Email Cleary at email@example.com for information.
Cleary said there are outdated photos of Hendren Cemetery floating around on social media from the days when it was in disrepair. He said these days the cemetery is in good shape.
“The city of Groveport has invested a lot of money in restoring and maintaining Hendren Cemetery over the years,” said Cleary. “We want to open up the cemetery so people can see it, experience it, and know that it is being cared for. There’s a lot of history there.”
Groveport Cemetery news
Cleary said the Groveport Cemetery Committee is pursuing having a permanent speaker’s podium installed in the Groveport Cemetery (located on Wirt Road and whose first grave dates to 1809). The podium would be used for things such as the Memorial Day services.
“The permanent podium would be placed at the flag plaza,” said Cleary. “It could be made out of stone, wrought iron, or brick, but we haven’t decided yet. By having a permanent podium we won’t have to deal with using the unsteady temporary podium every year at Memorial Day.”
Cleary also said the cemetery committee is looking for suggestions for a phrase to be placed on the bench near the Groveport Cemetery grave of long time Groveport City Councilman and cemetery committee member Ed Rarey.
“We want something that captures the spirit of what he was all about,” said Cleary.
Phrase suggestions may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In an interview in 2005, Rarey said the Groveport and Hendren cemeteries play a vital role in the history of the community.
“It’s sacred ground,” Rarey said.