By Rick Palsgrove
Step into the past and visit the historic Hendren Cemetery as the Groveport Cemetery Committee will open the gate to the cemetery for visitors on Sept. 9 from 10 a.m. to noon.
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 most of the time because of the cemetery’s isolated nature.
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.
Groveport Cemetery Committee members will be on hand on Sept. 9 to answer questions about Hendren Cemetery.
“We wanted to open up the cemetery so people can see the improvements made there,” said Groveport Cemetery Committee member and city councilman Shawn Cleary, who added that a similar event a few years ago drew a good sized crowd.
Those buried in the Hendren Cemetery were early pioneers in Madison Township and Groveport. Their familiar last names are reflected in the area roads such as Hendron and Swisher roads.
“They are the namesakes of Groveport,” said Cleary. “This is where it all started. There’s a lot of history in this beautiful cemetery.”
Hendren Cemetery history
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 the first grave in what would become the Hendren Cemetery.
The mourners must have picked the spot because at that time 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.
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, city public works employees retrieved the gravestones, spread topsoil over the collapsing graves, seeded it with grass, and regularly mowed the site.
In a 2005 interview, former Public Works Director Dennis Moore said the cemetery was originally marked by four oak trees at its corners and the 35 graves were arranged in three rows. The dates on the gravestones range from 1801 to 1876.
Other restoration efforts at Hendren Cemetery included: the addition of a boulder with a bronze plaque containing all 35 names of those who are buried there, resetting some of the gravestones, and fencing.
Today warehouses and State Route 317 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.)
A similar “open house” will be held at Groveport Cemetery, located on Wirt Road adjacent to Heritage Park and established in 1809, later this fall, according to Cleary.
Last March a car crashed through this cemetery’s wrought iron fence and damaged several gravestones. Cleary said new replacement gravestones will be put in place in the spring of 2024.
“The damaged gravestones will not be destroyed or discarded,” said Cleary. “We gathered up as many of the pieces and fragments of the broken gravestones as we could and they will be respectfully and honorably buried in the cemetery.”
The Groveport Cemetery Committee also put forth before Groveport City Council a proposed ordinance to legislatively codify the cemetery rules. The committee wishes to strictly enforce the rules governing grave decorations in the historic cemetery.
“The rules have been in place for many years, but some people are not following them,” said Cleary. “We need everybody to abide by the rules so the cemetery can be properly maintained. We want to maintain the integrity of the cemetery and keep it as nice as we can.
Cemetery rules are posted at the cemetery gates and throughout the cemetery. The rules are also online at www.groveport.org/452/Cemetery.
Earlier this year, the Groveport Cemetery Committee purchased software to create a digital map of grave locations in the Groveport Cemetery. Cleary said the project is about 75 percent complete. The digital map will make it easier for people to find burial sites and to explore history.
“We encourage people to visit and walk around the Groveport Cemetery,” said Cleary. “It’s a beautiful place full of history.”