One Man’s Mission To Save A Historic Union County Cemetery
Sunken tombstones, cracked headstones and missing grave markers; some of the oldest public cemeteries in Union County are being lost in time.
Now, one man is making it his mission to save this part of Central Ohio history.
"When you think, that there's 120 people buried here," said Gary Peters. He says when he first discovered Hathaway Cemetery back in 2005, he could identify 114 people buried here.
Today, the markers of only 62 are visible.
"We do have some of the founding settlers from Union County buried here," Peters said.
It also marks the final resting place of several Civil War veterans. The cemetery dates back to 1822, one of about a dozen "pioneer cemeteries" in the county.
But time has taken its toll on these monuments to the past.
"There's tombstones lying flat that are continually run over, as they fracture, as they settle into the soil, they become covered," said Peters. "And it won't be too many years, you know, you won't recognize this cemetery."
The township is responsible for mowing the property and maintaining a fence. But Ohio law doesn't establish who is charged with preserving them.
A marker stands at a nearby family cemetery in Madison County, listing the names of those buried there. It was paid for with private funds.
Peters is asking the state board that oversees cemeteries to consider placing similar markers at each of the pioneer cemeteries to establish who's buried there, before they're lost to history.
"It's taken many years to get like this, but time waits for no one," said Peters. "And it will deteriorate, and we'll lose a lot of history here."
The Ohio Department of Commerce has a Cemetery Dispute Resolution Committee. It has the authority over registered cemeteries, including upkeep and maintenance.