Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wesleyan Cemetery Memorial Day Ceremony

Remember that church downtown over on Catherine Street ? Had that little graveyard ? Methodist ? It was over by where the soap company's offices are nowadays.
Wonder whatever happened to it.....
Well, in the 1840s the Wesleyan Chapel's graveyard was pretty much full up. A Methodist church group needed to expand the capacity for more burials but were landlocked in the rapidly growing city. They decided to buy a large area of land outside any city that would never wind up being landlocked again. They bought 25 acres just west of the little village of Cumminsville & re-interred everybody up there.
As funerals back then usually involved the bereaved walking behind a horse drawn hearse to the cemetery, I can only imagine the congregation was overjoyed with the decision.
The caretaker of the church graveyard moved up to the new cemetery and moved into a house built for him there. He had a fine reputation and the new cemetery had a sterling reputation. After he died, subsequent caretakers weren't so dedicated. By the early 20th century the place was described as "indifferently kept".
In the 1930s the city wanted to use eminent domain to build a road through the cemetery that would extend Beekman through the cemetery to Colerain and Kirby, pretty much bisecting the cemetery.

As the city had annexed Cumminsville and other areas around the cemetery, they had never annexed the cemetery. The road didn't go through.
This was rectified in the early 50s when the city, for safety reasons, annexed the property. They claimed the city could not respond to emergency calls at funerals and Veteran's and Memorial Day ceremonies. It is more likely the Republicans just wanted to add the Caretaker's one vote to their ranks.
Meanwhile interments and ceremonies became fewer and farther between. What events did start taking place there were more likely angry confrontations between the families of the interred and the managers and caretakers. Poor maintenance, poor records, missing graves, allegations of reselling graves and such happened over and over. The last caretaker was charged with embezzlement of funds & tossed in jail. This left Cincinnati and Hamilton County playing a game of hot potato with the cemetery as neither wanted the responsibility of caring for, hopefully, the final resting places of a large number of Cincinnati's original citizens and veterans of every American military venture including the Revolution. yeah, fuck your service and sacrifice - we don't wannna cut the grass.
Friends of Wesleyan Cemetery handled the duties voluntarily till the state told the city to take care of the cemetery. The city estimated that caring for the cemetery would cost about $250k/yr. An average residential lot in Cincinnati is about 1/8 acre. Who pays $70 to get their lawn mowed ?
But I digress.
Burials have slowed to a trickle if not curtailed. The city wanted to have the property to protect the citizens attending services there but now there were none.
Until now.
The College Hill/Northside Kiwanis had their first Memorial Day ceremony in decades at Wesleyan in 2007 and have continued on with it. Monday's ceremony will begin at 1:00 PM. The Kiwanis are trying to get the Governor to speak.
It's great to see new life at the Cemetery.
Thanks College Hill/Northside Kiwanis and Friends of Wesleyan Cemetery for your work.

Grave of Dr Richard Alison, Revolutionary War Veteran and past Surgeon General of the United States of America

Wesleyan Cemetery semi official website

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