My Town Monday: Death from Days Gone By

According to the sign, the first burial was in 1803

Yesterday saw some beautiful weather here in the Dayton area – sunny, slight breeze, about 70 degrees. A perfect day for a little motorcycle ride.

I rode off to a place hidden away in the suburbs, nestled away behind strip malls, office buildings, and neighborhoods of 1960’s ranch homes. Beavertown Cemetery is a little piece of history. Although it’s less than a quarter mile away from busy Woodman Drive, visiting there is like stepping into another world.

The cemetery was built around a little farming town in what’s now the suburb of Kettering. According to the sign, the first burial at the cemetery took place in 1803. It’s currently owned and managed by the city’s Parks Department.

Shopping centers and busy streets are just out of view

Information regarding the town and cemetery is sketchy. According to one source on daytonhistorybooks.com, the town had around 50 homes in the mid-nineteenth century. There is some more information on the Geocaching site, where it looks like someone hid a cache in 2008. According to this source, the cemetery’s two acres were donated by John Ewry, one of Beavertown’s early inhabitants.

There are two main sections of the cemetery. The one closest to the entrance is newer, and most of the grave markers date from the 1940s through the 1960s. The back section, inside the gravel drive loop, is where most of the older markers are. Many are unreadable.

 

   

The section beyond the gravel loop doesn’t appear to be part of the cemetery on Google Maps, and doesn’t contain marked graves. There’s a rumor noted on the Geocaching page that poor, black residents were buried there in the early days, but these are unsubstantiated. If there are any rumors of hauntings at Beavertown, I couldn’t find them.

What was a surprise to me is that every now and then, someone new is buried at Beavertown. I suspect these grave plots have been in families for years.

Even so, it’s a fascinating place to pick up little bits of history. One can see how much shorter the lifespans were 150 years ago, and how much bigger families were – because many didn’t survive until adulthood. Through death, we get a little glimpse of what life was like back then.

What do you think? Have you visited any historic cemeteries in your area? Do you like to wander through, and get a little snapshot of life in the past?

12 Responses to \

  1. When I was 14, my family went on a vacation to Nova Scotia and while my brother and dad golfed, my mom and I visited a cemetery that was supposed to have some of the oldest head stones in the country. It was eerie, but at the same time, such a fun experience for me as a history nut. On some of the headstones, all we could make out were a few words, and on some, nothing at all.
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  2. I have always wanted (and perhaps this year I will) to sit in an old or abandoned cemetery and see what stories come to mind as I read the faded markers. Will I get tales of simple pleasures, young lives lost too soon, what ghost will come to tell me of their passing and the joys of the life they lived before?
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  3. Ooh now Prudence, that is a great idea. Although I can’t say Jennette that I’ve spent much time in cemeteries. But I do see you point that a lot can be learned from people who lived before us. And 70 degree weather in Ohio in March is pretty nice. Glad you enjoyed the day! Thanks for the ideas girls. :)
    Karen McFarland recently posted..ROW80: Alive and Kicking!My Profile

  4. Marcy, that cemetery sounds like a cool place! In NS, probably much older than Beavertown. Thanks for sharing!

    Prudence, very cool idea! There are definitely a bunch of stories there – I do wonder about what the people and their lives were like. Though if there are any ghosts at Beavertown, they stayed hidden away.

    Karen, it was soooo nice out! March in Ohio is always questionable. We get anything from a snowstorm to 70 degrees and sunny. I got married in March, and yesterday was just like my wedding day. :)

  5. I’ve visited Glenwood Cemetery in Houston. It was developed a few decades after the cemetery you visited, Jennette, and many prominent Houstonians, including Howard Hughes are buried there. Glenwood is a lush, green oasis and is known for its many statues, especially those of weeping angels.
    Pat O’Dea Rosen recently posted..Shiny Links for WritersMy Profile

  6. All right, I’m weird but I love visiting old cemeteries. There’s a military cemetary on the point outside of San Diego. Amazing. And Honolulu has an amazing buddhist cemetary.

    I was visiting one of Calgary’s oldest cemetaries a decade ago, when I realized that if reincarnation is true, then it’s possible that some of those stones are for the same ‘soul’. it was a weird moment, believe me.
    and yes, it is interesting how much shorter life was 100 years ago.
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  7. Pat – oooh, that one sounds cool! Sounds like Dayton’s Woodland Cemetery, which I’m going to visit this summer. Thanks for stopping by!

    Louise – I love it too, even though I don’t very often. So much history and so many stories – and yes, there’s one in your comment! Very cool idea – thanks for stopping by!

  8. I’ve been to too many cemeteries to count. My husband was heavy into genealogy and dragged us all – kids included – to any cemetery that might have a family member. It got so bad, the kids would groan whenever we passed one on the road; afraid he would turn off and pull in!

    I’ve also got some great pictures of cemetery art that I took in New Jersey. The cemeteries there have some of the greatest statues around. I’ll have to scan those pictures someday so I can post them on my blog.

  9. Stacy, that is too funny! My brother and I used to do the groan – only at yard sales! You should blog about the cool one in NJ sometime. :)

  10. Maria, that’s funny about your son. The first time I visited Beavertown was with my daughter’s class on a field trip. She was in 4th grade, I think, so maybe they were old enough not to get creeped out!

    Coleen, that’s really cool for your daughter! A very distinctive place, it sounds like. I’ll have to go to Woodland for that sort of thing around here (no presidents there, though). And I bet it’s good exercise for the kids!