With the pandemic in place, it is hard to find enough to do to keep busy, but Ohioans have been encouraged to get outside with the nice spring weather. But we must keep our distances from others.
Perhaps one way to get out a little would be to explore some of the cemeteries in the county.
Let’s start with Woodland Cemetery in Xenia. It is one of the larger cemeteries and therefore more space to avoid close contact. Of course, you also can drive around the area.
The first things you will see upon entry are four large pillars which grace the entrance. Those pillars are historic in themselves since they once were part of the 1843 Court House.
The 1843 Court House was “set in the middle of the public square from east to west and set back from Chillicothe, or Main Street, so as to leave 24 feet between the steps and the street.”
The building was to be constructed entirely of brick including the entry columns, but on June 15, 1842, the plan was changed. The new plan was for the columns to be made of limestone instead of brick. The pieces were to be the size of the originally intended brick columns, 20 thick with the blocks cut circular and dressed to a smooth surface on each side to as to make a close joint. The columns were furnished by Bruffet Vincent of Centerville and cost $663.60.
That court house was located on the same site as the present one. It was not the first court house for the county, but the most magnificent to date in size and structure.
When the commissioners decided that the brick structure was not adequate for the needs of the county, a bond proposal was put on the ballot to build a new court house. The issue failed more than once, but finally after the roof caved in over the section where the jurors usually sat, and although no one was in the building at the time, the voters saw the need for a new structure and so the 1902 court house (present) was constructed.
The columns described above which were a part of the old building were salvaged and donated to Woodland Cemetery to be placed at the entrance.
The cemetery was established on the “western edge of the city” Feb. 25, 1845. The Association was formed with E. F. Drake, president; J. A. Coburn, secretary; and seven additional members. Thirty acres of land were provided and in 1877 an additional 20 acres were added. Since that time, may more acres have acquired for the burials. In recent years, a mausoleum has been added.
The first burial was that of 22-year-old Mary Ann Hollingshead, who died of tuberculosis and was buried on Dec. 7, 1847. That was the year of the drastic cholera epidemic so the need for the new cemetery was very apparent. The cost of a burial plot at that time was $10. The cost of opening and closing a grave was $2. If the coffin was in a case the price went to $2.50.
There were other cemeteries in the city prior to Woodland, each affiliated with local churches, but all have been closed for a number of years, and the majority of the burials were transferred to Woodland.
As the cemetery grew in acreage and usage, so did the price of the lots and the burial fees. In 1878 the cost for a lot was $40, the burial fee $4.
Before the days of funeral homes, most “viewings” were in a private home. In 1913, a memorial chapel was constructed at the cemetery to accommodate the need for a place for a funeral service. Citizens subscribed to the fund and those names were placed on a bronze plaque in the building. By the late 1930’s funeral homes were being established, and the need for the chapel was not as great. When the chapel ceased to be in good condition, it was razed with the stone being used to construct the present superintendent’s office.
Many prominent Xenia area families are buried at Woodland. You might find the Dodds monument or perhaps Richard Conover’s grave stone with a circus wagon embossed on it.
Maybe you will find Hollingshead’s stone or perhaps the H.H. Eavey family, which owned a wholesale grocery business.
Newspaper folks include the Chew family and former Gazette Editor Jack Jordan. Jordan’s stone is appropriate since it appears to be the front page of the newspaper.
The Jobe family owned a department store which was considered one of the finest in the area for many years.
Can you find the grave of Emma Jean Cherry or perhaps Andrew Baughman? Baughman is perhaps best remembered for building the house at the corner of North King and West Church.
Will you see the grave of John Little, U. S. Congressman 1885-1887? He also served as mayor of Xenia in 1864 and Ohio State attorney general from 1872-1878.
David Medsker has the distinction of being an early undertaker. During the cholera epidemic, he made coffins as quickly as possible so that he would have a supply as needed. He was one of the first directors for the cemetery and claimed to have buried more than 700 individuals before he died in 1879. Maybe you will see his monument.
As you walk or drive through the cemetery, you will find many familiar names of people who have made Xenia what it is today. Doctors, lawyers, businessmen and women, some well-known and some only slightly remembered.
Have a nice visit and stay safe.
Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and guest columnist.