By Joan Baxter
Jacob Smith was a very influential man in the earliest days of Greene County, Jacob and Patience came from Virginia to the vicinity of Alpha where they built their home and raised their family. He was one of those present when the first court met in May 1803, shortly after Greene County was instituted.
The next December, he was one of those who petitioned for “the laying out of a road from Springfield to Yellow Springs, thence to Owen Davis’ mill to intersect the Pickney Road.
This was not the first road in the county, but it was to the first to have been officially commissioned by the county.
Mr. Smith was one of the early commissioners for Greene County, and in 1805 was elected to a seat in the Ohio State Senate. He served in this capacity for nine terms, though not consecutively.
Jacob Smith had been an influential resident of Greene County and when he died he was buried on private property which was usual for that time. However, over time, the grave was nearly forgotten.
The grave was re-discovered in this manner. While waiting with some other men for a train at Harbine’s Station in Beavercreek, M. A. Broadstone, who published a history of the county early in the 20th century, was chatting with the men about some of the early pioneers who had lived in the county. The discussion continued about how many of those early graves were located on private property and no doubt some sites had been overgrown and forgotten.
One of the men told Mr. Broadstone about a supposed old graveyard not far from where they were standing. They were in what is now known as Alpha, near US Route 35, and very near the location of the first court meetings in 1803.
Since he had some time before the train would arrive, and having an avid interest in all history of Greene County, he decided to talk a walk to the area which had been pointed out.
He did find a few sites which he supposed might contain burials, but without head or foot stones, and with no equipment to explore further, he had no knowledge of whether the man was correct about the burial plots.
However, he continued to look and in time did find a head stone. He pulled away the weeds which were nearly completely covering the old stone and found that it was the monument of a man who had been a Master Mason. He was familiar with the square and compass design scribed on the stone. Upon looking further, he saw that there was a gavel and an open book along with a trowel carved on the stone. Mr. Broadstone realized this man had been a Master of his lodge at one time.
The inscription read: “In memory of Jacob Smith who died the 12th of December, 1819 in the sixty-sixth year of his age. For twelve years he represented the County of Greene in the state senate. He was a useful citizen and died lamented. His actions were squared by justice; he kept his passions within compass. In him faith, hope and charity were united.”
His wife, Patience Smith who died March 23, 1835 lay beside him.
Although the graves were undisturbed, the fields nearby had been cultivated and a mark or two on the stone indicated that a plow or some other object had come very close to the couple’s final resting place, probably without the farmer even knowing the stone was there.
Rather than leave the graves in this place where they had been forgotten for so many years, Mr. Boadstone notified the Xenia Lodge #49 Free and Accepted Masons about his find.
For several years, a small section of Woodland Cemetery in Xenia had been dedicated for the burial of any Master Mason who desired to be in this section. It seemed fitting and proper for the Past Master and his wife to be re-interred in this place.
The date set for the removal of the graves from Alpha to Xenia was arranged for Oct. 14, 1898.
A small group of solemn people gathered at the original grave site and watched as the workmen carefully began to exhume the graves.
They found that Patience had been buried at a depth of four feet, six inches, while Jacob’s grave was six feet deep. There was little left of the wooden coffins excepting a few small pieces of wood. There were still a few brass buttons from Mr. Smith’s coat.
The skeletons were in perfect shape, with arms crossed over the chest. The bones were carefully removed and placed attentively in new coffins to be transported to the new burial site.
When the entourage reached the new resting place, proper Masonic burial rites were given for the couple and they were left to rest there through eternity. If you drive through Woodland Cemetery, their graves are easily seen.
And so, a man who had great influence on the early history of the county and who was well-known and respected for this activities at last lies with his wife in an easily accessible well-marked grave,.
Had it not been for a chance conversation, and the curiosity of Mr. Broadstone, this man who gave so much for Greene County in its early years might have been nearly forgotten.
Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.