Creating a Cemetery Preservation Society in Your County
Bonnie and Larry Knox
Today, many of Ohio's counties have historic cemeteries whose very existence is being threatened. It is during times like these that we begin to realize the need for an organized effort to save them. A concerned and ambitious individual can certainly make a mark, but a group of people working together can accomplish much more. A cemetery preservation group must have a strong desire to do something. It must also be willing to act, it must be knowledgeable enough to see to the upholding of the laws of Ohio and it must be persistent enough to continue until all the cemeteries are safe. Those who would destroy and desecrate our historic burial grounds will back down in the face of a knowledgeable and righteous opponent who says, "You can't do that!"
A cemetery preservation society can be started anywhere you find people who care. The recruitment of members can most easily be done at public gatherings such as Genealogy and Historical Society meetings where like-minds are found. Ads placed in the local newspaper, announcing your concerns and the time and place of a public meeting will always catch the attention of other concerned persons. A common cause in saving cemeteries will be the bonding force necessary for your group to be successful.
During initial gatherings, create a loosely structured society where one or two individuals "preside" over the meeting. Stay informal enough to allow each and every one of the attendees to express his or her views and concerns. If possible, seat all the attendees in a circle so everyone can see each other and easily exchange ideas. The taking of turns at speaking can simply progress by rotation around the circle.
As personal talents begin to emerge, encourage those people to do what they do best. Some persons like to read and record tombstone inscriptions. Deed research on the cemeteries may appeal to someone else. Others may find a sense of accomplishment in cleaning out brush and re-setting tombstones.
Set goals for your group and make them known to the public.
Make your goals known to the public.
Seek support from outside groups.
It is a good thing to know that the Boy Scout Explorers offer a merit badge for cleaning out a cemetery. Some of your more active churches have groups of wonderful people who will jump at the opportunity to do the same. Often the church and the Explorers team up and produce fantastic results! Seek out and communicate with other cemetery preservation and stone restoration groups. You not only can share stories, you can lend advice and gain valuable information from others on how to handle specific situations that may affect your cemeteries in the future.
Cemetery Preservation all across Ohio is our ultimate goal.
Finally, we must all keep in mind that the Number One Threat to our Historic Cemeteries is Apathy!