Adventures of a Graveyard Photographer
Adventures of a Graveyard Photographer
    By: Pamela Smith, "DIGGER"

  I still can't figure out what prompted me to volunteer for the  cemetery project, but I have enjoyed everyx minute. When I first volunteered I thought people would come forward with information on where all these cemeteries were located and give me detailed directions. I don't know what I was thinking. It can take me two weeks to locate who may own the property-and then I have to convince the owner to let me come. I act as professional as I can initially, but then when I arrive with all my shovels, probes, levers, my outfits and anxious expressions, you should see their faces.

  You have to be in tip-top shape to be able to dig, lift and do hundreds of leg lunges in one day. In the summer I wear pink striped cotton pajama pants and a long sleeve cotton shirt-sometimes with a head band to catch the perspiration. It is not something I am proud to be seen in - out and about - the mosquitoes are so bad in the heat, I have to stay covered. I drive a small size vehicle, but the trunk is "-packed with tools and supplies-a lot of reynolds --wrap. I prefer to use reynolds wrap for rubbings, as it does not harm the stone, I am able to take a good picture after thex rubbing, as I have I left no traces of products behind, and it just amazes everyone how the numbers and letters appear right before your eyes.
  I have numerous friends and relatives that go on these adventures with me. They all love it. My sister , Vicky Kellum, helped with Moore Cemetery-that was the worst- poison ivy covered the whole cemetery. That was the last one she helped with during the summer, of course, it was 95 degrees and she got sick. I think she has forgotten now that winter is here and will again help
when the weather gets warm. It was not uncommon this past summer to phone my sister when I was out at a cemetery andx ask that she drive 10 miles to help me -of course, she would drop what she was doing and come. My one friend even donated a golf cart for me to pull all my equipment and made me a great sign to place in the cemeteries, to ward off curious neighbors. I have one I place in my car windowthen no one bothers me or asks questions, when they see me in my pajamas -digging.
  I have one friend, Vera Quehl, who is 70 years old. She is in better shape than xI. At Old Owensville Cemetery, I had to stop digging as I needed to rest. I stepped back and started laughing so· hard, we had dug a section so large I thought we would be arrested. We unearthed a 5'X 2' headstone-a Carpenter Family stone. It took all we had down in that hole to turn the stone. As we were turning it we found another stone farther down, so guess what-we dug 
deeper and unearthed another Carpenter Family stone.
The hole was large enough to place a casket right in it. This one digging took about 1.5 hours. It made me very 
nervous digging so deep as it is located at the intersection of Rt. 132 and Rt. 276 and cars were backed up (I am sure watching us) that day. I have a photo, but am   reluctant to share because it may get me in trouble. I also spent a day with Vera at Olive Branch, it was so cold our fingers hurt, but she insisted we go on. She has been a tremendous help and a real trooper. I took a video of her digging and cleaning a stone-we play it every once in a while.
   The Samarian, Warren-Light Springer and Citizens Cemeteries in New Richmond are located on the xsteepest hills I have ever seen. At the top is the most beautiful view you will see-if you can get there. Every time 1 placed my tote bag down it would roll all the way down the hill. I was exhausted from chasing it most of the day. My sister, Vicky helped me with Light-Springer also-she couldn't walk for a day afterward, from straddling herself on the hillsides.
  I have three elementary school friends; (am I blessed?) Penny, Cathy and Judyx who go on many outings with me. Last winter we unearthed 20 stones up at Old Calvary Cemetery that were buried deep in the earth. This took us all day. Sometimes it took three of us 
to lift and turn one stone. We were hitting water about four inches down as we dug and we were covered from head to toe with wet mud--couldn't even get in the car-had to remove most of our clothes. It is not uncommon to spend 1/2 hr. on one stone-digging, turning, replacing the sod and cleaning it. I kept thinking we were going to catch some disease from the buried dormant diseases in all that liquid mud.

  xSanta gave me two great probes (hand made) and a large farmer's lever for Christmas. He is the best. He doesn't mind me leaving every Saturday/Sunday for an outing but refuses to even stop along the road when I say, "stop-look, there's a old cemetery"-in fact I think he accelerates. He said he has to spend eternity there so why does he want to hang out there now.
  Some property owners will not allow me to unearth buried stones at all. I ask a lot of questions before I unload all my equipment. They just believe it is sacred ground and should not be disturbed. I respect this. Property owners are reluctant to talk with me, initially, as they are neglecting the cemeteries and think I am there to report and harass them. I really don't care about the up keep--{That's my next project) I just want pictures to take home with me.

My mysterious encounters:
Lucy Run-there was definitely someone there with me in the old section, standing right behindx me-constantly on different visits. It was a distraction. I got tired of turning and looking. 

The orbs (sphere globes thought to be spirits) were tremendous at Clark private cemetery, along with wild turkeys-I kept these pictures.
Swope Cemetery-I have an orb picture -when enlarged is an angel flying-really-no joke.

  The saddest part of my adventure is when I find a whole family of children that die within days or months of one another. Jordan and McCollum Cemeteries have some of these families. We sometimes discuss each family and try and determine just what happened .

People ask me all the time, "don't you get scared being out there all alone?" I think, alone? I am with all your ancestors.


I have a special form I use for If recording picture numbers and stone information. I am pretty organized in recording the information and spend a lot of time typing up the information.
  My friends say I have a good sense of where a buried stone is and can't believe how I find them-it is xcommon sense. If the broken base is there, I just probe in front and back of the base-you will usually find the buried stone. Probe deep, as they can be up to 8 inches in the earth. You have to be very careful as you dig, pull the stone up in the middle not at the top or bottom end-that way you do not break it. Look at the placement of stones. If they are lined up in a row, probe between open sections of this row-you will hit one.
   I spend a lot of time driving in circles- up and down roads. So if you see someone in a black car, mud on the tires, with pajamas on, a headband and a sign in the back window that says, " Clermont County Genealogical Society Cemetery Photo Project"-that's me- wave.

I believe our ancestors are glad we are visiting.
"They say in 100 years you are no longer in anyone's thoughts. This is incorrect: Today and tomorrow we are reading, recording and photographing each burial-we are remembering them all-they are in our thoughts-some of them are 200 years old. "