Articles

They're Only Stones

A couple of stories about the local cemeteries and the importance of preservation.

Who's Henry?

A 47-year-old question.

The Forgotten Ones

Preserving our history.

WCCPS Invited to Seneca County

Assisting other groups.

Mike McCann Documents and Confirms Information He Finds on Area Graves

Success in Medina County by WCCPS member.

Students Looking for Graves

Positive association with the College of Wooster.

Graveyard Preservation

Some suggestions by Lynette Strangstad.

Please, Please, Please Treat Cemeteries with Respect

Up Front with NGS

Mike McCann Documents and Confirms Information He Finds on Area Graves

L Gayle Foster

Mike McCann is a bit of a history buff and has been finding his thirst for knowledge of local history sated in Medina County’s older cemeteries.  He has taken it upon himself to document every grave by taking information directly from the headstones and comparing that information with township records.

McCann, 31, graduated from Cloverleaf in 1993. He currently lives in Wooster and works in Medina, which gives him daily opportunities to travel through Lafayette and Westfield Townships and take note of the old cemeteries with their worn, broken and falling monuments.

He felt a certain responsibility to preserve the information found there and joined the Wayne County Cemetery Preservation Society. That group has diligently completed documentation of all the cemeteries in Wayne County and McCann has determined to do the same in Medina County.

Larry Knox, Vice President of the WCCPS, called McCann “Medina County’s one man team” because of his dedicated cemetery work in his home county. Knox said, “Before Mike joined our group, he had already read and recorded all but the two largest cemeteries in Medina County.  In five year’s time, the WCCPS’ 25 members have failed to meet one quarter of the goal that this one man has accomplished in Medina County!”

Confirming information is often a daunting task, as in the distant past records were kept in the homes of township officials and often fell victim to loss for various reasons. Perhaps a clerk would die and the records were stored away and eventually disappeared. Often the records were incomplete. A fire in the Westfield Township home of Harold Indoe was blamed for the loss of older township records, according to current trustee Carolyn Sims. She went on to say there is documentation that the cemetery information was “pieced back together” by interviewing relatives of the deceased, elders of the community of that time and the past trustees.

Sims said today’s records are stored in a fire-rated room at the town hall and “no longer are original cemetery records are stored at any township official’s home.” Sims also said that Westfield Township past trustee Sherrod Duecker compiled the most current cemetery list in 1991.

Westfield Township cemeteries that are being documented are Friendsville Cemetery, which is still being used for burials) located on Friendsville Road, north of Greenwich Road, and East Westfield Township cemetery, also known as Old LeRoy, located just east of the town hall on Greenwich. The oldest burial in Westfield Township is that of Fannie Beach in 1821. The new LeRoy Cemetery is under the direction and maintenance of the Village of Westfield Center.

Westfield trustees are paying McCann a nominal amount for his efforts, though all he asked was that he be reimbursed for all the paper he is using in compiling the information for the township. Through his ten years’ experience in reading the old sandstone markers, he can determine the subtle differences in how the dates are worn. For instance, what may appear to be a 1 is most likely a 4 with its top worn away. He also said that photographing stones in certain light may reveal things the naked eye cannot see.

McCann is often accompanied to the cemeteries by his wife, Monica. He said, “The stones tell stories…stories of murders…a wife killed by her husband…a man who murdered three people in one family. For example, Valley City has a cemetery where everyone was felled by a flu or fever.”

The Medina County Home had its own cemetery in Lafayette Township on Deerview Road just north of the railroad tracks.  Trustee Lynda Bowers is also working with McCann in her township cemeteries. Lafayette Township has, in addition to what was a potter's field for the County Home that dates back to 1854, three closed cemeteries established in the early 1830’s: the Shaw on Westfield Road just south of Chippewa Road; the Crush on Friendsville Road, south of Chippewa Road; and the Spitzer on Wedgewood next to the Medina Country Club.  The only cemetery accepting new interments is the Waltz at the Waltz Church on Egypt Road, which was established in 1845.  The Waltz Cemetery was originally called “a grief yard”.  The oldest burial in Lafayette Township is that of Sophie S. Chapman, 1835, at the Spitzer.

Among his findings in our local cemeteries, McCann has discovered veterans of all wars, including three from the Revolutionary War in the Friendsville Cemetery; ten veterans are in the Shaw: seven from the Civil War, two from the War of 1812 and one from the Spanish-American War. He also said the first burial in Lafayette Township wasn’t recorded until ten years after the township was settled.  He finds it difficult to believe that ten years passed in the early 1800’s without a death, but he has found no historical documentation to the contrary.  He remarked that “the pioneers passed through Ohio and there may be gravestones in the woods somewhere.”

Carolyn Sims is asking local residents with any information or documentation of burials in Westfield Township before the 1930’s to provide the township a copy of death certificates, obituaries or family bible records that might be used as another reference to complete the cemetery records.  McCann is also looking for private or family cemeteries to document. He said, “For some people, the only record of their existence is a tombstone.  Every person deserves to be remembered”, he continued. He and Sims are both asking if anyone has any information about old gravestones to please let them know. McCann can be reached at 440-465-5985.