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Old cemetery moved but perhaps not the bodies


Thursday, November 2, 2000

   NEW CASTLE -- One of the city's earliest cemeteries -- perhaps the first -- is now a city parking lot.
    Some say that many of those buried in the Old North 14th Street Cemetery are still there.
    The cemetery, in the 300 block on the east side of North 14th Street, had its beginnings when the town was settled in 1822, according to Cemetery Records for Henry and Jefferson Townships, compiled in 1976 by local historians Thomas Hamm and Richard P. Ratcliff.
    A plot of 1 acre was deeded for burial, according to historical accounts, to Ashahel Woodward, Rene Julian and Abraham Elliott to act as trustees.
    The transaction was not completed until 1844, however, when a cemetery corporation was established.
    Miles Murphy Jr., John Powell and Adam Beam were elected trustees.
    Use of the cemetery virtually ceased when South Mound Cemetery was established in 1859. The older cemetery had only 17 burials after 1860, according to the historians.
    'Old settlers say that the [old] cemetery is completely filled with bodies, according to a 1903 article in the New Castle Courier. 'But of the probable 400 buried there, the graves of a little less than 200 were marked.
    City council ordered the cemetery vacated and the bodies moved to other cemeteries in 1903 because the cemetery had become neglected and overgrown with weeds.
    A few bodies were removed, but the action was repealed in 1906 after a legal battle over whether title to the land belonged to the city, the county, descendants of the original trustees or the corporation established in 1844.
    The council ordered the cemetery vacated again in 1922 so a YMCA could be built on the land. The deal fell through, however, after residents agreed to sell land on Church Street, where the YMCA now stands.
    A list of all those buried in the old cemetery was published and relatives were to have bodies removed and relocated by May 12, 1922.
    A few, such as the Murpheys, Shroyers and Reeds -- some of the pioneers who settled New Castle -- were removed and reinterred in family plots in South Mound.
    Most of the bodies, however, were removed and relocated in part of Section 8 at South Mound . . . or were they? Grave markers that remained in the old cemetery in 1822 are now at South Mound.
    But all records indicate the remains of the old cemetery were never removed, according to Ulysses (Bud) Bush, local genealogist and historian who has thoroughly researched about 144 burial sites in Henry County.
    Bush said an aunt of his lived across the street from the old cemetery at the time, and she and other residents in the neighborhood watched city employees working at the site.
    'She stated that she never saw any remains removed from the old cemetery, according to Bush, who said no records could be found to verify any removals.
    'As far as I know, all they did was just move the [grave]stones, said Otis Denney, superintendent at South Mound Cemetery. 'That's only what I've been told.
    Denney said there were no records of who might actually be buried in that section of South Mound because cemetery records indicated only who owned plots there, and no one owned those plots in Section 8 when the city relocated the markers there.
    It probably would have been difficult, if not impossible, to remove the remains, Denney said, because the simple pine boxes used for burial in the 1800s -- and the remains themselves -- would have been so badly deteriorated during the 50-100 years that had passed since the bodies were interred.
    Bush said that a marker of some sort should at least be placed to indicate the site of the old cemetery.
    Mayor Sherman Boles said he was unaware that a cemetery ever existed at the 14th Street lot.
    'I don't know what a marker would cost, but I wouldn't object to it, Boles said. 'There might even be some people in the community who would be willing to donate money for it.
    Anyone who is interested in Henry County history, including cemeteries, can find a lot of information at Bush's Henry County Genealogical Services Web site at http://www.hcgs.net.



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