Back in May 2013, I wrote about my visit to Old Greencastle Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio. The title of that post was “When a Cemetery Dies” because when I was there, that’s what it looked like. The place was slowly sliding into ruin with little evidence of anything changing.
Old Greencastle has a special place in my heart, as I noted then, because my great-great-grandparents are buried there. They were not wealthy people so it’s possible they never had a marker placed on their graves when they died (in 1912 and 1919).
But in addition to that, Old Greencastle haunted me even after I left it because it made me sad and a little bit angry. From what I could tell, it had suffered many years of neglect with sporadic attempts to fix it. My research indicated that responsibility for the cemetery had become a “not my problem” issue. The City of Dayton wasn’t interested and the landlord for the property seemed overwhelmed by the problem.
During my visit, however, I noticed that the one section of the cemetery that was well cared for was for the Civil War veterans. That section’s grass was neatly cut and flags were placed beside each grave. I even saw some out in the rest of the cemetery. So I knew someone was trying to keep up with maintaining the veterans’ graves. But much of the rest was a disaster.
It didn’t help matters when I read later that there were problems at the New Greencastle Cemetery, just down the road, as well.
Imagine my surprise when the following comment was posted below that blog post last week:
Old Greencastle Cemetery is indeed in need of volunteers to help make it other than “abandoned.” That said, Dayton Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Maj. Gen. W.T. Sherman Camp #93 members have for three years been returning honor to CW vets there by placing veteran markers, donating a U.S. flag and lights for the flagpole, and cutting weeds and grass in the Grand Army of the Republic Post 79 section and elsewhere. They have located and registered the graves of more than 150 CW veterans in the cemetery.They’ve marked many CW vet graves that have no tombstones. They are cleaning existing military grave markers.
The SUVCW is being helped by Montgomery Co. Department of Veterans Services and others working to ensure veterans and other people buried at Old Greencastle are not forgotten. Community volunteers including several grounds maintenance professionals, workers provided by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, and New Greencastle Cemetery staff donated about 400 work hours during 2013 helping restore the grounds. Volunteer clean-up and maintenance efforts will continue in the future. Come for another visit.
Well, I was floored, to put it mildly. So I hit the Internet to see what was happening. As it turns out, quite a bit.
A news article about the cleanup in October 2013 indicated that during the work, they had to call the sheriff. They’d discovered a shallow grave with exposed bones. The medical examiner was called out to investigate. I don’t know if that ever got resolved. It just further emphasized the need for a change.
At the same time, I was thrilled to learn how many people were stepping up to the plate alongside the General William T. Sherman Camp #93 of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW). Workers from local landscaping company Bladecutters were volunteering their own time to help clean up Old Greencastle. That’s something a lot of people wouldn’t do.
I haven’t been back to Old Greencastle yet, but after hearing this good news, I’m eager to see it. The only evidence I have of these efforts is a picture posted by WDTN, but even that was exciting.
So what finally clicked to enable this group to come together? What set the wheels in motion? Did my blog post have anything to do with it? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter as long as this hard work continues. From the assurances I’ve received from the folks at the SUVCW, the odds are good that Old Greencastle is going to get the continued care and maintenance it needs and deserves. I would hate to see it go back to its old state.
Because when even one cemetery is saved, history is preserved. That may not mean a lot to some but for those seeking the secrets of their past, it means a great deal.
Count me as one of them.
That is so exciting! It’s sad when cemeteries are neglected.
So grateful to the people helping to revive this cemetery. I enjoy researching my family ancestry and several ancestors of mine are buried here. I live in Florida and drove up there last year to try and locate some of their gravesites and could not even drive my car more than a few feet past the gate it was so overgrown. I did attempt to find their gravesites but was unsuccessful. I hope to make that trip again sometime and place flowers on their gravesites.
Rebecca, I hope you find them. I have hope that maybe I will find mine someday, too.
Thank You, Best of luck to you with your searches, too.
SUVCW Sherman Camp said:
Dayton Ohio’s Old Greencastle Cemetery is again an accessible and welcoming resting place for all buried there thanks to voluntary efforts of many community people. Following the area’s hard winter, the grounds received a “Spring cleaning” in May 2014. Grass throughout the cemetery was cut. Grass around all grave markers was trimmed. Overall, looks nicer than the cemetery has in decades.
Major General W.T. Sherman Camp #93 of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War completed name research and documentation concerning all known Civil War soldiers buried at OGC. A copy of their research is available at the Wright State University Library. As part of the study, Camp located the graves of 190 CW veterans including many without grave stones. All the graves will be entered into the SUVCW Internet database of known burial sites of Union Army veterans. In time for Memorial Day 2014, SUVCW members placed upon all Civil War veterans’ graves Grand Army of the Republic veterans’ markers and United States flags. The Camp also replaced the worn American flag on the cemetery flag pole and improved nighttime lighting for the flag. Weather permitting, Sherman Camp plans to hold a Remembrance Day ceremony at OGC November 15, 2014 to re-dedicate the GAR Post 79 Civil War Section and honor all veterans buried there.
Thank you to all the people involved with reviving this historic cemetery. Your efforts are greatly appreciated and I look forward to reviewing the research done on the burial sites. Hopefully, I will locate some of my ancestors!
Janice Abbott Miller said:
I too am happy when a cemetery is, for lack of a better phrase “brought back to life”. but being from the Great State of Georgia, I can not say much for the namesake of the group doing it. But it is good that finally WT Sherman’s name is, which is never spoken here is associated with building up something rather than burning and destruction.
Patrick McCoy said:
Janice, GEN Sherman was only being a soldier carrying out total war. He did what any soldier worth his salt would have done. As a member of the SUVCW Sherman Camp 93 I am proud of GEN Sherman and his service to the USA. With that said I am also very proud of the efforts the Camp has made to honor all of those who are in final rest at Old Greencastle.
Patrick, I am so very grateful for all the hard work your group has done to clean up the cemetery. It takes a lot of effort to do that. Do you have any photos of how it looks now? I would dearly love to see it. Are you still planning on having a service there in November to honor the veterans? I might just have to attend! 🙂
Again, thank you and the members of SUVCW Sherman Camp 93.
Patrick McCoy said:
I will look for recent photos. The November service is still planned. We will post any updates.
SUVCW Sherman Camp said:
Major General William T. Sherman Camp #93, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War in Dayton Ohio cordially invites all Adventures in Cemetery Hopping readers interested in visiting Old Greencastle Cemetery to attend their Remembrance Day and Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Hiram Strong Post #79 Section Rededication Ceremony at the cemetery Saturday, November 15, at 2 p.m.
The grass is cut and the grounds regularly maintained by community volunteers. Sherman Camp members have cleaned and straightened the grave stones in the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Hiram Strong Post #79 section. At night, solar lights illuminate the donated American Flag that flies over the cemetery. Graves of 197 Civil War veterans have been identified and documented in a record available to the public. Unmarked graves of Civil War veterans were located and verified using ground penetrating radar. All Civil War veterans’ graves are marked with a GAR flag holder. Graves of veterans who served in the American Revolution, War of 1812, Indian Wars, World War I, World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam are also being marked by the SUVCW with proper flag holders.
Sadly, a Department of Veterans Affairs policy currently allows only a next of kin (NOK) or person authorized by the decedent to request and obtain a government-furnished tombstone for a veteran’s unmarked grave located in a private cemetery. Information concerning the issue is available at http://www.marktheirgraves.org . As a consequence, Sherman Camp is unable to obtain markers for the more than 50 unmarked Civil War veterans’ graves at Old Greencastle. Information concerning whether a CW veteran’s grave is marked or not can be obtained from Sherman Camp. Make contact through their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/William-T-Sherman-Camp-93/388396991234135 .
Anytime you are in Dayton, Old Greencastle Cemetery is open for you to visit.
Thank you for the update! I appreciate that a great deal. Thank you for all of your continued hard work to honor these veterans and help maintain the cemetery. I am so glad that Old Greencastle is “alive” again!
Sherman Camp Commander said:
The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Major General William T. Sherman Camp #93 in Dayton, Ohio continue their long-term, voluntary efforts to maintain the graves and adjacent grounds surrounding the approximately 300 Armed Forces veterans buried in Old Greencastle Cemetery. With the overgrowth removed, the grass is thriving. Rain this Summer has necessitated near-monthly grass cutting and clean-up work – – and it has been done. Weed abatement is ongoing.
Scores of veteran’s tombstones in need of cleaning and straightening have been restored by Sherman Camp. As his community service project this year, supported by Sherman Camp, a local Eagle Scout candidate is working to obtain replacement government grave markers for unreadable ones currently marking the final resting place of 10 Union Army soldiers. Two community organizations have contributed work and a weed whacker in support of Camp efforts.
Sherman Camp still hopes to obtain government markers for the approximately fifty documented but unmarked graves of Civil War soldiers buried at Old Greencastle. Sadly, SUVCW members are unable to do so. Although the Department of Veterans Affairs agrees they need to change their 2012 policy that allows only a next of kin (NOK) or a person authorized by the decedent to request and obtain a government-furnished tombstone for a veteran’s unmarked grave located in a private cemetery, they haven’t. Information concerning the issue is available at http://www.marktheirgraves.org .
People visiting Dayton are invited and encouraged to visit Old Greencastle Cemetery. It is located on South Broadway Street between Miami Chapel Rd. and Noble Ave. Zip code for the general area is 45417. Map Coordinates are 39.73694,-84.21444. Identification signs are mounted on the gates courtesy of the SUVCW.
Steve Swallow said:
There is a cleanup effort sponsored by the SUVCW scheduled for March 18, 2017. Extra hands are welcome.
Thank you, Steve! I will post this on the blog’s Facebook page.
Steve, do you happen to know what time the cleanup will be on March 18 yet? I have had some people ask me. I’ve been spreading the word to my Ohio contacts.
Fred Lynch said:
SUVCW and other community volunteers will be at Old Greencastle Cemetery from 9 a.m. to Noon Saturday March 18. Anyone wanting to help welcome, but need bring own weed whackers, rakes, pruners, brooms etc. to use. No electricity or water at cemetery. Dress for the weather as might be chilly. Work day will be cancelled if raining. Additional work days scheduled from 9 a.m. to Noon April 15, May 20, June 14, Aug. 17, Sept. 16, and Oct. 14. All are “weather permitting.” All assistance appreciated.
Fred, thank you for the information! I’ve been trying to get the word out to my friends/contacts in Ohio. This helps a lot. I hope everything goes well next Saturday and that you have a good turn out. 🙂
Michele Pennington said:
Well it’s really in bad shape now and I am very upset about the disregard and disrespect for the people who were put to rest there.
Hi, Michelle. Yes, I’ve been reading about that lately in articles people have been sending me about it. Very sad and disturbing. I’ve just about given up hope that the City of Dayton will ever accept any responsibility in keeping this place up in hopes the problem will just go away. If it were in a nice part of town, I’m sure they’d be doing something. The people trying to keep Old Greencastle from rotting away can’t do it alone. They need support and I hope they get it. If I lived even remotely close, I’d be there every month to help clean up.
Rebecca Mauro Barnes said:
I’m sorry to hear that it has fallen into bad shape again. I have a GG Grandmother buried there. It was a poor neighborhood even back then. My Grandmother used to tell me stories of how hard it was growing up there especially during the Depression. They rented a house on a side street adjacent to the cemetery back in the early 1900’s. It is now an empty, overgrown lot. I visited once in 2014 but unfortunately it was before a cleanup session, so I was unable to go far into the grounds. I live in Florida or else I would help out as much as I could. Is there anyone we can write to and petition for assistance in maintaining this historical site?
Rebecca, good to hear from you. My mother grew up on Harriet Street in the 40s just a few blocks from the cemetery so I know what you’re talking about.
I urge you to read the comment Fred Lynch left today with an update on Old Greencastle. It sounds like they are getting some help from two city council members and word is getting out about help being needed. He included some links that I think you’ll find very helpful in getting your voice heard. Hopefully, we can keep our loved ones’ memories alive and safe.
Rebecca Mauro Barnes said:
I wrote a letter to the above email for service request and hopefully someone will see it and respond positively. I’m not sure how things are handled in Dayton, but it seems to me that if this site is or could be listed on the National Registry of Historical Sites, couldn’t funding be allocated and the city be responsible for management thereof?
Fred Lynch said:
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Sherman Camp 93, along with a growing number of Friends of Old Greencastle community partners, continue voluntarily accomplishing ground maintenance at Old Greencastle Cemetery monthly. Next grounds maintenance day there is Saturday August 19 from 9 a.m. to Noon.
During the July 22 cleanup, about a quarter of the 5.5 acre property was cut. In addition, a new Old Greencastle Cemetery sign donated by Sherman Camp, was installed. Weed and feed was spread on the Grand Army of the Republic Hiram Strong Post 79 Civil War veterans’ section. Poison ivy patches were treated with brush killer. Fallen branches and other debris were picked up and piled for removal.
Montgomery County Commissioners Lieberman and Dodge have facilitated county support for Old Greencastle Cemetery maintenance and preservation. Among contributions, the county’s Community Pride grounds maintenance equipment trailer will be available for volunteers to use Aug. 19 and at future cleanup days.
People who want to contact the City of Dayton with their concerns can do so by sending an email to the city’s “Dayton Delivers” web link at:
Two very active “Friends of Old Greencastle ” have a Facebook page documenting efforts to maintain the neglected cemetery: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Old-Greencastle-Cemetery/462126680571170
You may also learn of action and activities at Old Greencastle on the Sherman Camp 93 Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/shermansuvcamp93/
Phil Brandt said:
I’m kinda new to the Old Greencastle family, I came doing research on some of my ancestors and got drawn in to the effort to preserve the cemetery. I know Marty and Kevin Fry have started the Friends of old Greencastle Cemetery fascebook page and anyone can get information about the cemetery there and at the SUVs facebook page where Mike Spawlding, Fred Lynch, and team post the most up to date info. My role in this right now is one to remap the cemetery and two to try to find ways to attract attention to the situation. One thing I do on the Friends of Old Greencastle is a thing call The Ghost of Old Greencastle Cemetery which are profils of the people interred there and anyone who would like to contribute profiles of their ancestors is welcome to do so. With this in mind if there is anything you would like to add about your ancestors please do so. Thanks for your help
Hi, Phil! I hope to have something for you written up concerning Louisa Claar and her family by Christmas. I’ve been reading the profiles posted so far with great interest. Thank you so much for providing a place for us to share our stories!
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