I have been concerned for a number of years about the condition of the Myrtle Tree Cemetery located in Arabia, Lawrence County, Ohio. This cemetery was used from at least 1844 to 1885. It contains the remains of URIAH VERMILLION (1761-1844 Rev. War Veteran), his family and children including some associated families such as SHUMATE and COMPSTON. I don't know the full extent of the burial ground but would guess that it contains less than 50 graves.
I first visited the site, which is located on a private farm, in the early 1990's. At that time it was overgrown and some of the stones had fallen over, but the fence was still up and it was protected. A few years later I discovered that the farmer's cattle had broken the fence and were damaging the stones and burying them in mud and feces. I discussed my concerns with the owner of the property who told me to get off of his land. He clearly had no interest in restoring the fence.
I have visited the site periodically over the last few years and have witnessed the gradual destruction of the graves there. At first I tried to protect the gravestones with brush but the farmer completely removed the fence and allowed the cattle to have full access. During my last visit in 1999 the farmer had gathered up all of the gravestones and thrown them in a pile down an embankment from the site. I'm quite sure that at this point it would be difficult to tell that it was ever a cemetery.
There are about six graves on an adjoining ridge including a Civil War veteran and my ggg grandfather JOHN GREEN VERMILLION. These were in slightly better shape during my last visit but may soon go the way of the first graveyard unless something is done.
I have contacted various county officials with my concerns about the desecration of the cemetery. As far as I can tell there is little protection provided for cemetaries on private property. The Ohio Cemetery Preservation Society suggested that I do a thorough search of the deeds of the property back to the original owner to see if it was ever deeded over to the township. If so, we should be able to force the township to take responsibility for protecting it. I am working on that now but it is difficult to do from my home in Michigan.
I had gathered some inventories and photographs from older relatives who had visited the cemetery before me. It has broken my heart to watch the destruction of this graveyard and I have long dreamed of a restoration project. If anyone out there has information about the cemetery, ideas about what recourse we may have or is willing to lend a hand (especially local Lawrence county help!) please reply or contact me.
Thanks so much for reading this.
(gggg grandson of Uriah Vermillion)
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