Project shines light on forgotten graveyard

Submitted photo. Students from Legacy Christian worked with staff from the Amish Mennonite Heritage Center to reclaim this cemetery along Rowe Road.

*This story first appeared in The Budget’s May 30, 2018, Local Edition.

By Beverly Keller
The Budget

To wrap up the past year of learning about history from Marcus Yoder, the executive director of the Amish Mennonite Heritage Center in Berlin, students at Legacy Christian School put down their pens and pencils in favor of shovels and spades.

They worked alongside Yoder as well as Wayne Miller and Adam Hershberger from the Amish Mennonite Heritage Center to bring a cemetery along Rowe Road back to life with several work sessions. The cemetery is home to the grave of Henry Miller.

“One of the things that make this cemetery so notable is that it is surrounded by a large stone wall,” Yoder explained. “It has been forgotten for a very long time. Now that we have it in good working order, we have worked with the community to make sure there is someone to mow and care for it going forward.”

Over the course of work sessions, the group removed briars, weeds and general overgrowth. “The groundhogs had dug up this cemetery so badly that the we had to do some work to just find the gravestones,” Yoder said. “We took care to clean up the headstones. It has easily been 30, maybe even 40 years since many of these headstones had seen the light of day. We set them in place.”

Yoder explained that locating the gravestones allowed students to be good detectives while working with historical records of various types. “Most likely these graveyards were used in the fledgling Amish community of Tuscarawas and Holmes counties with the earliest burials between 1815 and 1820,” he explained.

This was the second project of this type completed by the group. “The first cemetery we worked on was two years ago at the Glen Troyer farm on Winklepleck Road,” Yoder said. “It was in a sad state of disrepair.”

The Jacob Miller Graveyard is located on the farm where the first Amish settled in the Sugar Creek Valley. It was put on a short list for needed work by the Ohio Amish Library and AMHC. “We had committed to cleaning it up and had the opportunity to work with a group from the school,” Yoder said. “It was hard, but fun work. We cleaned out the brambles and weeds, leveled the area, located gravestones and then seeded the area.”

Yoder noted that the project was hard physical labor that also required a good bit of mental capability. “It was a great experience all the way around and I believe allowed the students to see the power and importance of history,” he shared. “We hear much about how if we have to depend on the youth of today, we are in trouble. However, if our future leaders are in these photos and took part in these projects, we are in a for a great ride.”