Being a relative "newbie" to this organization, I had never met Mary Remler. Jean Morrison, HCGS Vice-President, knew I wanted to meet Mary. So she invited me to lunch with Mary and Jane Fitzpatrick, our new Cemetery Chair. Was I ever in for a treat!
Mary is a walking/talking source of information about cemeteries, current and "extinct" throughout Hamilton County. As I listened to her stories, I thought it would be valuable to record some of her recollections, primarily about long-abandoned cemeteries. Lee Hay at WVXU agreed to interview Mary, and we were off.
Mary talked to me on the phone about some of what she knows about these abandoned cemeteries. It is her dream to write a book entitled "Forgotten Memories." Here is some of what Mary told me.
- There was a Works Project Administration (WPA) Project to identify and record the burial sites of all soldiers in the county. Over time, the county was no longer interested in these records and they were headed for a shredder. Mary recovered them, stored them, as they were no longer considered valuable. Now they are considered to be quite valuable. Mary had forwarded the records to Jim Dempsey who continued storing the records for years in his basement. When they became aware that the county was interested in getting them back, the decision was made to donate them back to the county. You can read more about that by clicking on this link. http://hcgsohio.blogspot.com/2012/04/it-was-great-day-for-hcgs.html
- Washington Park was once the site of a Civil War campsite for new inductees. The city wanted to acquire the land for other purposes beginning in 1858. The city still had not done so at time of the Civil War. There were newspaper articles about the soldiers using the headstones as they cooked their meals, etc. Our new Cemetery Chair, Jane Fitzpatrick, may have copies of these articles.
- Music Hall was built over part of what had been the Washington Park Cemetery. There are stories construction workers uncovering skeletons while building Music Hall.
- At one time, there was the Dunham Cemetery located in the Price Hill area. It was started to bury victims of tuberculosis. Graves were only marked with a board. Bodies were buried one after the other. If someone removed the wooden marker, there was no longer a record of the death.
- During the Civil War, the Ohio River provided a natural way to transport injured soldiers for treatment. Hospitals were set up around the city. If the soldier died, his body was removed to Spring Grove Cemetery. That is part of the explanation for why so many Civil War veterans are buried there.
- When St. Francis Seraph expanded, families were asked to remove bodies from the cemetery on church property. Many did not want to. The remaining bodies were buried under the church with their tombstones preserved. Mary has records on these burials. If you go on the Cincinnati Underground Tour, you can actually see this along with the remaining tombstones.
- The former Girls Town property across from St. Xavier High School on North Bend Rd. had over 200 burials from people who worked there and/or lived there. The bodies were removed to another cemetery.
- Bodies buried in what was Ft. Washington (literally the military installation) were removed to a small Presbyterian Church Cemetery that was located across from the Christ Church Cathedral. That graveyard also no longer exists.
- Procter and Gamble purchased three cemeteries that existed on the property where their headquarters now exist. There was a “colored”, Catholic and Protestant Cemetery. Many of those bodies were relocated to either Wesleyan or Spring Grove. There had been a Wesleyan Church that they also purchased.
- The site of the former Sears and Roebuck store on Reading Rd. was once a cemetery.
- The playground of the old South Avondale School was once a cemetery. The School Board purchased the land. At one point, the neighborhood wanted to build a swimming pool on the site but were prevented from doing so because of the bodies that officials knew still remained on the site.
- Many former patients of Longview were buried on the site of what was known as the Longview Insane Asylum. Some records still exist.
I personally can't wait to hear how Lee Hay manages to condense Mary's vast knowledge about abandoned cemeteries into a ten-minute interview. One thing for sure, I'll be one of the first in line to buy Mary's book.
Submitted by Kathy Reed