Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Local Cemetery Visit

Lebanon Pioneer Cemetery [Baptist-Methodist Cemetery]

The cemetery known as the Lebanon Pioneer Cemetery is on a slightly rolling single Lebanon city block bounded by Mulberry Street to the north, Main Street to the south, South Harrison Street to the east, and West Street to the west. It is completely surrounded by a black painted, wrought iron fence. The fence is intact and in fairly good repair. Two breaks in the fence are held together with tee posts, so the only access is through the two gates – one to S. Harrison and one to Mulberry. Both gates are propped open just wide enough to permit pedestrian entry. The site is evenly, but not shortly mowed.

Headstones tend to be plain, upright stones, many with stylized tops. There are a few obelisks, but they are not ostentatious. They are arranged in rows. All of the carving that I could see on the stones faces west. A number of stones have eroded so much that there is no carving visible. I noted two broken stones: one with the parts carefully propped together; one repaired, but illegible.
I was surprised by the number of stones with carved sayings and scriptures – little eulogies. The weeping willow is a very common symbol, especially on the Baptist stones.

There are few trees, shrubs, or plantings and those that are there seem well cared for – not a lot of pruning needed. The whole cemetery is “tidy”. It does not feel unfriendly, just quiet, plain, and lonely. It does not feel visited. I could find no 20th century burials, but I didn’t examine every stone, just most of them.
The old Baptist Cemetery and the old Methodist Cemetery share this space. There is no obvious east to west dividing line except on an 1850 map on the wall of Warren County Historical Society’s library. But there is a kind of “no-man’s land” from south-east to north-west where there are no burials. Good Christians all, but no mixing, even after death?

The Presbyterians had a cemetery in the block just to the west of the pioneer cemetery, which no longer exists. Sometime in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s, the lot was sold. A car dealership now sits on that site. At this time, I am not sure where the Presbyterians were moved to.

According to the Beers’ The History of Warren County, published in 1882 (over 1000 pages of history), ca. 1822 the Baptists removed their church from the east to the west of Lebanon, using the churchyard as a burying-ground. And the Methodist Graveyard was in use no earlier that 1820. The “new” Lebanon cemetery, which is only a couple of blocks away from the old burying-ground, was established with the organization of the Lebanon Cemetery Association in 1850. The new cemetery, that I drove passed on my way to the old cemetery, has attractive plantings, a variety of monument styles, paved roadways and looks used and visited. And anyone can be buried there, with no church affiliation required. The new cemetery is reminiscent of a garden that just happens to have headstones as hardscape.

I have an appointment tomorrow to speak with our local Lebanon historian, John Zimkus. So I hope to have more insight into the background of the cemetery. The first settler of what became Lebanon is buried here with his family. There are a lot of names on stones here that are still common in Warren County. They really do know "where all the bodies are buried."

No comments:

Post a Comment