Park Cemetery?  Most popular place in Garrettsville!  People are just dying to get in.

Old/bad joke, but a fine place for a tour of local history led by Kit Younker Semplak on Monday, July 20 for the education and enlightenment of a goodly crowd of interested listeners and history buffs.  The tour, complete with an explanatory booklet with text and pictures, was full of information about early settlers, war heroes, prominent business persons, movers and shakers across out history that have left marks of various kinds  on the community, from buildings to street names to historical markers to descendants still in town.  Judy Thornton recounted her quest to obtain a grave marker for War of 1812 veteran, Daniel Ellinwood, one of three Ellinwoods whose names appear on the Veterans’ Memorial at the old Baptist Cemetery on Maple Ave.  Pursuing this endeavor through the intricacies of  the Veterans’ Administration was quite a tale in itself.  Historical background notes ranged from an advertisement for the Foote Carriage Shop-now the renovated Pauls’ Feed Mill owned by Mike Maschek—to the Mott’s Drug Store which now houses the James A. Garfield Historical Society on Main St., Garrettsville.  One Store advertised “Drugs, Medicines and Chemicals, Paints, Oils and Varnishes, Pure Wines and Liquors for Medicinal Uses, Dye Woods and Dye Stuffs Generally.”  Better watch which bottle one might be sipping from at that establishment!

It was a chance to get a look inside “the Vault” in the center of the cemetery.  This is currently used, more or less, for storage but in bygone days was the not-quite-final resting place for those unfortunate individuals who shuffled off this mortal coil during the winter when the ground was frozen and no amount of picking and shoveling could result in a hole deep enough to bury the dearly departed in.  Tour-goers also learned that the tallest monument in the cemetery, with the name ”Ruedi” on the base, was brought into town by rail, raised using horses and pulleys, designated at that height so it could be seen from the turret of the elegant home of Jennie Wells Ruedi and Jacob M. Ruedi at the corner of Maple Ave. And Center St.  The trees were all much younger then and such a view quite possible.

All kinds of interesting historical facts were illustrated at the Park Cemetery : the founding of the Masons Lodge, the Spencer Hat Shoppe (visited by ladies from far and near), the founder of the Garrettsville Journal, a sidelight on the Great Train Robbery, history of the cemetery itself as told by Mrs. Georgia Lee Alford (she of scholarship fame), the Crane family (which never profited much from the invention of the Life Saver), the locals who went to the great World Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair, in 1893 and took prizes for locally-produced maple syrup. (No mention of whether or not they went to see “Little Egypt” the belly dancer who made her debut there—she did the “hootchy-kootchy”– or rode on the Ferris Wheel, also introduced at this event.) The Historical Society has one of the medals awarded to the proud farmers and merchants.

The tour was interesting; it was entertaining; it was clear evidence of a lot of research and a commitment to understanding local history through everyday artifacts.  It was also a heads-up for anyone interested in  researching  local history that the Society has been making great progress in digitizing its collections of local newspapers and what some historical folks term “realia”—that’s “stuff” to most of us.

Here’s hoping that there are more tours about our past in our future.  Great job.