Lisa Allgood, Executive Presbyter
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” – Philippians 1:3
Once in while in this role you get a surprise. And when it jives with a passion for history – well, bring it on!
Last year I received a call out of the blue from the American Legion in Hyde Park, Post 744, about whether we’d be interested in donating the 3 Revolutionary War-era cemeteries to them so they could be maintained.
I’d been told we had given the only cemetery owned by the Presbytery away to the Hamilton County Park system, so not to worry. Except Pioneer Cemetery wasn’t the only one. In fact, we owned three more, also down near Lunken Airport – yup, there they were, in black and white and color on the Hamilton County Auditor’s website. And also on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Columbia Presbyterian Cemetery, dating to 1795, is in fact three cemeteries: Presbyterian, Fulton and Fulton Mechanick’s. Most of Cincinnati’s steamboat building yards were located in Fulton, the area between Columbia Avenue (Columbia Parkway) and the Ohio River, along Fulton Avenue (now Eastern Avenue) extending about three miles east from downtown. The name survived as the neighborhood designation into the 1950s. The burials in the cemeteries date from the 1790s to the 1860s. The churches they served moved away from Columbia in the early years of the 19th century, driven to higher ground by Ohio River floods. Both the Baptists and the Presbyterians built churches on the Duck Creek, near Edwards Road in Norwood; the Presbyterians moved to Pleasant Ridge, and the Baptists started the Hyde Park Baptist Church.
In the 1830s, the Little Miami Railroad cut a path through the two cemeteries. [The railroad took land from neither of the cemeteries as it followed an old roadway.] Millionaire Nicholas Longworth purchased all the surrounding land for vineyards, making the graveyards almost inaccessible. But when one of the first settlers died, he or she was often buried in one of the old cemeteries at Turkey Bottom. During the Civil War in the 1860s, Union soldiers were buried there.
The Presbyterian-Fulton cemetery was cleared and maintained in 1917, when the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a granite arch there to commemorate the graves of the pioneers. But within five years, it was overgrown again. The arch was still standing in 1987, when it was photographed for an Enquirer article, and then became a pile of broken rubble, scattered with the gravestones. Because no one knew about it, despite its rather extensive documentation in government listings.
So why, yes, thank you, we’d love to donate those three plots to you! And now, thanks to Post 744, the cemeteries are again becoming clean and accessible. One of the members wrote me last week: “Just a quick note to update everyone on the cemetery! Post 744 Color Guard & Rifle Squad conducted our first Memorial Day service there Monday. We were joined by the pipe and drum corps of the Emerald Society! It was a very nice service. At this point Phase 1 of our multi-phase, multi-year restoration program is on pause for the summer – with the hot weather and rains we’re basically working to maintain gains we made last fall and winter! Rest of initial clean up will be this fall, and we’ll be moving into Phase 2 at the same time – grave site location & headstone research/restoration. We did locate a map of the general layout, with several graves identified on it! That will be helpful as we expand our partnership with NKU’s history dept.”
We are so very grateful – and may plan an outing there with the Post, so stay tuned!
Now – perhaps it’s time to see whether I can find the final resting place for the two Revolutionary War-era tombstones that have moved with us (twice) from the original Presbytery office on Myrtle Avenue…