Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Grave Matter

When Mitch Hopper, 16, of Centerville, was looking for an Eagle Scout project, Randy Staley had an idea: how about find all the missing tombstones in a section of Miamisburg's Hill Grove Cemetery that contains mostly Civil War veterans?

On a hot July morning (07/10/10 at 8 a.m.), Mitch and a contingent of friends arrived ready to dig. In two hours, they'd uncovered a dozen stones. Staley estimated that there were between 17 and 22 stones unaccounted for.

Most of the stones were standard Civil War issue. Many of the graves in this area were moved here in 1863 just after Hill Grove opened. Previously, the graves were at the Canal Cemetery; it's where the Miamisburg Municipal Building is located now.

A light rain on Friday loosened up the ground but Saturday dawned foggy and hot. That's Mitch's dad, Doug, in the blue shirt. His mother, Jennifer, was there, too.

The graves were found with long metal rods that could be thrust into the soil. One had a handle; the other drove down in a manner similar to a post hole digger, a ram arrangement. Jennifer said they not only found stones but went deeper to find a grave. They felt the rod thumping upon the lid of a coffin.

She said in Civil War times, graves were behind the stones. Today it is common to place the grave in front of the stone.

This is the scene at about 10:30 a.m. A dozen stones (11 were in this single row) were laid atop the soil. Some will be placed again on the respective graves; others will need to be repaired first. And still more will require replacement. All of the graves will be entered into a national database as part of Mitch's Eagle project.

Another shot of some of the stones. They're generally held up pretty well for 147 years of weathering. Maybe they lasted better for being underground?

Mitch managed to enlist quite a few workers: fellow members of Troop 425, family, friends.

With an hour and a half still planned, I left to come home for lunch. The dig continued!
Later: And here, thanks to Randy Staley, chairman of the Miamisburg Historical Society Veteran's Committee, is a shot of the finished work ...