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County Home cemetery cloaked in mystery

August 3, 2011
By Evan Bevins - The Marietta Times ( , The Marietta Times

With nearly 900 people interred, the cemetery at the Washington County Home is one of the largest burial grounds in the county.

Yet there are just four monuments standing on the scenic hilltop along County House Lane, only three of them still legible.

Opened in 1842, the county home, then known as the Washington County Infirmary, provided shelter and care over the years for the indigent, mentally and physically ill, the elderly and transients. The cemetery opened a few years earlier and stopped being used in 1953, except for a pair of residents laid to rest there in recent years.

Article Photos

EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Local genealogist and historian Ben Bain, left, and Washington County Home administrator Ted Williams look over three of the four marked graves in the county home cemetery. There are nearly 900 people buried at the hilltop site but only two pre-1900 plots and two recent burials are marked.

But with few markers and incomplete records, there's no way to tell who is buried where, and in some cases, who's buried there at all.

The latter issue has been tackled by local genealogist and historian Ben Bain. Bain has compiled indexes for people buried in the Harmar and Rainbow cemeteries and turned his attention to the county home site after learning of its existence in the mid-1990s.

"I guess what turned me on (to it) was a good-sized cemetery with two stones on it and no ... records," Bain said. "It was so fascinating."

Fact Box

Washington County Home cemetery

Location: Across County House Lane from the county home.

Burials: Nearly 900, almost all of them unmarked.

Maintained by: County home staff and residents mow the area.

Last burial: 2010; prior to that burial and another in 2009, no one had been interred there since 1953.

Some of the records compiled by local genealogist and historian Ben Bain about the cemetery are on file at the Local History and Genealogy Library, 418 Washington St., Marietta.

An aerial infrared photograph taken of the cemetery and examined by an archaeologist friend of Bain's indicated there were nearly 900 bodies beneath the ground.

"It was really a shock to me," Bain said.

Also surprising was the lack of records indicating who was buried there. While county home administrator Ted Williams said "pretty good" records were kept until the early 1940s, Bain had to go elsewhere in his quest to discover who was buried there.

"I knew even if they didn't keep any records, when someone died they had to report it, either to the city health department or the county health department," he said. "I went through every ... death record. I went through every book to see where people were buried."

Bain said he spent months on the task and got to the point where the health department staff no longer had to assist him in his research.

"You have to have the patience of Job to do something like this, to do it day after day after day after day," he said.

And he didn't stop there. Once he got the names of people who were buried at the county home, Bain looked them up in census and marriage records and newspaper articles to learn more about them. He collected the results in a pair of three-ring binders with more than 450 pages combined.

Bain said he'll have to go back and add two more names to the hundreds he collected, after learning that two county home residents were interred there in recent years.

Gary D. Rutter was the first recent resident to ask to be buried in the home's cemetery, Williams said. He helped mow the area and appreciated the quiet country setting.

"Gary was pretty adamant," Williams said. "He said, 'I've lived here most of my life; it's where my friends are.'"

Another resident, Julia Eddy, passed away before Rutter and was buried in the cemetery in 2009. Rutter was interred there in 2010.

Both residents were cremated and their ashes buried at the site, with the approval of the Washington County Commission. Williams said that was the only way he would recommend interring someone at the cemetery, since a casket burial is required to be deeper into the ground, likely disturbing previous burials.

Markers for Eddy and Rutter were placed alongside a monument for 70-year-old Teresa Myers, who died in 1884. Another monument has been worn away too much to read, but a previous Marietta Times article indicates it marks the final resting place of Rebecca Wood, who died in 1882.

A trio of stone markers that once stood in the cemetery have been laid beside them. Williams said if they were ever written on, the words have long since faded away.



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