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Cemetery’s sad family story

Churchtown site includes 5 siblings who died of scarlet fever

May 16, 2012
By Kevin Pierson - The Marietta Times ( , The Marietta Times

CHURCHTOWN - There's a saying that for parents to bury their child violates the natural order of life.

Charles Holden and his wife Kate had to endure that violation not once, but five times, within 12 days in the early 20th century.

A single large stone marks the resting place of Kate and Charles Holden' five children in the Churchtown Cemetery off Ohio 676.

Article Photos

The cross in the middle of the Churchtown Cemetry.

Those five children, Gilbert, 14, Harrold 10, Rose, 8, Eloise, 6, and Ambrose, 4, died of the plague known as scarlet fever in 1918.

"The story that I heard was they actually took those kids out, quarantined them," said Howard Brooker, a member of St. John the Baptist Parrish Center, who digs graves in Churchtown Cemetery.

Scarlet fever is an illness that is most common in children 5 to 15 years of age. The disease features a bright red rash that covers most of the body, and is almost always accompanied by sore throat and a high fever, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Fact Box

About Churchtown Cemetery

- Located on Ohio 676 adjacent to St. John the Baptist Parrish Center in Churchtown, roughly seven miles outside Marietta.

- Founded in the mid-1860s, the cemetery holds several hundred graves.

- Graves in Churchtown Cemetery are all dug in rows. There is no selection of plots.

- To be buried in Churchtown Cemetery, residents must be a member of the St. John Cemetery Association.

Source: Father Virgil Reischman, St. John Parrish Center.

The five Holden children all succumbed to the disease, with Rose the first to perish on May 18, 1918. Eloise was the last to die on May 30, 1918.

The grave marking the resting place of five young siblings is one of the features of the small Catholic cemetery, adjacent to St. John the Baptist Parrish Center in Churchtown.

Founded in the mid-1860s, the cemetery is ordered in nice, neat rows.

"When they started the cemetery, they decided instead of selling plots so the cemetery would look like a grave here, a grave there, they decided when you die you get the next one, two or three graves," explained Father Virgil Reischman, pastor at St. John.

One marker is used for the graves of a husband and wife. If the couple would have a dependent child who would not marry, a third grave would accompany their lot.

As people died, they would simply be buried at the next spot in line.

"We fill up a row before we start another one," Brooker said.

So far, there are 16 rows in the cemetery, with 15 of them stretching the full breadth of the cemetery. The 16th was started recently.

The church situated next to the cemetery was built in 1864, and founded five years earlier. The exact date for the founding of the cemetery is unknown as it was not recorded, Reischman said.

Most of the graves in the cemetery date after 1866, but there are 10 prior to that, Brooker said.

Situated on about one acre of land at the present time, there are an additional two acres that can be added to the cemetery in the future, stretching back from Ohio 676 towards St. John Central Grade School.

People are still buried in the cemetery, with the most recent interment taking place three weeks ago.

To be buried in Churchtown Cemetery, residents must be a member of the St. John Cemetery Association. Membership can be paid in yearly dues, with a cost of roughly $600 all told, Reischman said.

The majority of people who call Churchtown Cemetery their final resting place were once members of the church. Included in that number is Monsignor Charles Highland, who was pastor at St. John for over 40 years.

"It's a community situation. It's in a lovely spot on top of the hill here," Reischman said.



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