BARLOW TWP.-Decades ago, as construction began to widen Pike Street in Marietta, the demolition of an old family home led to a surprising discovery.
"When they tore an old house down, they turned the stone step out back over and it was my great-great-grandfather's tombstone," said Ed Lawton, 89, who now lives near Fleming with his wife Oleta, 83.
The stone honored Ezekial Finch, a Revolutionary War soldier who was born in 1764 in Lincoln, England, and settled in Ohio in 1806 with his wife, Sarah, and their 10 children.
CONOR MORRIS Special to the Times
Charles Edward “Ed” Lawton, left, and his brother Irvin Lawton examine the identifying stone for their family’s personal cemetery on the Lawton farm, off Ohio 550.
It's one of two markers for the veteran, with the other in Riverview Cemetery off of Waverly Road in Williamstown, where he is most likely buried.
"My only guess is that the government might have furnished his tombstone and his family might have furnished the other," said Lawton.
The marker was eventually restored and will be placed on the hillside family cemetery soon, next to the resting place of Finch's various relatives and descendants.
About the Lawton family Cemetery
Location: The Lawton family farm off Ohio 550 in Barlow Township.
The property was once a stop on the Underground Railroad.
The land has been in the family since 1796.
The family cemetery includes several generations of the family and will soon include the marker of a Revolutionary War soldier.
The Lawton family farm, located on a small gravel road off Ohio 550, includes a small, modest cemetery near the top of a hill inside a peaceful cove in the forest that surrounds the property.
The graves in it date back to those of Ed Lawton's great-great-grandparents.
"My ancestors (moved) from Rhode Island in 1796, and they got this farm which was a half a section of land-that was 320 acres-at around $2 an acre," Ed said.
At the time, the property was still all woods, with a few Native American residents coexisting peacefully with the Lawtons as Ed's great-great-grandfather, Charles Lawton, built the family's first house, a log cabin no longer there.
Charles Lawton was a stonemason and helped construct the first courthouse in Marietta, according to Ed.
A more permanent structure was erected in 1818. This house, though crippled by age to the point of being unable to enter now, was used to hide escaped slaves in the mid-1800s as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
"They'd get a letter or info and go pick up a runaway slave across the river-that was in Virginia at the time," said Ed Lawton. "The letter would tell them where to take the slave next."
Ed's brother, Irvin, 87, said he's learned much of the family's history from diaries and letters left behind by his great-grandfather James Lawton Jr. and other members of their family.
"We have quite a lot of pride in (our roots)," Irvin said.
Ed and Oleta Lawton also allow Warren High School to plan a field trip to their house once a year so that the students could take a look at the old house that was used to hide the runaway slave in.
"(The Lawtons) hid the slaves in an old two-room basement in the brick house," Oleta said.
From a Spanish-American War veteran to the abolitionist James Lawton Jr., the Lawtons' small family cemetery has plenty of history to explore.
Ed and Irvin both said they derive comfort from living on and near the same ground that their ancestors had tread and worked on. Land which, according to Oleta, has been fed by the same spring downhill from her home for more than two centuries, and has provided water for generations of Lawtons.
Of the cemetery, there is no unease associated with living so close to the resting place of their relatives for the brothers.
"I'm glad they're here, because I think I'll probably be here one day myself," Irvin said.