By Liz Hardaway, Arts & Entertainment Editor
After closing the plots 128 years ago, the Stratford Eco-logical Center’s cemetery is being restored.
Come spring and fall, busloads of elementary school students are shuttled to the Stratford Ecological
Center to explore the farm. With ample gardens and animals, volunteers guide students through 236 acres to learn about plant life and agriculture. Students might also get a chance to feed the chickens.
At lunchtime, John Tetz, a volunteer, took the kids to Stratford’s cemetery so the kids could eat beside a tombstone put in 200 years ago.
“This is an old pioneers’ cemetery,” Tetz said over an overgrown knoll, splattered with patches of wildflowers and various stones askew.
In October 2013, Stratford started working toward restoring this cemetery and finding out as much as possible about who and what is buried there.
Tetz contacted Liz Barker, a retired librarian from Ashley Library, to begin researching. Some notable names include the original owner of the land, Col.
Forrest Meeker and Capt. James Kooken, both of whom fought in the War of 1812.
The Ecological Center also recruited volunteers to clear out tall trees and overgrown grass, uncovering the private cemetery.
Jeff Dickinson, the executive director/farmer, described the knoll to Tetz as “the cemetery [taking] a life of its own.”
Though volunteers believe most of the cemetery is located on the hill, they aren’t certain. This is where Jarrod Burks, Ph.D., the director of archaeological geophysics at Ohio Valley Archeology Inc., comes into play.
Burks used a transit to map what’s visible above ground, including headstones and footstones.
Along with the help of Bruce Reynard and Jamie Davis, Burks operated a magnetometer and ground penetrating radar to scan what’s below ground.
Switching between above ground and below ground, Burks started this process on Aug. 30, but is topping off the data collection on Thursday with a drone to conduct 3D mapping.
“I have to download the data and make maps of it,” Burks said, whose research should be finalized in four weeks.
With 59 known bodies recorded since the cemetery’s 1816 debut, Tetz said he is skeptical about how many bodies are actually buried.
“I think we’re going to come up with a lot more than that, but who knows,” Tetz said.
Donna Meyer, an avid genealogist and the executive director of the Delaware Historical Society asked Tetz, “So where is Michael Bauder buried? He’s my ancestor.”
Meyer explained how the restoration of the cemetery would help the community learn more about private family farms. Though all buried weren’t related, the deceased had common ground in the paper mill, which started in the 1840s.
“I think anything that makes people excited about history is certainly worth talking about,” Meyer said.
The restoration would also help the Delaware County Historical Society, said Susan Logan, the head researcher at the society. The society only gets a few queries a year about ancestors buried in Stratford, but Logan said she would still like to know.
“We love to know exactly who is buried here and where,” Logan said. “But I don’t know if we’ll find the answers to those questions. We’ll just have to wait and see.”