As my friend and I rode the bus from the shopping district back to campus, we passed a beautiful old cemetery. The gravestones we saw out the window intrigued and beckoned to us. We were students at Kent State University and we determined to explore the cemetery during our next free afternoon. It would be the first cemetery I ever visited.
We pushed open the rusty gate and entered to stand under a canopy of tall trees offering shade and shadow for the final resting place of people we never knew. The gravestones dated to the 1800s. Some stood tall and proud. Others were broken, leaning, or had fallen. A few were beautifully carved with figurative engravings and epitaphs. The cemetery seemed abandoned. It was overgrown with grass, weeds, and bushes. We guessed that no living family members visited these graves of their long-dead ancestors.
We returned for a second visit, this time with a roll of paper and some charcoal in hand. We carefully made rubbings of several of the grave markers, took them home, and hung them on the bare walls over our beds. Roommates suggested they were macabre. We thought they were lovely.
The cemetery my friend and I visited was Pioneer Cemetery. At the time of our visit there was no sign identifying its name. I rediscovered it this week when I searched for cemeteries in Kent. I found photographs which align with my memory of the names and markers we saw those 40 years ago. These days the citizens of Kent realize the treasure of Pioneer Cemetery and it receives the care it deserves.
I'd forgotten about that cemetery until the other day when I was deciding what to write for Abundant Genealogy this week. As much as I love cemeteries and gravestones, I don't visit them often. I'm most interested in the graves of my own ancestors, none of which are nearby. Despite the fact that none of my ancestors are buried in Pioneer Cemetery, it was the best first cemetery I could ever have visited.
The double image bordered in black, at top, is a screenshot from DeadOhio Pioneer Cemetery where you can see more photos of Pioneer Cemetery's gravestones. "Kent Cemetery Holds Historic Secrets" is a screenshot from KentOhio.net which you can visit if you'd like to read the rest of the article and learn more about Kent.
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This post was written to participate in Amy Coffin's 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy which is hosted on Geneabloggers. The theme will change weekly and may be posted any day of the week. I invite you to join in if you'd like.
This week's theme is Cemeteries: Genealogists understand the full value of cemeteries and appreciate them in ways most others can’t see. Share a cemetery or cemetery experience for which you are most thankful. What makes this place special? What does it mean to you and your family history?