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December 7, 2019

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Local group interested in making a community park out of the cemetery on Jefferson Street

The original village cemetery on Jefferson Street

A group of historical-minded Bluffton residents is contacting family members who may have ancestors buried in an old Bluffton cemetery.

"We want to contact all possible heirs and share with them what our hopes and desires are for what is known as the Shannon Cemetery on Bluffton's Jefferson Street," said Dick Boehr, who is spearheading the committee.

According to Boehr, the plan is to create a very nice park area, which could be maintained and would have an identification plaque, which would list as many people as can be verified, who were buried in the cemetery.

"Some of us think of this special place as our founders' cemetery," he said. "We believe Joseph DeFord, the first person to settle is what is now Bluffton, is buried there."

Bluffton was originally called Shannon. In 1861 the village became incorporated as Bluffton.

The cemetery holds the first Bluffton settlers, laid to rest between 1835 to the 1870s. The site is also near an early log cabin Methodist Church.

The Bluffton group hopes to make the community as desirable and viable as possible. While the cemetery is historic, it is in serious need of upkeep. Turning the cemetery into a park is one way the group believes it can honor its past and create an attractive approach to the center of the community.

Persons with family information or who want more information about the project should contact Dick Boehr, at R.J. Boehr Site Seeker, 111 Vine St., Bluffton, Ohio 45817, or call 419-358-6886, e-mail: boehrd@embarqmail.com.

History of the cemetery

Looks can be deceiving: there are more graves there than it appears. According to a report in 1937 nearly 125 gravestones were standing, and the description of the cemetery at the time stated that it was in a sad state of disrepair. Even in 1937 several graves were without markers. The oldest stone standing was for a woman who died in 1839.

The last person to be buried in the cemetery was Martha Goble Fitzgerald, in 1873, one year after the first railroad arrived in Bluffton.

Maple Grove Cemetery opened in 1870 and has served the community ever since.