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June 20, 2019

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Letter to editor: Writer asks for community discussion on original plan passed on Shannon Cemetery

Icon viewers:

Here’s some important background information on the Shannon Cemetery that needs to be considered prior to council making a decision on how to proceed with cemetery plan.

Cause for concern
A small group has brought forth a second-hand “grid,” which supposedly locates many original graves for the purpose of putting back many gravestones throughout the Shannon Cemetery on Jefferson Street.

Our own volunteers have asked this group for a copy of this authentic grid, but have yet to receive it.

In 2008, our volunteers had and shared the following information with Bluffton council members and the public.

Shannon Cemetery 1835-1866
Last burial in 1973

No “grid” or grave burial specific information has been found. The area as per Allen County engineers and surveyors, found only a map of the area. The first survey became real after State Route 103 was laid out.

• 1870 - the mapped area estimated to be cemetery was declared full. No grid was known at that time.
• 1887 – ODOT cut through the cemetery for placement of State Route 103 (Jefferson Street), leaving part of the cemetery on the other side of the street where houses stand today.

• 1922 – It is recorded further (Bluffton News) that a gulley going through the cemetery was now filled. Maps could indicate, as others, that it was laid north-south and east-west.

• 1937 – Bluffton News records, which are the most tangible evident of the century, indicate that the old graves are gone. No grid found.

• 1949 – Bluffton News story states that the long-lost founder of Bluffton’s grave is lost. A new one is being installed.

• 1961 – Bluffton News story states vandalism has altered the appearance of the century old burial grounds.

• 1988 – The Allen County Historical Society provided an update of old cemeteries. On the Shannon Cemetery, its report states: “Since no rows could be found, we will need to alphabetize the stones.”

• 2005 – Bluffton started some clean up, before the transfer from Richland Township due to the unkempt nature of the area and the admission of the township trustees that they had provided no maintenance for many years. Our clean up caused many stones to clean up broken trees et al. The Bluffton scouts helped in the project.

• 2008 – Volunteers started picking up stones that were previously mowed over. Some digging took place to uncover some stones that were partially buried. Then some of the stones were stacked because of tree removal. Some stones were discovered by probing. Some stones were even found along Riley Creek and one stone was in the village maintenance garage.

• 2013 – Bluffton village council Resolution 7-13 passed to move forward with a cemetery plan (Sept. 9, 2013)

• 2014 – The community responded with over 30 persons contributing funds for the newly proposed cemetery plan. This totaled over $7,000 in donated money.

• 2014 – Stones were carefully moved with full knowledge of village council and with the agreement with the McFadden storage area on East College Avenue. (No grid or original rows were known at this time).

Some serious concerns:
•  Where are the stones today?
• Who moved them?
• Is there a cost incurred at this time?

Bluffton council indicated that this second-hand grid is good enough to exactly located 70-plus graves to put stones back in a scattered pattern throughout the cemetery.

The volunteers have a specific interest in having an open discussion about the original plan passed by the Bluffton council.

Specifically:
• Bring back the stones
• Have a special area for military–related stones
• Have the balance of remaining stones gathered, and placed is a viewable location
• Permit the tree commission or community appointments to develop the site into a very appropriately planned memorial park.

Thank you for your interest,
Richard Boehr

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