Up on a hill over Ohio 26
The graveyard on a hill just off Ohio 26 in Lawrence Township wasn’t always known as Rake Cemetery.
Originally it was called Snodgrass Cemetery, named for a local family.
The cemetery is 189 years old and located on the property that was owned by the Snodgrass family, according to Millie Covey Fry, a descendant of the Snodgrass family, who still lives in the area.
“Barbara Snodgrass moved to the area with her five children shortly after the death of her husband Charles in 1808,” said Fry. “Her oldest son Hiram was a farmer and purchased the land that the Snodgrass Cemetery was located on.”
During her research over the years Fry discovered that the first burial on the plot was one of Barbara Snodgrass’s children.
“The first burial was Barbara’s daughter and Hiram’s sister, Margaret Snodgrass, who died on Feb. 27, 1824 at just 21 years of age,” she said.
The oldest of Barbara’s five children and owner of the land, Hiram, would also eventually be buried on the plot along with his sister after his death in 1879.
It was after his death that Snodgrass Cemetery began to be known as Rake Cemetery.
The transition occurred in the late 1800s and was due to a marriage between the Rake and Snodgrass families, according to Fry.
“The union between Hiram Snodgrass’s daughter, Sarah, to Elijah Rake occurred on Dec. 23, 1858,” said Fry. “After Hiram’s death, Sarah and her husband Elijah moved into the home.”
Fry said she wasn’t certain quite how or when the land switched from primarily a place for family burials into a public cemetery.
Since the time of that transition however, Rake Cemetery has had a total of 404 people buried in it, the most recent just this January.
The past few years, care of Rake Cemetery and other local cemeteries has fallen to Lawrence Township.
“Lawrence Township doesn’t actually own any of the nine cemeteries in our area,” said David Lauer, Lawrence Township trustee. “We just try to help maintain these cemeteries by hiring someone to mow when it’s needed.”
The township has been helping keep the Rake Cemetery mowed for a number of years, but Lauer said the land around the cemetery actually belongs Gale DePuy, who is also a township trustee.
DePuy said he tries both as a landowner and a trustee to take good care of the cemetery because people visit regularly.
“Generally people come on the weekends to visit,” said DePuy. “Holidays like Memorial Day also bring a large number of people.”
Rake Cemetery is apparently one of the few cemeteries located in the area that still have open plots.
“Most of the ones we look after have no open burial plots left in them,” said Lauer. “Rake still has some open. I know Edna Thomas was buried there about a month or two ago.”
Both DePuy and Lauer said funding is the problem that the township trustees have run into when trying to pay for upkeep on the cemeteries.
“We don’t receive any specific funds to take care of these cemeteries. We have to use general township money,” said Lauer. “We have put out quite a bit of funds over the years trying to keep these cemeteries nice.”
Lauer noted the township would like to do more, but as of right now they just aren’t able.
“Fixing markers and tombstones isn’t something we have been doing and I doubt that’s going to change,” said Lauer. “We will continue to help pay for the grass to be cut, but unless something changes that’s about all we can do.”