Cemetery quest in Waterford denied

On January 17, 2013, The Marietta Times ran a story about an old cemetery in Waterford between the CSX railroad and Mill Street. A 1938 letter from Judge William H. Leeper, who had owned a Waterford store which is now Jukebox Pizza, identified two of the graves in the cemetery as those of Lt. Joseph Frye (namesake of Fort Frye) and Major Asa Coburn, Sr. This article will explain the background and the clues regarding the cemetery’s location.

The northern end of Waterford, at least the part east of Main Street, had been formed out of lot 21. This lot had originally been twenty-six acres donated to Major Dean Tyler. The very northern part of this land, which was along the Muskingum River, was the location of Tyler’s Blockhouse. Waterford was settled in April 1789 by the Second Association, a group of thirty-nine (later forty) men that included Major Dean Tyler, Lt. Joseph Frye and Major Asa Coburn, Sr. The settlers lived in peace at first, living on their donated lands. This changed when the Native Americans attacked the Big Bottom setters on January 2, 1791. The setters soon built Fort Frye on the northern (now Beverly) side of the river and Tyler’s Blockhouse on the southern (Waterford) side. During the war and while the settlers were still in their garrisons, it is believed that Major Coburn died (possibly about 1794). He was buried a short distance from Tyler’s Blockhouse in a small cemetery that until recently was, as far as known, unnamed. Discussing a cemetery with no name was inconvenient, so the Lower Muskingum Historical Society picked the name Tyler’s Blockhouse Cemetery and has led the efforts this year to locate it.

In 1802 Phineas Coburn, son of Asa, Sr., came into possession of the twenty-six acres. In 1807 Coburn sold the entire tract to Dr. Silas Durkee “Except a certain part of sd lot ap[p]ropr[i]ated for a bur[y]ing place Containing Ten yards square the sd Phinehas Coburn Reserves to himself his heirs and assigns forever . . . ” (Vol. 10, p. 110) The reservation was included when Durkee’s administrators sold twenty acres to Ichabod Nye in 1814. (Vol. 13, pp. 437-38). In 1828 Ichabod Nye sold sixteen acres to George Bowen. Nye reserved a part “for a public Burying Ground situate near the center of the lot . . . ” (Vol. 20, pp. 448-49) This deed mentioned the cemetery for the last time.

The Bowens-brothers Dr. George and Charles and their nephew, Charles L.-all were owners of the tract with the cemetery and share part of the blame for it being lost over time. They could have insisted that the cemetery reservation be continued in deeds when they sold the land, but they chose to ignore its existence.

After 1828 there are only clues as to the cemetery’s location. The first clue is the reference that the cemetery was nearly in the center of the sixteen acre tract. Using the descriptions in the deed, the tract can be platted and the center (from east to west) determined. In Leeper’s 1938 letter, he mentioned that the cemetery was 200-300 feet from his barn (clue 2). This barn, which at one time belonged to Gen. Hiram F. Devol, is shown in the 1875 Atlas of Washington County (p. 23). It is believed that Hosmer Bowen, who died in 1860, was originally buried in the cemetery on the property of his father, Charles L. Bowen. His tombstone is still along the riverbank, possibly discarded in a straight path from the cemetery. (clue 3). In 1997 Winnie Johnson, in Then and Now, wrote, “for many years this plot [cemetery] could be found by the blooming Easter flowers each spring.” (clue 4) Using the first three clues, a spot was picked as the likely location of the cemetery (see map). Almost like a believe it or not story, Easter flowers bloomed there in April.

The Ohio and Little Kanawha Railway purchased the .31 acre from Mary Dutcher and others in 1911. (Vol. 169, p. 400). This tract is .331 acre on a current tax map. In time it has become CSX. Numerous e-mails have been sent to CSX since January 18th asking permission to clear the spot of debris. On July 22rd they wrote, “in order for us to evaluate this matter further, it will be necessary for the historical society to provide CSX with an independent rendering from a title company confirming your finding.” It seems this denial to search for the cemetery ends the quest.

Phillip L. Crane, a Waterford resident and Marietta history teacher for 32 years, will share stories of historical events that occurred in the Lower Muskingum Valley.