SALEM TWP. - Several years ago, Lowell resident Tim Beardsley was about to throw in the towel after looking around a farm property on Germantown Road for a cemetery where an ancestor of his was believed to be buried.
"And then all at once, the sun came out and ... shined on a headstone," he said. "I was standing within 40 feet of it."
Beardsley, 64, said the stone was surrounded by briars and saplings to the point that he had to crawl through the brush to reach the marker - the headstone for Isaac Johnson, the ancestor for whom he'd been searching.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Donna Buchanan gestures to the trees and brush that now surround a cemetery on property she and her husband own in Salem Township.
The cemetery is referred to on the website Findagrave.com as Paw Paw Creek Cemetery because of its proximity to that creek, but it also has been called Old Everett Schmitt Cemetery, after a former property owner, and Corinth Church Cemetery, for a church that some believe stood on the hill in the 19th century.
Anyone looking for the cemetery today would have to take the word of Donna Buchanan, who owns the property with her husband Larry, until his or her eyes adjusted to allow them to distinguish some of the remaining markers from the surrounding greenery. Buchanan, 60, said people who may have relatives in the cemetery can go into the brush to examine the stones, although the Buchanans prefer to be notified first.
"There are snakes up there," she said.
Paw Paw Creek Cemetery
Located: On private property off Germantown Road southeast of Lower Salem.
Also known as: Corinth Church Cemetery, Old Everett Schmitt Cemetery.
Number of burials: Unknown, estimated at around 50, although less than half that many markers were found when the cemetery was surveyed 10 years ago.
Last recorded burial: 1882.
Source: Times research.
The Findagrave.com entry warns of rattlesnakes, but Buchanan said all she's ever encountered were black snakes that tend to move away from the footsteps of approaching people.
Not long after the Buchanans purchased and moved onto the property in 1985, they cleared the trees and plants around the cemetery, a process that took about a month. Over the years, though, the trees, grass and briars have grown up again to about the same level.
Buchanan said they've talked about clearing it again, but noted it's a time-consuming process and they're older than when they did it the first time. They must also deal with work and other matters on the farm, where they raise sheep and Christmas trees. In addition, she said they've been unable to come to an agreement with the Salem Township trustees about mowing the cemetery going forward.
"We're not going to be here forever," Buchanan said. "These people don't need to be forgotten. They're part of our history."
Calls to Salem Township trustees were not returned by Friday evening.
Beardsley estimates there were as many as 50 burials in the cemetery, although many of the markers are long gone.
A listing of burials made in 2001 and on file at the Washington County Local History and Genealogy Library notes 20 legible names found on markers at the cemetery. A listing Buchanan and a friend did in 2002 has a few names not on that list as well.
"I think there must have been a sickness of some kind," Buchanan said. "There's a lot of children and women in here, and they're all young."
Some of the infants laid to rest in the cemetery appear to be children of or otherwise related to early members of the Corinth Church, as listed in Williams' "History of Washington County."
At one point, Buchanan was optimistic that since there had been a church at the site, there would be records about the cemetery. But it is believed the church burned down and the records were lost, she said.
However, Millie Covey Fry, a former Marietta resident and self-described "ancestry detective," said there is some question as to whether the Corinth Church was actually on that hill and what exactly happened to it.
"Nobody has ever said positively that it was up by the cemetery, although you would think it would be," she said.