Volunteers adopt Kent’s pioneers

Kent resident Carol Stroble tends flowers at the grave of Mary Brown, who died in 1837. CAITLIN PRARAT | SUMMER KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

The first recorded burial in Franklin Mills, now Kent, was Eve Haymaker, who died on Oct. 11, 1810. Her family was one of the first to settle the area.

Haymaker’s grave no longer has a marker, but she is buried somewhere in the far left corner of Pioneer cemetery, where the earliest European settlers of the area are interred.

Kent resident Pat Morton coordinates a program called “Adopt-a-Pioneer,” whereby volunteers make a one-year commitment to care for a grave – by planting, weeding and watering.

Pioneer Cemetery is located on Stow Street next to Fred Fuller Park in Kent.

Morton said there are now about 32 volunteers, but not all of the gravesites have one. A green stake with the volunteer’s name marks the graves that are cared for. These are surrounded by plants and flowers. Some volunteers look after more than one.

Kent residents John and Jean Jacobs care for Joshua and Rebecca Woodard’s graves, among others.

The Woodards were Jean Jacobs’ great-great grandparents.

“We tend to the graves of several relatives,” John Jacobs said.

Joshua Woodard owned a tavern that was a station on the Underground Railroad, Jean Jacobs said. The Woodards’ stone has a flag next to it, commemorating Joshua’s participation in the War of 1812.

Most of the graves, however, are not looked after by relatives of the deceased.

“The families are either no longer in the area or they’re so many generations removed from the people that are here that they may just not have an interest in caring for a gravesite,” Morton said.

Kent resident Christy Schjeldahl takes care of some of the Depeyster family’s sites.

“I have no family connections or anything like some people do,” she said.

Depeyster is a familiar name to Kent residents, as it is a street in downtown Kent.

“All these names on the stones you see in Kent – on the streets, on the buildings.” Morton said. “The people that are here are the people that began our community.”

Schjeldahl is in charge of the graves of two couples and a 4-year-old child.

Morton noted that about 60 out of 228 burials are children.

Kent resident Pamela Hendricks looks after the Anderson family plot. She said she feels she’s helping the family even though she’ll never meet them or know who they were.

“You feel like you’re a part of them,” she said.

Kent resident Carol Stroble looks after a gray oblong stone. The inscription is unreadable.

“The only thing you can really pick out now is the word ‘Brown,'” she said.

According to records from the Western Reserve Historical Society, the grave belongs to Mrs. Mary Brown, 42, who died Jan. 12, 1837.

Morton is incorporating the Pioneer Cemetery Preservation Group as a non-profit organization to get grants for future projects such as repair and preservation of stones, a children’s memorial and a marker for Eve Haymaker.

Anyone interested in volunteering or additional information can contact Morton at (330) 678-5671.

Contact principal reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at [email protected].