Old Richwood Cemetery

Since the church in front of the cemetery is now for sale, I thought it would be prudent to offer a history of the lot. The first person to be buried in the cemetery was Jane Mary Brookins, daughter of J.P. Brookins. The story goes as follows:

“Jane Mary, the little daughter and only child of Dr. and Mrs. Brookins, was playing with her cousins, William and John Woods, and each had a fire. Jane Mary’s was burning well, but the boys could not get theirs to burn and asked to make them burn. She took her apron to fan the fire and sat down over some hot coals that had scattered, and her clothing took fire from them. Before help could reach her, she was so badly burned that she died in a few hours.”

A Voice From the Past by W.H. Frank

Philip Plummer, the founder of Richwood, owned the plat and allowed the child to be buried there. He helped clear off the ground and dig the grave for said child. The graveyard grew throughout the years just as Richwood had grown. The cemetery had ceased to be used by around 1860. Some remains were even transferred to the Claibourne cemetery which is now the widely used cemetery in the area. In fact, the Richwood Gazette reported in 1877 how the old lot was full of weeds high enough to hide the tombstones; they implored the Trustees of the township to pay more attention to the place. The burial ground even became a hangout spot for young adults in the town who refused to stay out of trouble.

The tombstone of Jane Mary Brookins still located in the cemetery.

The First Baptist Church of Richwood received permission by the Trustees of Claibourne township to lease the lot and build their church in front of the cemetery on Ottawa street for a term of 99 years. The congregation would pay one dollar to the treasury of Claibourne Township with the stipulation that the church keep both the building and the graveyard in good repair and to have a fence constructed to enclose the lots. If at anytime the church building shall cease to be used as a house of worship by said Baptist society, then the lot shall become the property of Claibourne township once again.

In 1889, 57 years after Richwood was founded, the heirs of Philip Plummer claimed that since the ground was no longer used for cemetery purposes, it should revert back to the original owner, Philip Plummer. They had brought a suit against the Baptist Church to compel them to pay for the land. The amount they claimed was $200.

On Monday, December 9, 1889, the trial began in the Marysville Courthouse at one o’clock p.m. John Graham was the first witness. He came to Richwood in 1886. He knew Philip Plummer well, and told the court of his good ways but wasn’t as specific with times and places and others were. Elder Swartz was the next witness and was well acquainted with the ground on which Richwood now stands. He was present at the time, in 1832, that Plummer drove into what is now the original town plat and saw them unload the surveyor’s tools that were used in laying off the town. In 1838, he (Swartz) heard Plummer say that he would not disturb the graves that had been made on the lots called the graveyard in Richwood; that he had given them to the people, and they had buried on them by his permission and should not be disturbed. He also told of the first grave that had been dug there, Jane Mary Brookins, and that he had burned his hands in trying to help extinguish the fire.

View of half of the cemetery. The tombstone leaning against the tree is the one that belongs to Jane Mary Brookins. Her exact burial place is unknown, the tombstone being moved from it’s original position.

John A.J. Tonguet next took the stand. His age was 83. He also met Plummer in the woods when he came to lay out the town. His uncle, George Clark, took a contract from Plummer to clear and fence the three acres of land immediately east of Richwood and lying between the Prospect and the Hoskins pikes. Uncle George Clark and Nathaniel and John A.J. Tonguet did the work; and when they were ready to commence to make the fence, Plummer came to help lay out the fence row, and the question was asked if the fence should be on the survey line or not. Plummer responded with, “No; I own the land in both surveys, and I want the fence put on the line of the graveyard and other lots, and let the driveway, or the strip of land between the corporation line on the east and west line of the Bull of Claibourne survey be inside the field and the graveyard lots outside.” They then set the stakes for the fence by the stakes of the lots of the town. This was in 1835.

William H. Ferguson came next. He produced a deed from Plummer for two unrelated lots that were turned back to Plummer in 1849 by act of the Legislature, and the facts were set up in the deed.

L. Myers came to Richwood in the spring of 1842, and buried his children in the lots.

John Phillips was born in Richwood in 1836 and remembered Plummer and the graveyard lots well.

Asa Langstaff was a Trustee of Claibourne Township and as such made the lease of the lots to the church. This testimony was most all taken in writing on Monday. The stipulations of which is explained above.

Tuesday morning, the court came and H.C. Hamilton was put on the stand. For an hour or more, he told the story of Richwood and the old settlers to an audience of forty or more, mostly lawyers, who gave the best of attention, and now and then indulged in a smile as some peculiar part came to light. He knew Plummer and all his family. He went to school with the older children and knew the younger ones as well. Plummer left Richwood in 1842, early in the fall. He returned on a visit in 1843, during the Millerite movement and the Second Great Awakening that never came.

A map of the Richwood Cemetery lot.

Plummer came back to Richwood as a minister of the Methodist Episcopal church in the fall of 1849 and stayed for two years. The people used the Richwood burying ground when H.C. Hamilton left home, in 1853, and they had to a great extent abandoned the use of it when he returned in 1859. The late Joshua S. Gill got the field east of town and the lots west of the graveyard and fenced them all as one piece of land and used the graveyard lots as a pasture field to connect the field and his house and lots.

In the spring of 1864, the late William Hamilton bought Gill out. Hamilton did not own the lots and lands long before he sold them to Edward Norris. Norris abandoned the field and laid it off in town lots. From this on the graveyard was neglected, and it became an immense weed patch up until in was leased to the Baptist church. Under control of the church, the graveyard for a time became a pleasant place to go and look upon. The case was decided that the church would still hold possession of the lots. It had continued to stay in possession of the people of Richwood just as Philip Plummer wanted.

Since then the church had changed congregations a few times until now. The building has been largely renovated and is now for sale. The graveyard, however, continues to be neglected just as it was over 160 years ago.

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