Thursday, April 30, 2015

Brier cemetery

Brier from Huber Collection (1967)
In a March blog item, I wrote a little about the process of migrating the Fairfield cemeteries out of the valley in the late 1960s. It was a long, tedious event.

That blog item is HERE.

Much of the detail is covered in the Fairfield book Town Under the Lake that was produced a few years ago. In it, lots of photographs by Jim Senefeld, who grew up in Fairfield Township and attended Blooming Grove and Brookville schools.

Thirteen known cemeteries had to be moved and relocated during the reservoir construction project. They were: Kober cemetery, Abner McCarty cemetery, Grace Stout cemetery, Gravin cemetery, Templeton cemetery, Klipple cemetery, Dickerson cemetery, Barrickman cemetery, Brier cemetery, Leviston-Templeton cemetery, Harrell cemetery, Sims cemetery, and Jonas cemetery.

An ongoing story surrounded the grave removal process that claimed the men who dug the graves had to be quarantined and given a series of shots to prevent contracting a disease that may have escaped from the coffins.

That was never the case. Nobody got sick and nobody had to be vaccinated.

It's also not true that "hundreds" of graves are under water.

As an aside, in my youth, it was not uncommon for funeral wakes to be held at the home of the deceased. I always found that a little bit eerie. Maybe the dead guy could get up in the night and go to the bathroom.

So how did they know where the little graveyards were located? Most of that was in the libraries in Brookville and Liberty (some graveyards were in Union County, including Sims.) Once they generally knew where the cemeteries were located, they walked the land, looking for markers, stones ... anything that might resemble a graveyard. Even as far back as the 1810s, the counties kept records of births and deaths. If somebody died, somebody knew about it and the sheriff or clerk was told. They wrote down the information.

In cases where somebody was just passing through and happened to die, well ... all bets were off.

Some really great stories of the cemeteries come from Keith Mergenthal, who shared this memory with Jim Senefeld in Town Under the Lake:

"Graves were dug according to known burials – a headstone, a footstone or written documentation. As far as the project supervisors knew, all bodies had been exhumed, but in all probability, a few unmarked graves and unidentified burial sites surely remained. By the time of exhumation in 1971, over 160 years had passed since the county was officially established and some documentation and oral tradition must have been lost as to the whereabouts of all burials outside of the larger two community cemeteries."

Brier was on the south edge of town and was smaller than Sims. I personally do not remember any burial services being held at Brier, though I do recall a few at Sims. Actually, not that many people died ... maybe one every year. The latest entry for Brier is 1966 (Laughlin, Thomas). That is according to the Franklin County genealogy website, compiled by Karen Creamer.

Common names in the Brier collection are:

  • Blew, Masters, Maharry, Rose, Snider, Yocum, Younts.

Prominent notable names in the valley over the years:

  • Glidewell, Cory, Loper, Husted, Luker, Personnette.

The earliest settlers (and the year they were born) to be buried in Brier include:

  • William Rose, 1791; Hannah Cory, 1791; Rebecca Rose, 1796; C.R. Cory Sr., 1789.

Earliest marked dates of death:

  • Mary Danford, 1832; George Bowlby, 1848.

Latest recorded death date, besides the aforementioned Laughlin, is Bessie Masters, 1886-1957.

John N. Trusler and Lt. Climpson B. Moore were Civil War veterans buried in Brier.

Two Briers are listed, David (1832-1914) and Mary J. (1836-1913). A third Brier, Nevada Jones Brier (1876-1926), is buried at New Fairfield and she is named as David Brier's wife. She was originally buried at Sims cemetery.

David Brier, by the way, was one of the original carpenters who helped construct the Fairfield Methodist Church in 1868.

David Brier's home (1880s) with cemetery in rear.
The road winding to the left led to the bridge. 
(Donald Dunaway collection)

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