Local history and cemetery enthusiast provided a tour of Portsmouth historic Greenlawn Cemetery to visitors who came in from across the state.
The Ohio Chapter of the Association for Gravestone Studies (AGS) had their 2017 Fall Meeting on Saturday in Portsmouth. During the meeting, member Beth Wilson-Shoemaker led a tour of two of the area’s historic grave sites – Greenlawn and the Lucasville Cemetery. Wilson-Shoemaker explained that 20-25 people took part in the event, some of the visitors came from Columbus, Canton and Cleveland.
Wilson-Shoemaker explained that the AGS is a national organization with state chapters that focus on the preservation, history and photography of cemeteries. Their work includes a variety of related activities that includes everything from work on lost cemeteries to working with military markers and stones.
“Basically, we are like-minded people who work to preserve local history and our cemeteries,” Wilson-Shoemaker stated.
She added that on the tours, she identified special markers that told stories of entire families killed by war, flood or flu. She added that these stories tell so much about local history and the people who lost their lives during these historical events. She also went through some of the geological facts of the cemeteries and stones used within them.
Wilson-Shoemaker has been photographing cemeteries for more than five years. She explained that she is not originally from the Portsmouth area. Rather, she grew up in a small town on a farm Erie, Pa. As a little girl, she remembers playing and exploring outside near an old one-room schoolhouse that was near her home. At the site there are two old graves that always fascinated Wilson-Shoemaker. As a young girl, she would wonder about the lives and deaths of those buried beneath the stones.
Those stones, those graves inspired Wilson-Shoemaker to continue exploring. She has since walked the cemetery rows between graves 100-200 years old and explained that some of the older stones have entire epitaphs that explain how people lived and died. She added that as she learns about Revolutionary War soldiers or families that experienced great tragedy and loss all at once.
“Some of these things stop you in your tracks,” Wilson-Shoemaker commented.
As she continued learning about the lives of those who died sometimes hundreds of years ago, she also started to develop a passion for saving these stories for future generations. That passion grew as Wilson-Shoemaker started working in lost cemeteries or with lost graves.
“It’s just a big deal to me,” she stated. “Those folks are not remembered. They’re gone.”
For more information about the Ohio AGS or to get involved, find the Ohio Chapter of the Association for Gravestone Studies on Facebook. For photos of local cemeteries or information on local events, visit A Grave Sight: Cemetery Photographs by BAWS on Facebook.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.