Village to take action on remains found
COAL GROVE — Workers trimming branches and vines to clear power lines got a little more than they bargained for last week in Coal Grove.
Asplundh Tree Company workers were clearing the lines when they noticed something out of place in a gully by the hillside in front of the village hall.
What they saw were human bones.
The workers promptly reported their findings to the Coal Grove Police Department, who then called Lawrence County Coroner Dr. Kurt Hofmann and Bill Nenni.
CGPD Chief Eric Spurlock said more than 90 individual bones were collected from the gully. Among the remains were three skulls and femurs and ribs.
“The skulls I saw appeared to be adults,” Hofmann said. “Some were more destroyed than others.”
Hofmann said there was no further action needed by his office.
It was determined the remains washed out of their nearby graves in Newton Cemetery, a piece of land nearly forgotten by time. Just off Carlton Davidson Lane in Coal Grove, across from the village hall and Tri-State Industries, the cemetery has been for more than 140 years.
Soft, spongy grounds from rain water flowing down the hill over the years washed out the bones from their resting place.
Little is known about the cemetery and it is unclear how many people may have been buried there. Some records in the genealogy room of the Briggs Lawrence Public Library suggest there were as many at 92 graves at one time.
What is known for sure is the Newton family owned the land, part of which became the eclipsing Woodland Cemetery.
In Woodland Cemetery ghost walks of years past, Dr. and Mrs. Orin C. Newton made a cameo appearance, greeting lore enthusiasts as they entered the cemetery gates for the annual historical society event.
Ghost-walkers learned that Dr. Newton sold some of his farmland to the City of Ironton for $10,000 in 1870, land that transformed over the years into one of the most historic cemeteries in the Tri-State.
As Woodland Cemetery continues to grow and gain admirers, just a short distance away, Newton Cemetery, the once family and community graveyard, crumbles into obscurity.
A little less than three acres in its prime, burials in the cemetery were mostly in the mid to late 1800s and early 1900s.
Many of the headstones are severely weatherworn and illegible. Some are broken or fallen over. Others have sunk into the soft ground and others have disappeared.
It is also thought more graves are located along the hillside, covered in brush.
Without a private owner, the village has ownership of the cemetery. A handful of people over the past few years have helped keep grass and fallen limbs at bay, including village residents Roy Carpenter and former village councilman Nick Miller.
Coal Grove Mayor Larry McDaniel said he contacted the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus to determine what should be done about the bones that were washed out of their graves. He said the village was advised to get reports from the coroner and sheriff’s offices and rebury the remains, separately, and mark them.
It is likely the remains will be returned to the gully area, McDaniel said, where he plans to have the ground built up more and filled in. No date is set for reinternment.
For the future of the cemetery, McDaniel said he would like to see more done to keep the cemetery from continuing to deteriorate.
“I would like to identify it with a sign or some kind of marker,” McDaniel said. “Maybe have an archway with the name on it just so people would know.”
McDaniel also said he would like to clear the embankment to search for more headstones.
People wishing to volunteer to help maintain the cemetery are urged to call the village hall or McDaniel.