July 23, 2016

Mostly clear

Return to Spring Grove: Eighth annual cemetery tour showcases grounds, chapel

MEDINA — With a brisk breeze pushing white clouds across a blue September sky and sunlight striking the first red and gold maple leaves, about 70 people took an autumn stroll through Spring Grove Cemetery.

They participated in the eighth annual “Return to Spring Grove Cemetery” historic walk presented by Friends of the Cemetery and hosted by the Medina County District Library on Saturday.

Spring Grove Cemetery opened in 1883 in Medina. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY JUDY A. TOTTS)

Spring Grove Cemetery opened in 1883 in Medina. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY JUDY A. TOTTS)

Friends trustee Cynthia Szun­yog said walking or driving through the park-like setting has been a pastime forMedina residents since the cemetery opened in 1883. On Sundays, she said, people would drive their best carriage and horses around the roads.

As Saturday’s group gathered near the newly restored sand­stone chapel, one of the proj­ects orchestrated by the Friends, Szunyog said the cemetery was a good place for people to walk their dogs, bird watch or visit the perennial gardens.

Some of the crowd attended because they have relatives buried there; others simply wanted to learn more about the cemetery.

“I ride my bike here,” said Linda Lavery of Medina, nod­ding at the smooth asphalt paths winding through the rows of grave markers. “I saw the pro­gram advertised in the library, and I’m interested in history.”

Szunyog sketched a brief his­tory of Spring Grove, adding that it earned a spot in the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. She explained that by the 1880s, the old city cemetery, located next to St.

Paul’s Episcopal Church on East Liberty Street, could no longer provide family burial plots.

The city purchased the land for Spring Grove and designed it to be beautifully landscaped with water features and winding roads in Victorian rural ceme­tery fashion. Burials took place in the rear wooded section, while workers transformed the frontage of the 34 acres formerly owned by C.B. Chamberlain from a cow pasture into a neatly kept lawn.

“It was not a dark, dreary place,” Szunyog said.

The first burial took place on Dec. 7, 1883. The Civil War sol­dier’s monument, erected in 1888, now stands in the middle of a graceful garden. By 1892, the cemetery’s Ladies Cemetery Association raised enough money to build the stone arch­way over the main entrance as well as the two pedestrian gates that flank it.

Sheltered by clusters of oaks and maples, gravestones dot the green expanse like pieces on a chessboard.

“The families, the people buried here… are the history of the community,” Szunyog said as the crowd headed for the first of five stations on the walk.

As in past programs, presen­ters stood at their family plots and talked about their ances­tors. Friends of the Cemetery trustee David Kellogg of Medina told his family’s story focusing on his father, Windsor Kellogg, who served Medina as a teacher for 17 years and as a judge for about 40.

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Jane Corbus of Lodi stood in the shadow of her ancestor Fair­fax Smith’s monument and compressed 220 years of the past into a 20-minute tale. She wore a horsehair necklace cro­cheted by her great-grand­mother, Elizabeth Fisher Smith, as she talked about Smith’s artistic endeavors and recounted other stories.

“My memories are not my own, they are my mother’s,” Corbus continued. Items like the hand-woven basket or the handful of silver spoons Corbus displayed for the crowd, trig­gered memories. For her, the cherry dropleaf kitchen table that remains a family treasure never fails to conjure images of Corbus’ great-grandfather sit­ting there, slurping coffee out of a saucer.

Corbus’ current project is sift­ing through and creating a timeline of 1,000 letters written by her father to her mother dur­ing World War II.

Trustee John Gill gave a short presentation on the Green fam­ily, and as the walk progressed, it provided an opportunity for the participants to see the new columbarium funded by the Edward C. Mears bequest, and the two lakes sponsored by the Letha House Foundation, proj­ects supported by the Friends.

At the Sylvester family plot, Szunyog talked about her ancestors, Francis and Cynthia Sylvester, as well as Franklin Sylvester, who at the turn of the last century provided money to build the library that eventually metamorphosed into the Med­ina Library.

As Teresa Merkle, president of Friends of the Cemetery, watched the crowd disperse, she said the group, formed in 1997, has a good working rela­tionship with the city to main­tain the lakes, trees and peren­nial gardens.

“And the Odd fellows main­tain the babies section,” she said.

Looking to the future, Merkle said projects that the Friends hope to tackle include bronze doors and stained-glass win­dows for the mausoleum, but they are “just putting together ideas and getting estimates now.”

Contact Judy A. Totts at jatotts1701@gmail.com.