My Ohio: Volunteers at old cemetery honor those buried there, although few tombstones mark graves

Cemetery in Lorain County is steeped in history

BROWNHELM TOWNSHIP, Ohio - When Bill Cutcher walks across the plot of land just off Lake Road in Brownhelm Township, he does so with a sense of honor for what is beneath the surface of the land where he steps.

While there are few few tombstones, Cutcher knows the land is the burial site of more than 120 burials, some dating as far back as early 1800s.

Cutcher and others with the Brownhelm Historical Association work to cut away the overgrowth when it encroaches on the few tombstones which bear the names of those buried here.

Brown's Lake Road Cemetery in the Lorain County community of Brownhelm Township was forgotten for decades. It has been found, forgotten, and found again through its many generations of existence.

"I want to pay tribute to them," said Cutcher, placing an American flag on the grave of Bildad Belden, a veteran of the Revolutionary War who fought the British when Belden lived in Connecticut.

Belden later moved to Lorain County and died in 1824.

"Nobody should be forgotten," said Cutcher.

The tombstone over Belden's grave is one of the few in Brown's Lake Road Cemetery, named in memory of Col. Henry Brown. Brown was also a Revolutionary War soldier who is credited with founding Brownhelm Township. Cutcher, his wife, Bonnie, and Lucy Johnson are members of the Brownhelm Historical Association which works to preserve the cemetery.

"Ancestors that came out from Connecticut and bought plots of land in Ohio wanted to make a better life for themselves," said Cutcher, pointing to the many burials in the Lorain County soil.

Several years ago, historic human remains detection dogs were brought to the cemetery to pinpoint where bodies were buried. Cutcher said three different dogs on separate occasions pointed out where bodies were buried, although there were no tombstones.

"We got 123 hits of bodies buried here," said Cutcher.

When the bodies were buried in the cemetery, there probably were wooden tombstones, but because generations of weather and the breakdown of wood, those tombstones disappeared.

Members of the Brownhelm Historical Association cut away the long grasses. They work with the city of Vermilion, a few miles away, to keep the old cemetery neat. Johnson does not want the burials forgotten.

"If it's buried and nobody sees it, nobody knows it's here," she said. "I don't want to see the cemetery forgotten again."

On a rainy afternoon, Bonnie Cutcher walked the cemetery grounds. She used a cane to balance her steps as she paid silent tribute to the memory of the people who help found Lorain County when they followed Col. Brown from Connecticut.

"When we walk over a person's grave, they are saying to us, 'I'm glad you came today for a visit,'" she said.

Between the city of Vermilion and volunteers from the historical association, there is an effort to keep the old cemetery a respectful place.

Although only a few grave markers made of stone still exist, they know many more burials exist beneath the surface. Because there are no official plot records for any of the graves in this cemetery, some of the scattered headstones will never be properly positioned atop their true graves.

But that does not bother the volunteers who walk through the cemetery, pausing every few steps, quietly giving honor to those buried in the old cemetery which was forgotten but remembered again.

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