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Research continues on headstone from 1781 found on Cuyahoga River near Cuyahoga Falls

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Posted at 5:10 PM, Jun 15, 2022

CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — For the first time, residents were able to take an up close look at the headstone from the 1700’s found along the banks of the Cuyahoga River earlier this year.

As News 5 first reported, the headstone, etched with the name Thadius Peck (1711-1781), was discovered by Richard and John Ryan on April 18 as they were walking along the river looking for an old fishing spot. The two came across an "odd-shaped stone" in a clearing across from the river and took a closer look. They cleaned off the muck and moss that had grown on it, and realized it wasn't just a flat rock but a headstone for someone who had been dead for 241 years.

Residents were able to view the headstone at a recent open house at the historical society.

“It’s pretty neat,” John Ryan explained. “I hope it sheds some light on where it came from and who was around here in the 1700s.”

The stone is so old, it predates the founding of Cuyahoga Falls by three decades. It's even older than the Connecticut Western Reserve's settlement in the area that was founded in 1796.

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1842 map of the Western Reserve.

“To find something so unique and so out of the ordinary that really does change the history of the area is pretty incredible,” Shawn Andrews with the Cuyahoga Falls Historical Society, said.

Andrews told News 5 they’re still working to determine the origin and backstory behind the tombstone, but says the name “Peck” does match up with the pioneer days of Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson and Stow.

“To think there was someone here who was traveling through that passed away or is this a monument to someone, it changes the history of the area,” she added.

A rewrite of the history books, but not the first time that’s happened in Cuyahoga Falls when it comes to a gravestone, or lack thereof.

Last year, News 5 highlighted how new information revealed a stretch of unmarked graves at Oakwood Cemetery housed the final resting place of John Hansparker and his family.

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“That was another exciting discovery,” Andrews said. “He was really a well known character in this area. He was a formerly enslaved African American who made his way here from the south.”

Since making the initial discovery, the historical society worked to raise enough money to properly honor the family.

“[The family was] agents of social change which was pretty incredible at that time,” Andrews added.

Now, a celebration of life for the Hansparker family and placement of a memorial headstone is slated for this weekend on Juneteenth, a day marking the end of slavery in the United States.

That event is scheduled to take place at First Christian Cuyahoga Falls beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday. For more information, click here.