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Green Lawn celebrates its founders
Men who started Green Lawn Cemetery were leaders in the community and performed a variety of jobs.
One hundred sixty years to the day that 39 men signed papers creating Green Lawn Cemetery Association as a nonprofit association, the Green Lawn Volunteers recognized the founding fathers at th First Saturday at Green Lawn program.
Just a month before its creation, the 39 men had signed a petition citing the need for a new cemetery, since the most prominent one - the North Graveyard where the North Market now stands - was nearing capacity.
Their first task after Aug. 2, 1848, was to elect a board of trustees to govern the association. They chose from their midst, William B. Hubbard, to be their first president.
The Utica, N.Y., native came from a family of lawyers and moved to Ohio when he was 21, volunteer Paula Hooks of Dublin told the audience at the Huntington Chapel. He settled in St. Clairsville and was elected to the Ohio Senate.
“He supported the building of railroads,” she said. “We could use his expertise today to help us with our transportation problems.”
While in the legislature, he helped write Ohio’s banking laws, she said.
When Hubbard moved to Columbus, he lived at High Street and Buttles Avenue and created a park-like setting at his home.
Hooks said he could easily work with architect Howard Daniels in helping create that park-like setting for the cemetery on the 83 acres of land that the trustees acquired two and a half miles from the Ohio Statehouse.
Volunteer Julie Black of Dublin admitted she was surprised by what she found when doing research to profile Joel Buttles who arrived in Ohio from Connecticut.
“He did so much,” she said of the young man whose family was among the settlers of Worthington in 1803. At the age of 15, young Joel Buttles began teaching.
Among his memories, Black found, was a notation that “no one realizes how much of a wilderness this place is - no mountains, no oceans.”
He served as a postmaster, shopkeeper and banker, Black discovered, and he also had 12 children, seven of whom died from the measles.
“He was the 120th person buried at Green Lawn, said Black who found that the children had been buried at the North Graveyard and later moved to Green Lawn.
The first burial at Green Lawn was in July 1849. Since then, about 150,000 people have been interred there, including Sam Medary, who made a name for himself not only in Ohio, but in other states.
He founded several newspapers and often used them to promote the Democratic Party.
“He was born a Democrat and died a Democrat,” said Westside resident Patricia Marie, who profiled Medary.
Medary, who served in both chambers of the Ohio Legislature, headed Ohio’s delegation to the Democratic National Convention when James K. Polk was the party’s nominee. He was the party’s national chairman when James Buchanan was nominated.
His standing within the party may have helped him attain positions of territorial governor of Minnesota and then Kansas. He lost the bid for governor when Kansas attained statehood.
Medary returned to Columbus and founded the Ohio Crisis, a newspaper that opposed the Civil War. He criticized, in writing, some purchases that Mary Todd Lincoln had made during her husband’s administration.
When Medary died, he was under indictment for treason, accused of conspiracy against the governor. Ironically, his death came the day before Lincoln was elected to his second term in 1864. He died before he could face trial.
So strong a Democrat he was that his monument at Green Lawn was donated by the Ohio Democratic Party and erected a year after his death, Marie said.
Closing out the profiles was librarian Scott Caputo who came to the program dressed as Fernando Kelton, whose family home on East Town Street is a local landmark. Kelton, according to Caputo, married his boss’s daughter, Sophia.
Kelton was working for the Stone family in dry goods and eventually the son, John, took over the store.
Kelton and his son Oscar often spoke out against slavery.
“I abhorred it. It was a shame to Americans,” Caputo said in the voice of Kelton.
When Oscar Kelton went off to war, his father closed letters with “we pray for their safe return.”
The elder Kelton did not have that satisfaction. Oscar was killed in the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads during the War and is remembered with a military marker beside his parents’ monument at Green Lawn.
The legacy of the four men profiled at the program lives on today in that all four have streets named for them. In addition, Hubbard and Medary had schools named for them.
Green Lawn has grown from the original purchase of 83 acres to 360 today, with 80 of those acres yet to be developed. Green Lawn is one of the few cemeteries that has an active volunteer program. Volunteers offer First Saturday at Green Lawn every month. The next program, Sept. 6, will focus on Alexis Keeler, a member of the force when Columbus went from the marshal system to police. Presenting the program will be Steve Daoust, who discovered during a title search of his home in Olde Town East that Keeler was the original owner.
The program that presents some history behind who is buried at the area’s largest cemetery, begins at 11 a.m. in the Huntington Chapel, is free and open to the public.
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