Honoring deceased men and women who have touched their lives, Elmwood Cemetery in Middle Granville brings peace and harmony as the resting place of hundreds of individuals.
Looking back at the history of the area, roughly 30 Welsh families immigrated to the Middle Granville area to develop the slate quarry industry around 1850 all the way up to World War I.
Elmwood Cemetery was established in March of 1862 as a way to give families a proper burial site. The association overseeing the maintenance and upkeep of the cemetery and its properties provided a historical document pertaining to the history of Washington County.
“A cemetery association designed to embody the whole town and put an end to burials in small and unprotected grounds, was formed in Granville in March 1862,” the document read. “About 12 acres were bought near Middle Granville, and laid out by a landscape artist, Burton A. Thomas, forming a beautiful resting place for the dead.”
The modern-day overseers of the association and grounds directly across from the Middle Granville depot include president and treasurer Richard Chapman, vice president John Jones and secretary Richard Parker, along with a board of volunteers.
The trio of George Mcintyre, Joe Chapman and Greg Chapman serve as the groundskeepers for Elmwood. Greg Chapman primarily takes care of the Masonic Yard Cemetery and the Old Yard Cemetery in Middle Granville, which were recently approved by the Granville Town Board to have the Elmwood Cemetery Association be responsible for the maintenance and presentation of the abandoned cemeteries.
Typically, the preservation of abandoned cemeteries becomes the responsibility of the town the cemetery belongs to. Granville town supervisor Matt Hicks provided a map of more than 25 cemeteries in Granville and who is responsible for them.
“They’re all over the place, and some are not even a quarter-of-an-acre. They’re pretty small,” Hicks said. “Each one is a little bit different.”
What Hicks is referring to is that roughly half of the cemeteries in Granville belong to the town because they are abandoned. They require maintenance at least twice a year, despite the town making efforts to mow the grounds a couple times a month so people can conduct research.
The other half of cemeteries belong to privately owned cemetery associations, such as Elmwood, and churches in the area.
In the 18th and 19th centuries Granville served as a melting pot of cultures, with Byzantine, Italian and Irish Catholics all providing a dominant presence among other religious and ethnic groups.
Village Mayor Paul Labas said he grew up working in gravesites, as his family purchased the M.S. Strong monument industry in the 1930s.
“I started digging graves, 12-13 years old, for money,” Labas said. “I grew up working in the cemeteries.”
Labas, Jones, Parker and Richard Chapman touched on the history of the area, claiming there are several “hidden gems” in Granville.
Elmwood Cemetery serves as the final resting place for “at least 65 Civil War veterans” and Phil Hughes, the “Slate King of America.”
Marble headstones, although tricky to treat, are visible in the cemetery, along with several purple-slate tombstones.
The non-profit association was initially started with funds from the Brown family, directly related to Buster Brown Shoes. The $70,000 replaced bridge at the beginning of the cemetery just past three sectioned plots of graves is dedicated to the Brown family.
With 11 total sectioned plots already and two more on the way, and more than 50 acres of land to look after, Richard Chapman finds great pride in providing a peaceful resting place with a beautiful view for families and individuals.
“At this point, we’re keeping it so nice because we’ve made the improvements,” he said. “I’m just so happy to see it look so nice.”