BLUFFTON — Many residents spoke during the Bluffton Village Council meeting Monday concerning the removal of headstones from Shannon Cemetery.
However, Mayor Judy Augsburger promised that the village is weighing the issue and that there have not been any plans set in stone regarding the property purchased by the village from Richland Township in 2010.
The cemetery had its most recent burial in the 1860s, and included two Revolutionary War veterans, according to Tracy McIlroy, who is spearheading an attempt to preserve the cemetery.
The cemetery had fallen into disrepair. Resident Dick Boehr had started a movement to do something with the cemetery several years ago, and plans have included a possible park or memorial in the area. As Boehr and others worked on the project, several broken tombstones were put in a pile. However the effort brought some strong responses from others, saying the grave markers should be stored and that placing a gazebo or parking lot over where someone’s resting place may possibly be is “disgusting.”
McIlroy presented a petition to the council saying it contained 432 signatures from residents or from people with descendants buried at the site. She said that money spent already on the project could have restored the cemetery five times over.
“In 1937, there will still 125 stones standing,” McIlroy said. “We want to see the area preserved and memorize it as a historical marker.”
McIlroy, like several others who spoke at the meeting, said they have family members buried in the cemetery and would like to see headstones restored.
“I think it is sad that council has let it get this far,” resident Steve Kindle said. “You have taken away our abilities to pay our respects to ancestors. The stones should be refurbished and replaced.
Councilman Roger Warren brought some residents to task, saying everyone’s intentions were good concerning the park.
“The village decided to take possession in 2010,” Warren said. “Our intentions were good. Give us your names and phone numbers and volunteer to help.”
Augsburger said the village plans to put a commission together and look into the issue thoroughly before making any plans. She said people may be rushing to conclusions on what would be a “park” in the area and that a plan showing a drawing of a possible park was “very preliminary.”
“No decisions have been made on what will be done,” Augsburger said. “We plan on putting together the commission to look into it and I am very happy with everyone’s input.
Possible ideas have included placing a memorial on the site, including a potential walking path on the non-cemetery portion of the land and a bronze plaque offering a permanent memorial of the names of those confirmed buried there, with help from the Allen County Historical Society.