researcher Chris Gerrett has identified about 45 burials made
in a section of Fairview Cemetery that cannot be found on any
maps. (West Life photo by Kevin Kelley)
stumbles onto mystery at Fairview Cemetery
By Kevin Kelley
Published March 31, 2010
a genealogy researcher who has been conducting research on Fairview
Park Cemetery, has come to a startling conclusion about the graveyard,
located on Lorain Road near West 196th Street.
Part of it is
Gerrett, a Fairview
Park resident and cemetery restoration specialist, estimates she’s
spent about 2,000 hours researching the cemetery. During that research,
she’s come across records of individuals buried in section I of
is, none of the maps of the cemetery show section I.
About 45 persons
were buried in section I between 1889 and 1905. The earliest map
of the cemetery Gerrett has found is from 1916. The question is
what happened to section I between 1905 and 1916.
sections, which have several people with the same family name, section
I includes a variety of names.
a few children,” Gerrett said of the section I records.
to these people is a mystery, she said.
explanations exist for the missing section.
corner of Fairview Cemetery. (West Life photo by Larry Bennet)
“My best guess is it’s off the back,” Gerrett said,
referring to the southern-most section of the cemetery, which borders
the Rocky River Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks. More than
a century ago, the back sections of cemeteries were reserved for
indigents, she said.
another possibility is that persons buried in section I were later
reburied in other sections of the cemetery. But no records have
been found to indicate this, she said.
“By no means
am I saying these people are missing,” Gerrett said.
Will the mystery
ever be solved? Gerrett, for one, is not giving up on finding the
“I’m going to
continue to pursue it,” she told West Life.
she first became interested in the cemetery while attending Memorial
Day services there with her children years ago. Over the years,
she’s taken 3,000 photos of the cemetery’s tombstones.
was established when Francis Granger, president of the Connecticut
Land Company, donated the land around 1830. As was the custom at
the time, some bodies that had been buried on a family farm were
later relocated to the cemetery, Gerrett said, meaning some bodies
have dates of death from before the establishment of the cemetery.
The sign at
the cemetery, which reads “Fairview Park Cemetery,” is incorrect,
“The true name
is Fairview Cemetery,” said Gerrett, who added the graveyard was
once called Rockport Cemetery.
That’s not the
only incorrect information at the cemetery, she said. In cemeteries
more than a century old, roughly 30 percent of the information on
the tombstones of buried individuals is inaccurate, Gerrett said.
Grandchildren burying grandparents often guessed at their ages,
gave a presentation on the history of the cemetery to the Fairview
Park Historical Society. And last week, she met with Mayor Eileen
Patton to share her documentation and volunteer to restore 10 headstones
in conjunction with the city’s centennial this year. She also plans
on giving tours of the cemetery during the Saturday of Summerfest,
the city’s summer festival.
several military veterans are buried in Fairview Cemetery. She wants
to identify if any veterans are buried there without a headstone.
The federal government will pay for a headstone for veterans lacking
one, Gerrett said. But the request must be made either by a relative
of the deceased or the owner of the cemetery, in this case, the
city of Fairview Park.
When asked to
describe the condition of the cemetery, Gerrett responded, “It’s
a cemetery that has a lot of character.” She went on to explain
family plots are laid out in different ways in different sections.
The last burial
in Fairview Cemetery took place in 2009, Gerrett said. The deceased’s
remains had been cremated, she said.
is considered closed, Gerrett said, in that no plots are available.
“Not every plot
was sold,” Gerrett said. “And they are not selling them.”
About 600 gravesites
exist in the two-acre cemetery, Gerrett said. The headstones had
been quarried in Medina, she said.
doing well at maintaining it,” she said.
The most famous
resident buried there, in Gerrett’s opinion, is John Place Spencer,
an early settler of the area. Members of other prominent families,
such as the Masticks and the Jordons, are also buried there, she
said. The two World War I soldiers — Frederick Gilles and John Sweet
— after whom the public elementary school is named, also have their
resting places there.
began her research on the cemetery about three years ago, said she
expects to spend another three years on research. She plans to donate
her data to the Fairview Park Historical Society.
some people would say it’s sort of creepy to spend as much time
as she does in cemeteries. But Gerrett said she enjoys the variety
of work involved, including computer work, genealogy research and
restoration of the gravestones.
“It’s very quiet
and peaceful when you get to these places,” she said.