Monday, Jun 18, 2018
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Booklet brings past to life: Historian unearths stories of notables at Woodlawn


Fred Folger has written 'Buried Treasures of Toledo: Notable People Laid to Rest in Historic Woodlawn Cemetery.' It includes the story of the monument to John Gunckel, in the background.

The Blade/Lori King
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Fred Folger figures every stone at Historic Woodlawn Cemetery has an interesting story to tell. In most cases, though, those stories are buried along with the deceased.

Mr. Folger, a local historian and member of the cemetery's board of trustees, has uncovered more than 100 of those stories, which he has compiled in a booklet, Buried Treasures of Toledo: Notable People Laid to Rest in the Historic Woodlawn Cemetery, now available at the cemetery office. The list includes industrialists, artists, activists, and soldiers, and it guides visitors to the sections of the cemetery where they are buried.

Said Robert Harden, Woodlawn's executive director and chief executive officer: "We like to say we're Toledo's outdoor museum, which really is true."

The first draft of the booklet contains basic facts about 96 men, 12 women, and one monument.

"It's kind of a mix because we have people from all walks of life," Mr. Folger said. "For instance, we have a number of mayors, including our most famous mayor, Samuel 'Golden Rule' Jones. We also have the large GAR [Grand Army of the Republic] monument that was placed for the Civil War soldiers from Lucas County that dates back to 1901."

The monument, a 65-foot obelisk similar to that at Fort Meigs, stands over the graves of 195 soldiers, which are arranged in the shape of a five-pointed star, the form of the Grand Army of the Republic's medal.

DeVilbisses, Knights, Libbeys, Secors, and Stranahans are buried at Woodlawn. Also interred there are Gloria Steinem's grandmother, Pauline Perlmutter Steinem, a suffragist who became the first woman elected to public office in Toledo, and Elizabeth "Liz" Pierson, well-known leader of Toledo's Block Watch program.

Also buried at Woodlawn is David Ross Locke, a former editor and publisher of The Blade who is best remembered for his Nasby Letters that supported President Lincoln and, after the Civil War, continued to call for social justice and reform.

Mr. Folger said some notable people buried at Woodlawn happen to have notable grave markers, which made them naturals for his booklet.

Among them is John Gunckel, who founded the Newsboys Association in 1892 to help rescue wayward youths from the streets. When Mr. Gunckel died in 1915, newsboys, other children, and other Toledoans touched by his work brought some 30,000 cobblestones and rocks to create a 26-foot-tall pyramid to mark his grave, Mr. Folger said.

The retired history teacher concedes he had no scientific method for determining who went into the Buried Treasures guide. He has been giving tours of the cemetery and teaching local history classes for years, which provides plenty of material to start with. He said he also consulted a list compiled by a University of Toledo class of notables among those buried at Woodlawn, did research at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, and read lots of obituaries.

"This will be ongoing because some people will say, 'Why don't you have so-and-so on the list?'•" Mr. Folger said. "They'll make it. It's just a matter of getting it all in place. We'll just have to add the new name and basic facts."

Mr. Harden concurred.

"We have 65,000 people buried here, and everyone has a story," he said. "Everyone should be memorialized. Everyone has a legacy. We tried to pick out the ones that were most interesting or names that might be familiar to people because they've been in Toledo all their lives. There were no other criteria than that yet."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

or 419-724-6129.

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