If the gravestones in the Sylvania Township Association Cemetery could talk, they probably would have a lot to say.
The history inside the cemetery gates spans important historical events, from the 1830s to the Civil War to modern day.
But only a few people know the stories behind the notables who are buried there. Sylvania Area Historical Society member Mimi Malcolm is one of them.
“It’s neat walking back in history,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in history. It’s almost a different culture from what we live in today.
“All they had really was their faith in God.”
Ms. Malcolm has spent time compiling a list of the Civil War veterans who are buried in the Convent Boulevard cemetery. She said it was once thought that there were not that many, but so far, she has found 62.
Polly Cooper, who now lives in Whiteford, has family members buried in the cemetery, and said the oldest burials date to 1835.
The earliest deed records show the cemetery changing hands from Aaron Watkins to Enos Beall on June 16, 1834.
Then, just two years later in 1836, Mr. Beall sold it to Shadrach W. Allen, who sold it to the township in 1861.
Many of the aged tombstones are in need of repair, and some reconstruction is done by the township road department.
Occasionally the cemetery is vandalized, so the gates are locked at night by the township police department.
Historical society member and author Gaye Gindy said the original map of Sylvania drawn up in 1835 shows the cemetery. The township also has records of who is buried there, although the records are riddled with inconsistencies.
“Another reason why the records are so messed up is because people were already buried here in 1861, when the township decided to make it into a public cemetery. So when they marked out this whole thing ... there were already people buried there,” Ms. Gindy said, adding that when some of the grave sites were dug up, it was found that multiple people were buried in the same spot.
“A lot of families were mad. They weren’t happy,” she said.
The situation is not an uncommon one in older cemeteries, however, Ms. Gindy said, and there are many unknown sites.
“In the late ’60s, they rented a sound machine ... and if the sounding machine indicated there was something down there — it could have been a root, it could have been a person — then they would just mark it as unknown.”
Sylvania-area notables are buried in the cemetery. Gen. David White, who co-founded Sylvania and was the first supervisor of Whiteford Township (which ultimately named itself in his honor), as well as Judge William Wilson, co-founder of Sylvania, have memorial stones.
“Shortly after he laid out the town, he died,” Ms. Gindy said of Judge Wilson.
Ms. Cooper said other well-known families are buried at the cemetery. The names include Celestia Burnham, namesake of Burnham High School and park.
“This was named after her family,” she said. “Celestia was Henry Burnham’s wife, and she donated the property where Plummer Pool is, and Burnham Park.”
Ms. Gindy said it is a common misconception that the park was named after Mrs. Burnham’s husband, when in reality, it was Mrs. Burnham who owned the property.
“Ah, the men get all the glory,” Ms. Malcolm added.