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Brooklyn Union Burying Ground
By Lynette Filips

William Cullen Bryant, as you know, is the name of one of our neighborhood elementary schools. Bryant was a 19th century American poet, and his most famous work is the poem "Thanatopsis". In it he wrote,

"All that tread the globe are but a handful to the tribes that slumber in its bosom."

How true! First the Indians, and then almost two hundred years of Brooklyn Township residents have been laid to rest in and around our neighborhood.

At different times in its history, the cemetery we come to rededicate today has been known as the Brainard (Brainerd) Burial Ground, Brooklyn Union Burial Ground, and Broadview Cemetery. It is one of the earliest burial places in the area of Brooklyn south of the Big Creek Valley and was originally part of a farm because in former times, people were often buried on private property.

Set and Delilah Brainard came to Brooklyn Township in 1815 from Hadden Neck, Connecticut. When Simeon Chester, another early settler, died in 1821, he was buried on the Brainards' farm. In 1852, the land became an official cemetery when Seth and Delilah granted .6 acres to trustees Daniel Fish, Ashel Brainard, George Brainard and successors, to be used as a public burying ground.

The deed transferring the 100' x 114' parcel to Brooklyn Township, though, is dated October 25, 1860, and since then, the land has been exempt from property taxes. A Provision in the deed states that if the land ceases to be used as a cemetery, it is to revert back to Brainard or his heirs. When they died, Seth and Delilah were buried in the cemetery, too.

Crosses or boards listing the name of the deceased and the date of death were typical grave markers in the early days. They have, of course, long since deteriorated.

Limestone from the Lake Erie Islands was another popular material for old headstones. A Limestone marker which lists Simeon, Matilda, Betsy and Abby remains at the Chester plot. (We believe that others have sunk into the ground.) The inscriptions are barely legible, the result of weather acting on the stones.

Numerous headstones at the cemetery are made from sandstone, which was most probably locally quarried. More recently headstones have been made from granite, a durable rock shipped here from out-of-state. About two years ago, a new granite headstone was placed at the previously unmarked graves of the Kluender family.

For a time it was fashionable for markers to have epitaphs -- short compositions in prose or verse written in tribute to the dead person -- inscribed on them, but none of the headstones still standing in this cemetery have epitaphs.

In the 1030s and again in the 1960s, researchers wrote down the location and name on every headstone in Broadview Cemetery -- Bunn, Hester, Dawson, McDiarmid, Reeve, Schwartz, Spinney, Stadler, Thorn and Voelker.

We have been told that more Brainards, Glovers, Roethkes, Stumpfs, Wengers, plus Flecks, Herrmanns and Pupikofers (and, of course, Kluenders) were also buried there. One of the Flecks, interred in 1923, is thought to be the last person laid to rest in this cemetery.

In 1940, the WPA compiled a huge book of plat maps showing where war veterans are buried in Cleveland cemeteries. It lists two such individuals in this cemetery -- Daniel Fish, a veteran of the War of 1812, and Charles H. Kohlmann, a veteran of the Civil War. And indeed two of the remaining family markers bear the names Fish and Kohlmann. Note that Fish and Kohlmann were not killed in the wars, but had served in them.

The surnames on the other old markers on plots in the cemetery are Reeve (on Chester's marker), McDiarmid, Spinney and Stadler. A broken-off marker bears the name Bunn.

When larger, more prestigious cemeteries were organized, it became common for families to move the remains of their loved ones. Bodies disinterred from Broadview Cemetery were generally transferred to: Brookmere (est. 1836), at the end of short Broadview; Riverside (est. 1876) on Pearl Road (then Pearl Street), north of the Brooklyn-Brighton Bridge; and Brooklyn Heights (est. 1902), at Broadview and Schaaf Roads, extending to State Road (then West 35th Street).

Disinterment was not an easy task in the days when there were no concrete vaults to protect the wooden caskets. Clay near the surface of the soil caused rainwater to collect around the casket, and eventually the water so deteriorated the casket that removing it in one piece was impossible. The sight of fragments of wood on the ground was a sure sign that someone had been exhumed recently.

The gravel driveway along the north side of the cemetery was the entrance funeral processions used. It was lined with sugar maple trees, some of which are still standing. Other maple trees also once grew along the front of the cemetery along Broadview Road. Every March, the cemetery's neighbors tapped the trees and hung buckets beneath the taps, to have their own source of the sweet syrup.

In the southwest corner of the cemetery, where Barb's Restaurant is today, there was a place for the people who were visiting the cemetery to park their horses and buggies. Although many people were concerned in 1962 when The Red Barn purchased that section of the property, the more common belief is that there were never any burials in that area. In fact, we have also been told that an icehouse was once located at the corner of Broadview and Spring Roads.

In the past, families decorated graves differently from the way people do today. Instead of bringing artificial or cut flowers, each spring they planted annuals on the graves.

Wildflowers -- violets and lilies-of-the-valley -- grew in the cemetery, too. A huge lilac bush stood in the center of it; an "old-timer" told us that it was as big as two garages, and had paths cut through it.

The cemetery also served as a playground for neighborhood youngsters. The girls played with their dolls, the boys played baseball and football (balls frequently got lost in that big lilac bush) and both sexes played tag. That is a far cry from the sign, which now mandates that children not accompanied by parents are to keep out.

Over the years, tales have circulated about a mass burial reputed to have occurred in this cemetery. In Kathryn Wilmer's second book about Old Brooklyn, the grave was supposed to have held the remains of the victims of a flood in the Cuyahoga Valley in the 1890s. (Actually, the famed flood occurred in 1913).

Another story was that at the turn of the century, a boat from Conneaut or thereabouts sank in Lake Erie near the East Ninth Street pier, and that those who drowned were buried here. Searches through books about boating tragedies on Lake Erie fail to confirm that such an accident occurred, or that the victims were buried out here in the country.

In 1913, Broadview Cemetery was forfeited to the State of Ohio, which asked the City of Cleveland to maintain it. For many years, that was accomplished through the City's Division of Parks, Recreation and Properties (out of Brookmere Cemetery). In approximately 1985, however, the City's Public Service Department took over the responsibility for cutting the grass.

In 1964 and 1965, The Early Settlers Association of the Western Reserve attempted to have the City fence in the cemetery and erect a sign there, but their efforts were not successful. In fact, Ohio Cemeteries, a 1978 publication of The Ohio Genealogical Society, lists Broadview Cemetery as "abandoned". Although that may have appeared to be the case, it is not reality.

The Historical Society of Old Brooklyn has been looking after his cemetery for almost ten years. We think it is as special a little plot of land as two other small cemeteries in the vicinity. They are the Foote Family Cemetery in Brooklyn Heights, north of Schaaf Road, a private burial ground where Edwin Foote (one of Moses Cleavelend's surveyors), Mabel Foote (the school teacher murdered in Parma in 1921), and numerous other members of the Foote family are buried; and the Brooklyn Centre Burying Grounds, almost hidden on Garden Avenue, a little street north of Denison Avenue and east of Pearl Road in Brooklyn Centre, once a portion of Ebenezer Fish's farm, and the final resting place of many of the early Fish settlers.

We would like to acknowledge the people, many of whom are now deceased, who have shared with us their knowledge about old cemeteries in general and this cemetery in particular -- John Bellamy from The Cuyahoga County Library, Mabel Tate Blair, John Busch, Blanche Chester, Paul Clifford of the Mineralogy Department of the Natural History Museum, Delores Kaul Filips, Ruth Ketteringham, Barney Killian, Clarke Martin, Kenneth Rankin, Carl Reed, John Sopka, Addeen Bauers Sweitzer, Norman Waag, and numerous public officials.

As long as our organization exists, we will continue to weed and water what we have planted here.

Reprinted with permission by the author.
June, 2002

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