St. Vincent Catholic Cemetery
Sheffield Village, Lorain County, Ohio
What Happened at St Vincent Cemetery
Short story told by Bridget Shindler and related by her daughter Judith Wilson Mr. and Mrs. Shindler purchased the property on the west side of St. Vincent Cemetery in 1945.
In 1945 St Vincent Cemetery was so overgrown, my parents, Bud and Bridget Shindler did not realize they had just purchased property next to a cemetery.
Finding the paths that wound their way through the cemetery was the key to seeing the graves. It was overgrown with trees and thick with briars. Daffodils and lilacs still bloomed there and there and myrtle was thick.
The entrance to the cemetery was not easily seen so our driveway welcomed many visitors both local and from afar. My mother, Bridget Shindler greeted them all and helped them find their way in.
At one time Fr. O'Dea of St Peters on 17th St in Lorain came out to see the cemetery and talked to my mother and wanted to know what she knew about it. Another time, Father Duffy (not Ahearn my mother stated) of St Mary's in Lorain stopped out to see the cemetery, talked to my mother and asked more questions. Each time she showed them some of the sunken graves and the stones that you could get to as it was very overgrown. She showed him the area that was surrounded by an old iron fence, partially still standing and inside were all the graves (little stones and lambs) where the babies were buried. She said there were about 30 or so of these little stones.
In approximately 1954 or 1955 a bulldozer and some trucks and other equipment drove into the cemetery entrance (way half way down between the property lines facing North Ridge Rd). They told us the Diocese of Cleveland had given Calvary Cemetery orders to clear the cemetery out. They started bulldozing trees and pushing them to the back southeast corner of the cemetery where we didn't think any graves were at. The stones were moved around as they cleared it out and eventually all the stones were lined up along our driveway (on the west side of the cemetery property line) in a long line, some piled on top of one another- all laying flat. They told my mother they were going to clear it all out and make it really nice and plant grass and put all the stones back flat. My mother said to them "how are you going to replace these stones since you've removed them and put them back where they belong. They said not to worry, they'll put them back according to the map. She said she understood that the cemetery map was lost? The said "oh they didn't think so" and said "they'll do it".
They told my mother they put a notice in the paper saying people should come and claim the stones but my mother said she read the paper everyday and did not see it.
One man happened to drive by as they were bulldozing and stopped, as his grandfather was buried there. (Burgett). He told them that was his grandfather and if they moved the stone he would sue them - so they left it alone and it stayed standing.
The cemetery was then planted with grass and a few trees were left standing including a maple tree (northwest front area of cemetery) where all the babies were buried around. The stones stayed piled along our driveway for several weeks. The cemetery was now green with grass and done. My mother and dad left for vacation for 2 weeks. When they got back the stones that were piled up all along the driveway, maybe 40 to 60 stone she thought (not including the 30 or so baby stones which she was not sure where they were) were all gone except for about 13 or 15 that were now laid flat in a line parallel to our property line and of course Burgett's stone was left standing. There was a dumpsite on Ford Road on the south side of the road- closer to where it came out on West River and we wondered if that's where they dumped the stones.
When they were bulldozing the cemetery an old neighbor, Mr. Jens, who lived two houses to the west of us, (his son and daughter in law lived in Smith's house) told us that only one grave was moved from the cemetery (this was long before the cemetery was cleared out and even before my parents had brought their house in 1945) and he lived here for years too. My mother's father, who lived with us at the same time, said he saw one coffin get pulled up by bulldozer but they put it back.
St. Vincent Cemetery is in Sheffield Township but in those days was referred to as Stop 7. A lot of Hungarians lived in this area and many of the gravestones may have been written in Hungarian. As a child I remembered seeing 1910 on one of the stones. We were never sure if others went beyond that or not.. Even after the cemetery was leveled and grassed over, mounds appeared in the ground and I remember another spot sinking and we assumed that was a sunken grave.
Over the years several from a group from the Historical Society from Sheffield Village (?) use to come out and look at the stones - write down dates and my brother would go out and pull the grass around them so they could read them.
Mavis Darcy, retired teacher from Clearview High School, once gave her students a project at the cemetery. They cleared the grass from the graves that remained flat in the ground and did rubbings to try and decipher the names. We do not believe the project included any research.