The Richland County – Shelby Chapter
Of The Ohio Genealogical Society


 
Wilson - May Cemetery
(Old Shelby Cemetery)
 
 
The "Old Shelby Cemetery" was located on a lot just south of the existing home on 24 High School Avenue. This property was originally sold by our government on December 28, 1814 to William Davis of Tuscarawas County, Ohio. Mr. Davis was probably one of many land speculators of that time who lived at a distance and purchased the land at the Wooster Land Office with the intent of reselling it later at a profit. He paid $320 for the 160 acres described as: SE 1/4 of Section 8, Range 19, Township 22.
 
 
Location of the Leonard May Land (1856)
 
 
William would continue to hold this land until October 28, 1828, when he and his wife Mary would sell this 160 acre parcel (for $400) to Leonard May of Bedford Co., Pa. By the 1830 census, Leonard and his family of 12 were now living in Sharon Township, Richland County, Ohio, most likely on this property purchased from William and Mary Davis. (See the highlighted area in the 1856 map - above). (Son John May's obituary states that he moved from Bedford County, Pa. to the Shelby area with his family in 1828).
 
Leonard May was born in Loudoun County, Virginia in 1784, a child of John Andrew and Maria Sophia Exline May. Their family moved from Loudoun County to Bedford County and settled in the Colerain Township area where Leonard's father, John Andrew, died in 1826. This may have been the impetus behind Leonard's purchase of the 160 acres in Sharon Township.
 
On May 11, 1833 Leonard and wife Catherine Wertz May sold to James Smith, Robert Kerr, Calvin Clark, and Aaron Rambo (Trustees of the Sharon Township Presbyterian Congregation of Richland County) for the sum of 50 cents (paid in hand) a parcel of land (approximately one acre) located on the original 160 acres. This was the parcel of land where the first Shelby Presbyterian log church was built and later the frame structure that is still a part of what was to become the Shelby Ice and Fuel Company located along what was then called "McClure's Road" and then South Broadway and now Mansfield Avenue.
 
On June 1, 1835 Leonard and wife Catherine sold (for the sum of $5.00) to the Sharon Township Trustees, approximately 1/3 acre of land situated in the NW corner of their 160 acre parcel in Section 8, for the purpose of a "public burying ground". The first parcel was 280 feet by 50 feet and was located in the exact NW corner of the May property shown on the 1856 map above. (This parcel was expanded to 280 feet by 150 feet in the years following.) In all the following maps, the direction North will be toward the top of the page.
 
Since the several of the still existing gravestones, predate 1835, this agreement must have been for the purpose of formalizing what was already taking place. These legalities would place the maintenance of the already existing "public burying ground" in the hands of the Sharon Township Trustees.
 
Examples:
John Cox son of J. and J (Joseph and Jane) Cox - died October 21, 1832
Sarah (Hedges) wife of Joseph Cox - died May 26, 1830
 
Most of these stones are badly worn and difficult to read, but the evidence points to the fact that the cemetery had been informally established while the land was owned by the absentee landlord William Davis and the fact of it being a "public burying ground" was declared by the sale of the tract for this specific purpose to the Township Trustees.
 
 
1870 Tax Map - SE 1/4 of Section 8, Range 19, Township 22T
(Tax Maps Courtesy of the Richland County Tax Map Office)
 
 
 
Leonard May died December 8, 1856 not long after the 1856 map was published. He and his wife Catherine are buried in the London Cemetery.
 
In 1868 the Oakland Cemetery Association was organized and land obtained to start a "New Shelby Cemetery".
 
In 1870 Catherine Wertz May was living with her daughter and son in law, Edmund and Mary Shutt. Three of Leonard and Catherine's children: Jonathon, Paul and Leonard Jr. are living on the original 160 acre parcel. By 1870 the original 160 acre SE 1/4 of Section 8 was divided as shown on the above 1870 Sharon Township tax map.
 
Catherine Wertz May passed away November 8, 1875 and over the succeeding years portions of the 1/4 section of the May property passed out of the May family. The burying ground that Leonard and Catherine "sold" to the Sharon Township Trustees continued to be used as a cemetery but the majority of burials were now being made at the Oakland Cemetery and the Wilson/May cemetery became known merely as the "Old Cemetery".
 
 
 
 
 
 
1930 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map
In 1918, the Shelby Printing Company and the Simple Account Sales Book Company of Fremont, Ohio consolidated their operations and became known as the Shelby Salesbook Company.
 
The combined companies were located on High School Avenue just south of the "old cemetery".
 
As the company grew and prospered over the next decade they continued to require additional space and by 1930 they had grown to the south, across the small stream that flows into the Black Fork from the east.
 
To the east was the B&O railroad tracks that were handy for shipping purposes but very confining.
 
To the west was High School Avenue and to the north the company was beginning to push against the south edge of the
"old cemetery".
 
 
 
Why was it called the "Wilson Cemetery?
 
 
 
If the property was owned by William Davis from 1814 to 1828 and then by Leonard May until he sold it to Sharon Township, why was it refereed to as the Wilson Cemetery? A check of the 1830 and 1840 censuses shows that Leonard May's name was listed next to Eli Wilson in both. This would indicate a likeihood that they lived adjacent to each other. Further checking of the land records indicate that the NE 1/4 of Section 8, range 19, Township 22 was originally sold to Michael Newman in 1815 and he sold it to Eli Wilson c. 1818. Eli Wilson first built a log cabin on the west side of the Black Fork but by c. 1833 he sold that land and built a larger "mansion" in the "East Shelby" area. It was located along what is now Mansfield Avenue, but since he was planning on the arrival of the first railroad through Shelby on what then was his property, he situated his home facing west adjacent to what was first, the Monroeville and Sandusky City R. R., and would eventually become the Baltimore & Ohio. Due to his close proximity and coupled with the fact that Eli Wilson had arrived in the Shelby area at least 10 years prior to Leonard May, and was instrumental in helping establish early Shelby (Gamble's Mill) the first "burying ground" was likely named for him. Additionally, at the time of Eli Wilson's death, Leonard May had passed away 4 years previous and was buried in London Cemetery. Eli Wilson was born August 29, 1789 in Connecticut. He died June 17, 1860 in Shelby, Ohio was buried in this "old Shelby Cemetery" (Wilson - May) and was later moved to Oakland Cemetery.
 
Eli is often referred to as "General" Wilson in early Shelby newspaper articles that spoke of his involvement in Shelby history. Shelby's first newspaper "The Shelby Pioneer" was being published at the time of his death, but those issues that may have included his obituary have not survived and so no additional "light" can be gleaned in that manner. It can be speculated that since he served as a corporal in the War of 1812 in Connecticut before moving to Shelby, he was given the title "General" as an honor for his service to his country and later to the Shelby community.
 
 
 
What became of the Wilson / May Cemetery on High School Avenue?
 
 
 
As WWII was coming to a close in late 1944, these articles appeared in the Shelby Daily Globe:
 
 

 BUYS CEMETERY - SALESBOOK COMPANY SUBMITS SOLE BID TO CITY - The old cemetery property adjoining the Shelby Salesbook was sold to that company today on the only bid received. The Salesbook company offered a sealed bid of $1,000 and any additional sum necessary to pay for the removal of contents of graves and markers, purchase of necessary land for re-interment of contents of graves and re-storing markers to the City of Shelby for the old cemetery land north of present property on High School avenue.
The removal of the bodies and their re-interment will be under the direction of the City and will start as soon as some one can be found to do the work. Mayor F. C. Long has pledged that the removal and re-inrerment shall be done carefully and in a respectful manner.
DAILY GLOBE, Shelby, Ohio, Wednesday, October 25, 1944.
Submitted by Terry Wilson
 
 
 

CITY COUNCIL REJECTS BID - CEMETERY PROPERTY TO BE RE-ADVERTISED; CALL OFFER "AMBIGUOUS" - Action taken by city council last night rejected the sole bid on the sale of the old cemetery on High School avenue as submitted by the Shelby Salesbook Company and decision was reached to re-advertise and resell the property.
The bid received by the city on October 25 which provided for the offer of "$1,000 and any additional sum necessary to pay for the removal of contents of graves and markers, purchase of necessary land for re-interment of contents of graves ..." was rejected by the council in concurrence with an opinion by Director of Law Theodore Lutz that the bid was "ambiguous, and does not conform to the legal provisions of the advertisement."
Although it was revealed last night by Mayor F. C. Long that $100 of the bid was intended by the company to go toward the purchase of the property and the rest and any additional sum necessary was to go toward the re-interment of the contents of graves and markers, the council held that the bid was not sufficiently concise and moved that the property be re-advertised.
Mayor Long said there are 38 graves and markers clearly in evidence in the cemetery that adjoins the northern boundary of the Salesbook Company. It is understood the Salesbook Company intended using the property for expansion purposes.
The council approved an application for a permit to build a 28x30 foot brick building to the rear of the Knights of Pythias building at an approximate cost of $1,200.
DAILY GLOBE, Shelby, Ohio, Tuesday, November 7, 1944.
Submitted by Terry Wilson
 
 
 

The Daily Globe - December 15, 1944
 
 
 
When exactly was the cemetery moved? Sometime between mid 1945 and 1949.
 
 
 
 
The Tax Maps below indicate by 1949 the Shelby Salesbook Company had completed the Wilson / May Cemetery move.
 
 

 

 1925 Shelby Tax Map
 

 1949 Shelby Tax Map
(Tax Maps Courtesy of the Richland County Tax Map Office)
 
 
 
The 1925 map on the left shows the old cemetery on the east side of High School Avenue. The 1949 map on the right indicates that the cemetery property (outlined in blue) has been combined with the property to the south (The Shelby Salesbook Company). As an added interest, note the trolley car line running along the east side of the Black Fork on the 1925 map.
 
 
 
 
But when exactly was it moved ?
 
To be continued.........
 
 
 
 
 
Wilson Cemetery Section at the Oakland Cemetery
 
 
 
The above photo was taken of "Old Shelby Cemetery" after being moved from it's original location
just south of the residence at 24 High School Ave. to the back of Oakland cemetery. Some of the
oldest stones in the immediate Shelby area are included in this grouping.
 
 
 
 
 
One of Shelby's Founding Fathers
 
 
 
James Gambel / Gamble
(1760 - 1841)
 

 
The plaque above the stone reads:
 
 Corp. James Gambel
 
A Soldier of the
Revolutionary War
New York Militia
 

The stone reads:
 
In Memory of
James Gamble
who departed this life
June 1, 1841,
aged 81 years, 5 months
& 1 d.
 

 
Gamble School
 
 
If you have information that you would like to contribute to this page, please contact us.
 

Copyright © 2000 - 2008 Richland County - Shelby Chapter of The Ohio Genealogy Society