By Robert Connelly
The last two remaining plots at Dean Hill Cemetery in Canfield Township have been reserved by a descendant of the cemetery’s founders.
A county surveyor last week helped the township plot a remaining cemetery section.
George Dean of Illinois said he grew up hearing stories of his family from his father and uncle, who traced their roots back to the Deans who founded Dean Hill Cemetery across the street from their farmhouse near North Palmyra and South Turner roads.
Dean, who grew up in Edwardsville, Ill., said he had a business trip in Canton about a year and a half ago and ran into a resident who gave him some background while exploring the area where his family lived.
The cemetery is named after his ancestor William Dean, who traveled from Connecticut to Canfield by wagon in 1810.
“That kind of got me to look at the family history and I did some things online,” he said. Dean added that William Dean along with some of his family members are buried there, and he is the fifth generation of the family.
He had kept in touch with the resident, who alerted him that Dean Hill was filling up its remaining spots.
Dean, by phone, reserved the last two spots in the center section of Dean Hill, where the oldest graves of the cemetery are and most likely some of his family rest.
“After I’ve done all this research, I feel like I kind of know these people,” Dean said of some of the older graves. “I like the idea of almost bookends, being one of the last direct descendants. It stops with a Dean and began with Dean.”
He added his tentative epitaph for his spot in Dean Hill is: “Not from around here, but home at last.”
Richard Wenzel, survey operations manager with the Mahoning County Engineer’s Office, was at Dean Hill a week ago beginning to plot a 50-by-268-foot section. Trustee Marie Cartwright had reached out to Patrick Ginnetti, county engineer, who sent surveyors out earlier in the month.
Wenzel said it would take about two weeks to use surface measurements and Geographic Information Systems to plot the remaining section. Wenzel and Dean Hill Cemetery sexton Bob Burkett ventured that they could have about 230 more plots created.
But with no remaining spots, Burkett said he will recommend area residents to go elsewhere. “Once we get a boundary line set up, we could do something” quickly for a burial, Wenzel said.
Each plot most likely will be 4-by-10 feet, with aisles between the graves for equipment to get in for the grounds crew.
Township administrators said the reason the township waited to plot out the remaining section was because they were hoping to acquire more surrounding land. The boundaries are now easily seen at Dean Hill, as there are tree lines from the surrounding properties owned by neighboring residents.
Burkett said they don’t have records of the cemetery’s early days, when it was a small graveyard behind a church that was razed decades ago. That church sat in the heavily wooded section south of Dean Hill. Burkett said there is a stone in the cemetery marked 1787, but some of the older headstones and grave markers are hard to read.
“It’s a unique situation,” he said, speaking of restoring or repairing the older markers in the cemetery, primarily in the center section. “We’ve looked into it in the past. It’s a costly venture,” he said.