Forgotten no more: New sign marks North Side potter’s fieldPublished: 7/15/16 @ 12:06
A 6-foot-tall cast aluminum sign now stands along a pathway leading to the graves of more than 1,800 once-forgotten ancestors.
That graveyard, known as a potter’s field or the Youngstown Township Cemetery, served as the final resting place for hundreds of poor and unidentifiable residents who died between 1911 and 1933. It lies adjacent to the stately Tod Homestead Cemetery along Belmont Avenue.
For almost 100 years, overgrowth overtook the area, and without grave markers and proper communication of its existence, it disappeared into the background of a normally pristine cemetery.
A phone call from Rocky Falleti, president of the Archaeological Society of Ohio Mahoning Valley Chapter, to The Vindicator’s office was the first push initiating a domino effect to recognizing those buried under not only the earth, but also under decades of confusion and obfuscation.
Sallie Tod Dutton, association president and descendant of Tod Homestead’s namesake family who included Civil War-era Ohio Gov. David Tod, said she was disheartened by the lack of knowledge about so many people buried on land she oversees, but took action immediately to right the wrong done for so many years.
Dutton said great care was put into choosing the best way to memorialize so many people in the hidden graveyard.
“Whatever you do, it has to be forever,” she said. “I was really happy to have the records we have and glad to have Ken [Sommers, cemetery superintendent] as part of our team.”
Sommers said he struggled for years as to what to do with it after having been told the graves were removed from the area despite conflicting records.
“If they were moved, our records would’ve said when and where they were moved to,” he said.
In May, the cemetery board agreed to erect a sign to acknowledge those buried in the township section and clear a path back toward the graves.
Dutton said, however, she did not want to disturb the graves, and since there was little information as to what was where, the land would be left alone to serve as a green burial.
“I’m glad I stuck through with it, and I’m grateful for the cemetery board and the employees,” Falleti said. “After 80 years, it’s done.”