From the first burials in the 19th Century until 1944, the final resting place of persons buried in the Ridges Cemeteries were marked only with numbered stones. Apparently this was for bureaucratic convenience. The hospital probably ordered stacks of sequentially-numbered stones and, when someone died, took the top stone in the pile, put it on the fresh grave and recorded the burial – name and number – in the Athens Mental Health Center Grave Record. The same procedure was used by other public institutions such the Children’s Homes and the County Homes.
For some as-yet-unknown reason, the information as to who was buried with what stone eventually became restricted. By the time the Cemeteries Project began, it was illegal to give out such information. Relatives wanting to find a particular grave were forced to go through a long, arduous bureaucratic process. However, in 2005, after much lobbying by members of our committee, a bill was passed and signed into law making such information open to the public. Subsequently, Athens graveyard guru, Terry Gilkey compiled a short alphabetized index to the graves with one line for each individual. Later Ohio University Archivist Doug McCabe constructed a directory – also alphabetized – with a great deal of information about each individual. The Index is useful for the quick location of burials. But the user should then go to the McCabe Directory which is invaluable in the rich information necessary for a greater understanding of the deceased. Above and to the right, find links to both the Index and the Directory.
Persons looking for the grave of a particular individual should remember several things:
The bodies of a majority of the individuals who died in the Psychiatric Hospital were claimed by relatives and buried elsewhere.
There are three cemeteries. Cemetery 1, or the Tower Cemetery, is on on a hillside to the West of the big Water Tower. The other two cemeteries are on the hill directly across from the Dairy Barn. You can access them by walking up the steps directly across from the Dairy Barn. The first one you come to is the newest, Cemetery 3, with modern stones with names and dates. Down a driveway and to the right is Cemetery 2, with numbered stones through 1944 and stones with names and dates from then on.
There are male and female rows or sections in all three cemeteries. Unfortunately, the same runs of numbers were used for both males and females. In Cemeteries 2 and 3, the male and female sections are quite separate. In Cemetery 2 the uppermost (western) five rows are female, the lower (eastern) ones are male. And in Cemetery 3, all stones are named and in male and female sections on either side of the driveway. The great confusion comes in Cemetery 1, where male and female rows somewhat alternate and, in later years, new burials were added to the ends of rows or between them. The last twenty five female burials are actually across a gulch to the north of the main cemetery.
For help in finding a particular grave, contact Tom Walker (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Doug McCabe (email@example.com).
Over the years, a number of people have chosen to place additional flat markers with names and dates over the graves of loved ones. Because of the fact that there is a man and a woman for practically every number, some mistakes have been made in placing stones. We have moved some misplaced stones and hope eventually to move them all. In the event that your loved one’s stone is not where you put it, contact Walker or McCabe to find out where it is. Also, if you’d like to erect a stone, contact us for help.
If your loved one was a veteran, please let us know. We want to make sure there is an official veteran’s plaque and flag stand at his or her grave in which to place a flag.