Kendal Burying Ground

Kendal Cemetery Fall 2011

A budding village has requirements: a source of fresh water, good roads, an industrious population, and a place to bury the dead.

The Massillon Museum has in its collection a grave stone and sober reminder of Kendal’s first year:

Mary Ellen Young
Died October 1, 1811
Aged 22 days
So fades the blooming rose

Mary Ellen Young was buried in a square lot approximately 230 feet per side, located west of the town and laid out on the same north/south axis as Kendal. This lot was the public burial place for the residents of Kendal and later for the citizens of Massillon. It was in use from 1811 until the first burials at the Massillon Cemetery in 1848.

Location and brief history of Kendal Burying Ground

There is little original information on the Kendal Burying Ground. No stones or grave markers remain. There is no fence to mark its boundaries, no memorial to acknowledge the historic significance of the site. The history and location of the cemetery must be patched together from real estate records, atlases, a roll of microfilm in the collection of the Massillon Library, references in books by local historians, and a number of first person accounts published in the Massillon newspapers.

Arvine Wales, the young man who drove Thomas Rotch’s 400 head of merino sheep into Kendal in 1811, formed a partnership in 1832 with Charles Skinner and James Duncan to purchase real estate. The Duncan, Wales, & Skinner Addition, as it was known, brought the boundaries of Kendal and Massillon together. By 1853, Kendal had been absorbed into the town of Massillon. In 1868, Arvine C. Wales, son of Arvine Wales, purchased and recorded the A.C. Wales Union Addition to the city of Massillon. Copies of both plats – that of the Duncan, Wales, & Skinner Addition of 1832 as well as the Union Addition of A.C. Wales of 1868 – clearly describe the boundaries of the Kendal Burying Ground.

Map from 1875 Atlas of Stark CountyAfter the Kendal Burying Ground was no longer used – about 1848 - it gradually faded from memory. The 1868 plat of the A.C. Wales Addition, mentioned previously, shows a small square box marked “Old Kendal Cemetery”. The 1870 Atlas of Stark County shows a square at the intersection of Andrew Street and Cypress Alley (present 9th St. NE) marked with the abbreviation “Cem”. By 1875, Evert’s Combination Atlas Map of Stark County, Ohio identifies it as the “Old Cemetery”. By 1925 when the Cypress Street Subdivision was proposed – the area of present Andrew Ave NE and 9th St. NE - a dotted square outline is superimposed over the subdivision map. A small printed note certifies the area to be a “correct plat of the Old Union Cemetery”.

Buried and Reburied

Gravestone of Henry Silsbee Reed who died in 1836. Massillon Museum collection.The Kendal Burying Ground was the final destination for some notable early citizens. Dolly Harris Duncan, the mother of Massillon founder James Duncan, died August 7, 1827 and was buried in the Kendal Burying Ground. Captain Mayhew Folger, retired seaman and early Kendal resident, was buried there. There were possibly veterans of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 buried in the Kendal Burying Ground as well.

There is an interesting story about the exhumation of Captain Folger’s grave. When his son, Robert Folger, decided some years later to move the Captain to the Massillon Cemetery, the grave was opened and his body was missing. It was assumed that grave robbers had taken the body.

The Massillon Cemetery, platted by Arvine Wales II, was established in 1848. In the first several years of the cemetery’s operation, two hundred bodies were unearthed, moved to the new cemetery, and reburied. Many bodies were left behind.

The vacated property that had been the Kendal Burying Ground became prime real estate.

Real Estate

The population of Massillon was growing and land was needed for citizens to build family dwellings. Even before the Kendal Burying Ground ceased operation, the real estate was viewed as a piece of valuable property to be sold and developed.

The July 12, 1843 edition of the Massillon Gazette published an ad from the office of R.H. Folger (the Captain’s son) that offered for sale the land “situated immediately south of Kendal grave yard for the purpose of accommodating families”.

By the 1860s, the real estate that was Kendal Burying Ground was used for pasture by nearby residents. Stables and outbuildings blocked access to the cemetery. Grave markers had been taken away and used for foundation stones in the building of houses.

1908 Massillon Ordinance

City council was petitioned, in July of 1870, not to extend Elizabeth Street, present Andrew St. NE, through the old Kendal Burying Ground as “there are residing in this neighborhood, persons whose parents and children are buried there, who are extremely sensitive on the subject of disturbing the remains of the deceased” and “it is only when public necessity demands that a cemetery should be disturbed.”

The cemetery lay dormant and dilapidated through the end of the century. It’s only use was by squatters who used the area to graze their cattle. In 1908, city councilman Brownewell asked council to consider that the old Kendal Burying Ground be converted to a park at the request of citizens whose relatives’ bodies were buried there. City council directed that the Kendal Burying Ground be cleaned up, but did not act on the resolution to make it a park. 

Massillon City Council passed a resolution in 1916 to spend $946.50 for the graveling of Cypress Street (9th St. NE) from Main Street to State Street. Formerly, Cypress Street had been Cypress Alley, ending at the south end of the Kendal Burying Ground. Progress pushed Cypress Alley through the cemetery, turned it into a street, and took it north to State Street.

In 1924 the city again eyed the site of the Kendal Burying Ground as property to be developed. While digging a ditch for laying a sanitary sewer from 9th Street to Andrew Street, “skulls, pelvis, jaw bones, and trimmings of caskets were exhumed…the bones remaining at the curb of 9th and Andrew until work was finished , then thrown into the ditch excepting a skull, which an east side man took with him.” Gravestones were removed from the cemetery, some taken to Sippo Park, others used for building material. Local residents, aware of the cemetery’s significance, cut the grass, paid to oil the streets, and planted shrubbery and trees when the Park Commission lacked funds. Thankfully, the proposed Cypress Street sub division was put aside and no development happened on the site.

Apparently in a benevolent mood, city council in 1928 considered the location of the Kendal Burying Ground as a park. The Evening Independent reported in the October 4th edition that “improvement of the Andrew street property … offers many possibilities to the park commission. That a breathing spot should be beautified here … is highly desired.” Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.

In 1939, residents whose properties were adjacent to the Kendal Burying Ground asked city council to sell parcels of the property so that they could straighten their boundary lines. Council voted against selling the parcels “after various civic groups had protested that such a sale as was asked for would amount to desecration of a ground in which were buried the earliest citizens of Massillon.” Mrs. Nell Tipping led the charge that saved the cemetery.

Mrs. Nell Tipping: Champion of the Kendal Burying Ground

Clipping from May 29, 1957 IndependentMrs. Nell Tipping lived on Andrew Street in a small house adjacent to the Kendal Burying Ground for sixty years. She regarded the cemetery as hallowed ground and kept a hand written journal that recorded the history of her beloved cemetery and the happenings that took place during her sixty year tenure.

Several times the cemetery property was threatened by extinction due to development, but the history minded locals, led by Mrs. Tipping, were able to keep this from happening. In 1939 Mrs. Tipping and a group of Andrew Avenue residents “succeeded in persuading the city to take over the old Kendal cemetery as a city park and maintain what remains of it as a perpetual memorial.” For years thereafter, the Kendal Burying Ground was known as Memorial Park.

Mrs. Tipping was the de facto caretaker of Memorial Park from 1939 until her death in 1968. She raised the flag on patriotic holidays, planted a colorful flower bed on the side of her property that abutted the cemetery, and rallied the neighbors to help her tend the grounds.

Before her death, Nell Tipping bequeathed her journal to the care of her friend and neighbor, Mrs. Ruth Geis. Mrs. Geis, wanting the journal to be safe, donated it to the Massillon Museum where it resides in an unknown place in the museum’s archives. 

"Black Plague Cemetery" Myth

Cholera, a severe viral infection of the lower intestines, reached the United States in 1832, carried on ships along with the Irish and German immigrants seeking work in the United States. Many of these hardworking individuals moved into Massillon to seek work digging the Erie Canal. The cholera bacterium thrives in still, stagnant water - the Erie Canal was a first class breeding place. 

Between 1833 and 1849 at least three cholera epidemics moved through Ohio. Cholera caused stomach cramps, severe diarrhea, and acute dehydration that would sometimes cause a victim’s skin to turn dark blue or black. Cholera was commonly called the “Black Fever”, “Black Death”, and the “Black Plague” due to this discoloration. It was possible for an individual to contract cholera in the morning and be dead 24 hours later.

A history of speculation and sensationalism has developed about Massillon’s "Black Plague" Cemetery. One of the older residents living near the Kendal Burying Ground reported that most of the individuals buried there were victims of black fever and that the graves were very deep. He stated that Captain Folger’s body, thought to have been taken by grave robbers, may still be interred there and would have been found if those doing the exhumation had dug deeper.

Author Chris Woodyard, in Haunted Ohio V, gives Massillon’s “Black Plague” cemetery a full 10 pages. She never mentions the Kendal Burying Ground by name, but writes of the cholera epidemics that necessitated the need for mass burials in the “Plague Pits” of Massillon. She writes that as many as 40 bodies were buried in one grave and that some victims were buried alive.

The Hidden Ohio Road Map and Guide, an atlas of paranormal sites, lists the Massillon Plague Cemetery as a worthy destination. There are internet sites that inform of the Black Plague Cemetery, the Massillon Plague Pits, and the Black Plague Cemetery Subdivision of Massillon.

Certainly residents of Kendal and Massillon died of cholera and are buried in the Kendal Burying Ground. There is no evidence whatseoever to support that the Kendal Burying Ground was a cholera plague pit for persons who died from the Black Death. 

Kendal Burying Ground Today

Years after it ceased to be used as a burials, the Kendal cemetery, once the burial ground for an entire village, lay forgotten.

Thanks to the efforts of Nell Tipping, the Kendal Burying Ground was recognized as a park in the late 1930s. In the 1960s, the city of Massillon erected signs designating the property as Memorial Park. Today those signs are gone and there is nothing to indicate that the property was the first cemetery in Massillon. Memorial Park in 1971 (photo: Massillon Museum)Author Bob Bratton at the Kendal Cemetery in Fall 2011

Two green areas bisected by 9th Street NE are all that remain of the Kendal Burying Ground today. The west side of the cemetery is tree covered, one of the trees planted in honor of Mrs. Nell Tipping. The flag pole, which according to Mrs. Tipping was erected on the site of Captain Folger’s grave, is no longer used and stands rusted in the middle of the lot. The east side of the cemetery is open and a large sandstone urn sits in the middle of the grassy area.

In August 2010, Massillon City Council considered selling the Kendal Burying Ground to raise revenue and to cut costly man hours. Fortunately, nothing happened. In December 2011, due to the city’s financial problems, the site of the cemetery is once again on the chopping block.

The site of the Kendal Burying Ground, unmarked and ill-tended, has become a footnote in Massillon’s history and a destination for those wishing to seek a spooky spot to visit.