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Help Save Historic Kerr-Drill Cemeteries

Restoration of the Cemeteries

How and why we came together

Since the last burial in 1874, there have been numerous clean-ups of the cemetery grounds. In the 1930's, Mr. & Mrs. Lindsay M. Brien inventoried gravesites and recorded marker inscriptions. Don Bowman of Brookville, Ohio, methodically noted inscriptions and the location of graves in 1976. In 1988, volunteers from a local Methodist Church and a Scout group cleared brush and cleaned the grounds. Through the mid-1990's, the cemetery was in reasonable shape.

By July 1999, the cemetery was completely overgrown with trees and dense brush. The burial ground had become an encampment, with evidence of various kinds of illicit activity. Every marker was broken or knocked down. Much of the perimeter fence was gone. It was this desecration that incensed the current group of volunteers, and provided the impetus to save Kerr-Drill.

In 2000, the efforts of Dick Rice, Lisa O'Hearn and Richard Reed, who at the time did not know one another, convinced the city to clean up the property and pledge to maintain it in the future. On July 3-6, 2000, crews from the Dayton Public Works Department cleared out the debris, brush, and all but the largest trees. Volunteers have done additional clean up and are restoring some of the grave markers.

After years of steady progress, vandals severely damaged or destroyed the painstaking restoration work in January, 2006. Volunteers are busy evaluating options for securing the site, making it more accessible and visible to the public, and considering future options.

WHY THIS IS WORTHWHILE

Respect for the dead is a common secular belief. In communities of faith, these beliefs are often deeper and more complex. Most people interested in their family history take particular pride in the memory of their ancestors. Cemeteries are a tangible link to our past, and help define how our community came to be.

Kerr-Drill Cemetery contains Dayton pioneers and members of their families. This is the final resting place of people who shaped the beginnings of the Dayton community.

There is great value in people simply working together, voluntarily, to accomplish a common good - to strengthen our sense of community and pride in ourselves. We think this project can engage and connect people - the cemetery's neighbors, people in need, citizens at large.

LEAD VOLUNTEERS

Dick Rice (with four ancestors in Kerr-Drill) and Lisa O'Hearn are the prime movers on this project. Dick's May 2000 letter to the city sparked them to accept responsibility. Dick's initiative, research, and hard work on the cemetery grounds are truly outstanding.

Lisa is a creative and organizational genius, and is using this project as an opportunity to develop her ideas and commitment to community service. She has no family buried in Kerr-Drill, but has shown remarkable energy, dedication and determination in organizing, research and hands-on fieldwork.

Richard Reed, a Miami Valley native living in California (with 16 ancestors in Kerr-Drill) closely followed Dick in lobbying the city. He provides support from a distance and is helped by his older brother Tom, who lives in the Dayton area.

SPECIAL THANKS

For help with the initial clean-up in 2000: kudos to F. Richard Davis, Public Works Director, City of Dayton, and William L. Gillespie, Dayton's Deputy City Manager. These gentlemen personally inspected the property and were unequivocal in accepting responsibility. They followed through promptly and efficiently. By the way, the Public Works crew did a superb job - they worked hard and were sensitive to the needs of performing this work in a fragile, damaged, historic setting.

We appreciate the support of then-Dayton City Commissioner Mary Wiseman and then-Mayor Michael R. Turner for providing the necessary political support; and the interest and help of Rochelle Fields, staff coordinator for the Northeast Priority Board (a city of Dayton neighborhood association).

Valuable advice and help was provided by Ted Hornyak, investigator for the Cemetery Section, Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing, Department of Commerce, State of Ohio.

Help Preserve Kerr Drill - Email: icu@erinet.com