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Help Save Historic Kerr-Drill Cemeteries

Cemetery History

About Kerr, Drill, and Florence


On December 26, 1812 John Kerr purchased 150 acres of land from James Wilson, in present-day Dayton, Harrison Township. A one-half acre portion of the original acreage became Kerr Cemetery.

The first known burial was in 1826, which is the year of the oldest known gravestone. In those days, official record keeping was scant, so the only way of identifying graves is by the markers, headstones and/or footstones. That year there were three burials - Sarah Reed, Joseph Kennedy and George Washington Mayhall - followed the next year by John Kerr's wife.

John Kerr died in 1847, and his will specified continuation of the cemetery. Most of those buried here are related to the Kerr family. The Kennedy's and the Sloan's are related by marriage. There are about a dozen Reed's buried here, but a firm connection has not yet been made with the Kerr's, except that they were neighbors in Harrison Township and were members of the local Methodist Episcopal church. Those related to the Reed's in Kerr include the Huey's, McDonald's and Ephriam Miller.

The burial ground remained active until 1874, when Sallie Reed was the last interment (based on the last dated headstone).

Kerr Cemetery has also been known as "Florence" or "Florence-Kerr" cemetery. The name dates to 1906, thirty years after the last burial, when Joseph Florence purchased the property from Fleming Rice, a son of James Rice who is buried in the adjacent Drill Cemetery. The property remained in the Florence family until 1948.

The first known "headstone reading" (documentation of inscriptions) was in 1930 by Mrs. Lindsey Brien. She coined the name "Florence Cemetery" after the property's owners.

Sometime after the late 1940's, the cemetery's ownership became muddled, and responsibility for the cemetery fell to Harrison Township. The land was annexed by the City of Dayton in the 1970's and in summer 2000, Dayton formally acknowledged ownership and pledged to maintain the cemetery.

In 1830 Samuel and Martha Dick sold 295 acres of land in Harrison Township to George and Jemima Drill. Within that original property is the Drill Cemetery, adjoining the larger Kerr Cemetery.

There are nine known graves in Drill cemetery, each related to George and Jemima Drill. The first burial was of George Drill in January of 1835. This was followed about a month later with George's sister Rebecca Drill Rice. George's wife Jemima and son George are buried next to him, as are two of his grandchildren, Charles G.S. Drill and Elizabeth Ensley. Next to Rebecca Rice are her husband James Rice, grandson James Milton Rice and daughter from James' second marriage, Rebecca Rice.

The last known burial in this cemetery was of George Washington Drill in 1873. As with John Kerr, the estate of George Drill reserved 46 perches of land for a graveyard.

Like Kerr, Harrison Township later assumed responsibility for maintenance, followed by the city of Dayton. Lindsey Brien's reading of gravestones in 1930 grouped both cemeteries together.

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