Resting place of Dayton pioneers
aka "Florence-Kerr" Cemetery
Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio
Help Save Kerr-Drill is a project of ICU - Inspire, Create,
Unite - a Dayton-based non-profit service organziation.
|Adult and youth clean-up crew in 1870's costume
This is the story of how a few citizens, working together, can overcome persistent
obstacles to achieve something worthwhile - for Dayton's at-risk youth and for preserving and teaching Dayton's Appalachian heritage. It's also about two adjoining forlorn and forgotten cemeteries of
about 75 Dayton pioneers, lost to time, indifference, suburban sprawl, and today's fast pace of life.
Montgomery County, Ohio. 1826 to 1874. The Kerr and Drill families maintain a burial ground on a hilltop in Northridge, (since
annexed to the city of Dayton).
In the spring of 2000, 126 years after Sallie Reed was the last person interred in
Kerr-Drill Cemetery, three people, separately and without the other's knowledge, contact the City of Dayton about the desecration
of an old abandoned cemetery. To our great surprise, the City acknowledges responsibility. The rebirth of Kerr-Drill begins.
This website charts the progress of the grassroots effort to restore the cemetery and assure its future protection.
We detail the history of the cemetery and provide glimpses of the people buried there. Hopefully, we'll inspire and advise
others to reclaim abandoned cemeteries throughout the Miami Valley.
The story continues. Stay tuned.
Rice and Lisa O'Hearn
Click this link for updates
We are very grateful to the Dayton Daily News for their longstanding interest in our work with this cemetery and it's value
to the people of this community.
Hands-on restoration and maintenance of the cemetery is an
ongoing project of ICU.
This is truly a grassroots effort. Volunteers - young and old - have been working long and
hard to restore 125 to 165 year old grave markers, and cleaning up the cemetery grounds.
The devastating vandalism
discovered in early January 2006 is an urgent call to action to secure the cemetery grounds and to inspire the Dayton community
to take ownership of this sacred place - home to Dayton's pioneers.
* We need neighbors, churches, veterans and other
community groups to help clean-up and look after the cemetery.
* We need the assistance of folks with specialized
skills from the University of Dayton, Wright State University, and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
* We need help
from monument companies and qualified individuals to assure we use proper materials and techniques for restoring an historic
* We need caring citizens of Dayton, Ohio to encourage their government to not forget or neglect Kerr-Drill
Please contact us:
ICU...Inspire, Create, Unite
617 Patterson Road, Dayton, OH 45419
VANDALS DESECRATE KERR DRILL
BREAK HER HEART
Volunteer who worked for years
to restore cemetery finds it vandalized
By Joanne Huist Smith
Dayton Daily News, Page 1, January 10, 2006
| The head of the dainty concrete angel lay at the statue's feet, surrounded by other broken, smashed or uprooted headstones.
Lisa O'Hearn tried not to cry on Monday each time she discovered new damage to old grave markers in the adjoining
Kerr and Drill pioneer cemeteries, but after years of working to restore them, she couldn't hold back the tears.
can't imagine what would bring somebody to want to do this," O'Hearn said. "Where is the reverence?"
to organize a clean-up of the cemetery after discovering it while doing a title search a few years ago.
"I saw this
tiny piece of land marked 'cemetery' on the map and I was curious," she said.
The two cemeteries encompass little
more than an acre tucked behind apartment complexes between Frederick Pike and Northcutt Place just off Needmore Road.
30 of the cemetery's 50 gravestones had been intact when volunteers last visited in the fall. But now, nearly all the headstones
lay scattered and broken. O'Hearn believes several are missing.
"You'd need a sledge hammer to knock some of these
down. I think this had to be planned," she said. "It's so discouraging when things like this happen. You just want to give
up, but you can't give up."
The cemetery is so hidden by trees that Dayton Police officers said they didn't know it
existed. Lt. M. J. Wilhelm said there was no evidence at the scene to indicate who had vandalized the burial ground used from
1835 to 1874.
"I'll put something out to the troops and let them know it's here. Patrolling is about all we can do,"
There are a list of early Montgomery County pioneers buried in the two cemeteries including George Drill,
who migrated to Ohio from Maryland in a four-horse wagon and a one-horse carriage called a rockaway. Today, you'll find the
family name on Drill hill, off Ridge Avenue.
James and Susanna (Lodge) Ensley, also buried there, too have a Dayton
street named for them. The family left Bedford County, Penn., for Ohio in 1818 and would eventually own 300 acres in Montgomery
The cemetery clean-up had been an ongoing collaborative effort of ICU...Inspire, Create, Unite, a nonprofit
organization founded by O'Hearn that brings together Dayton youth, city workers and neighbors.
The adult and teen
volunteers raked, planted flowers, picked up garbage and rubbed flour on the headstones, which highlighted the worn lettering.
O'Hearn applied for grants and the group made an effort to maintain the property.
"I'm upset because it took a lot
of hard work to fix it up. It's shouldn't be trashed," said Christy Adkins, 18, a Belmont High School senior who helped with
the task. "There are people resting there after all."
Dick Rice, president of ICU, first found the cemetery, owned
by the city of Dayton, about six years ago while researching his family's genealogy.
"It was like walking into a forest.
Basically, it had been ignored," he said.
The discovery of the graves of his great-great-great grandparents James
and Rebecca Rice was especially meaningful.
"For me, when you find a headstone, it's like connecting with that family,"
Rice said. "My first ancestor to set foot here (in the Miami Valley) is buried there. I just wanted to tell them you're not
lost. You're not alone."
A hickory tree had separated the Rice's headstones, but over the years, the sapling had grown
into a giant and closed the gap between the two grave makers. The stones would not yield, so the tree grew up around them.
But, what nature didn't destroy, man did. One side of Rebecca's tombstone is lodged in the hickory tree, the other
side was broken off by the vandals.
"Headstones are part of a person's history, part of their past. That's sacred
ground. For someone to go in and destroy this stuff is very disheartening," Rice said.
Rice and O'Hearn aren't sure
what their next step will be. With no funding and little help available from the city, they're not sure if the grave makers
can be repaired.
"If anyone has any suggestions, please call. We need funding. We need volunteers," she said.