Cemetery goes high tech

MARTINS FERRY – Information about Walnut Grove Cemetery is only a click away with the completion of an online map of the site. In a prior council meeting, Mayor Paul Riethmiller noted that the site is up and available.

“(It was) well worth the money that we spent for history buffs and people that are interested in the city of Martins Ferry to be able to go on that Web page and click on the grave sites.”

He noted that clicking on a grave site will call up a picture of the tombstone and information about the deceased, complete with historical references.

Riethmiller added that he hoped for the opportunity to create similar sites for other city cemeteries.

Joe Lawrie, utility mapping technician with WSOS which hosts the Great Lakes Division of the National RCAP Program focused on community development, reported on the pilot project.

“We set out to GPS locate the 35 graves enclosed within the fence,” he said, adding that the project also called for gathering personal information about those laid to rest.

He said they designed and constructed three maps for use by caretakers and the public depending on their relative interests. They include a printed map available to the public and the Web site itself.

It was put up live about three weeks ago. Lawrie said it can be edited in the event that changes are needed, since the information is contained in a digital spreadsheet in the city’s possession.

“The nice thing about this map now is it’s online, so anyone who’s interested and has Web access is able to get there and look at it. It gives out a good amount of information,” he said, adding that the site should also interest people in visiting the cemetery physically and seeing the historic landmark with their own eyes. “There’s a good amount in there, but there’s certainly more to explore and there’s more graves in that site than the ones that were mapped in the original project scope. Hopefully, that attracts some more history buffs to come check it out.”

He added that the map is available in a mobile format on tablets and phones.

“Anybody who’s got Internet can look at that map and use it.” he said.

“It’s been a great project,” he said. “I appreciate the opportunity.”

He added that there are about 100 more grave sites in Walnut Grove that could be mapped.

Lawrie said he plans to meet with local historical societies to discuss the possibility of mapping smaller cemeteries outside the city. In addition, the possibility of mapping larger cemeteries also exists. He noted the process may be further streamlined and more affordable in the future.

In addition, his organization will soon host its own Web server and be capable of hosting the site for the city.

Council members noted a high level of Web hits for the site.

Walnut Grove Cemetery is the oldest landmark in the city. It includes the graves of Absalom Martin and his descendants as well as many members of the Zane family, which is noted in frontier history.

A statue of Revolutionary War hero Betty Zane, stands at the entrance of the cemetery, which also includes her grave as well as that of her brother, Ebenezer. He was involved in the settlement of three cities and carved Zane’s Trace to help in opening the territory to settlers.

DeFrank can be reached at rdefrank@timesleaderonline.com