The Graveyard on the Hill

Greenlawn Cemetery

“There is a calm for those who weep,
A rest for wear pilgrims found;
They softly lie, and sweetly sleep
Low in the ground.”

“Thus sang the poet, and with what fitness, can be more deeply felt by a quiet hour in the graveyard on the hill overlooking the city.”

“Portsmouth claims, and with show of reason, fourteen thousand souls. Men, women, and children full of life and vigor, working out, in human blindness, and with human hopes and human expectations, their destiny.”

“It may be that to many, hope, the guiding star of human endeavor, may shine brighter than to others. Nor are all, in the journey of life, inspired by any well-grounded hope, but with ambition weakened by crosses and disappointments, the world’s contumely, or lack of encouragement where they should most expect it, are today living negatives, neither insensible to the smiles of fortune, nor disturbed by her frowns.”

“But in Greenlawn, on the hill, there are no human follies, there are no fond expectations to lack realization, there are no restless days not sleepless nights. All is quiet. The quiet of the grave is the calmest and holiest quiet known to human knowledge. As Washington Irving well said the ‘grave hides every resentment.’ There the weary in mind or body find rest. thus we found that vast city of the dead in an hour’s stroll through it one day this week. The aged, the middle-aged and the young, harvested by death’s sickle, all lie here in undisturbed repose.”

“Loving hands have kept the grass green, and planted flowers to bloom over their last resting place.”

“There is a wide difference in the grave stones that commemorate their virtues and their lives, but there is none in the affection that planted them there. The plain marble slab, that is scarce three feet high, speaks as eloquently of the love of the living as the costly Scotch granite, the massive Italian marble or the imposing shaft that towers high over the grave of the departed. Nor can the virtues of the dead be best told by the grand marble piles, which have been brought from alien lands, and over wide seas, to be upreared high above the more modest tombstones that mark the graves of the poor and lowly. there are graves in the Potter’s field of those whose self-sacrifice and heartaches and sorrows, purified them, and their rest is calm and holy with no stone to commemorate their sufferings and their sorrows, and that ultimate triumph which the deathless sleep gives them, as those whose graves are marked by grander monumental granite or sculptured marble all, having finished their course, like under just so much earth from which they were taken. There are no formal rules that go beyond the grave to separate them in social gradations. The grave of the pauper is just as deep as that of the wealthy, and no deeper, and when comes the transition, if indeed there be a gathering of the dead for an after state, the humble will hear the voice of the archangel readily as the proud. But a truce to this, and a return to the brief description of an hour’s stroll through this populous city of the dead.”

“Here lie the dead of a century, all the years being but stepping stones to the grave. That Greenlawn has fallen to the care of such competent hands as those of the venerable John McNeal, must be a source of gratification to the living friends of the dead. He himself has outlived three-fourths of a century, and yet his frame is erect, his eye clear, his hand firm, and his heart pulses in a noble bosom. He cares for the graves as if all here entombed were his children. The alien thorn, and forbidding bramble are plucked from the slanting mound with his careful hand, and as he clears away the rank overgrowth from many a venerable headstone, and reads its inscription all moss and lichen grown, he sighs and relates that one time, he knew, and shook the hand of friendship with the occupant of the grave half a century ago.”

“He pauses to read the uncouth or artistically lettered inscriptions in Greenlawn -for both are here- is carried back to the early days in the settlement of Portsmouth, and a few of those attracted the attention of the writer as he walked slowly through the cemetery. We give them as we noted them.”

“In one place like the family of John Ratcliff. Some of the earliest frame buildings of Portsmouth were erected by John Ratcliff’s master hand fifty years ago, and old age overtook him -he lies here at rest.”

Robert Hamilton was one of the pioneer furnacemen of the Hanging Rock iron region. There are some few who remember him as connected with Pine Grove Furnace. He was a brother-in-law of John G Peebles. Mr. Hamilton was born, so the monument tells the visitor, September 28, 1795, and rested from his labors September 11, 1856.”

Abner Doty and wife lie side by side. He was a saddler with a shop on Front street, below Jefferson, born January 17, 1802, died of cholera, September 17, 1844. His wife died from an accident in the ‘thirties.’ The handsome granite monument was erected by his affectionate son, John H Doty, of Cincinnati.”

Captain Sam B Hempstead1, steamboatman, furnaceman, foundryman and rolling mill operative has his grave marked by a quaint yet artistic marble monument under the open arch of which is a marble bust of the deceased, who was born June 18, 1823 and died December 12, 1873.”

“An Italian marble shaft is over the grave of Captain Samuel Coles, who was born June 3, 1808 and died March 8, 1871. He used to own and operate Moss Mills below what is now Union Mills. He and the late William Waller operated Moss MIlls, which were burned down on a Sunday.”

“The old sea captain, Isaac Kirby‘s ship came to port in Greenlawn and he lies here. The first political pole ever raised in the city was a Whig pole by this veteran mariner. It had two masts and three cross ties. Kirby kept a grocery on Front street. His daughter was the first wife of John Renshaw. Kirby was thrown from his horse on his way to Union Mills, and died May 9th, 1865, in his 63rd year.”

“He was for many years Justice of the Peace for Wayne township”

“There is no monument over the neglected grave of John V Larrimer, a pioneer furnace clerk at both Scioto and Bloom furnaces and in 1834 a flat and keel boatman. He died in the ‘fifties.'”

“The flowers were yet brighter over to grave of WS Huston2, lawyer, probate judge, and quartermaster of the 56th Ohio. Consumption took him off August 27, 1865, in his 41st year. He was the son of the venerable and Honorable SJ Huston, Sr3., who still survives, having passed his four score years.”

“A handsome monument marks the grave of Captain W. McClain4. He was a pioneer steamboatman, starting as a deck sweep, was promoted to cabin boy, next to the pilot house, and finally to the command of a steamer. He built the first Bostona. He died of softening of the brain, September 10th, 1867. His wife, a daughter of Moses Thompson, survives him, and lives in a pretty little cottage on Seventh and Washington streets.

“The Moore lot, near the old but now abandoned entrance to Greenlawn, is enclosed by an iron fence. A brown stone house, of solid stone, from roof to the vault in the basement, was built in 1868 for William Moore, and here his daughter, Anna Lorey, is entombed. The monument of the father, Levi Moore, harby by, is of Scotch granite.

He was born February 9th, 1793, and died April 27, 1865. He died on his farm some fifteen or sixteen miles below this city, April 27th, 1865. His wife, whose maiden name was Amanda Gunn, and born in Waterbury, Connecticut, July 30th, 1793, still survives, in her 92nd year. Another feature of this lot is a massive monument of brown freestone with die block of Buena Vista blue freestone, all home work, from home quarries. A vault underlies the lot.”

“Across the walk on the east side, a plain white monument marks the spot where William Maddock, one of the earlier manufacturers of the city, is at rest. He was born in Wales and died aged 62 years. He was a remarkably ingenious machinist, operating a woolen mill and flour mill, corner of Fourth and Chillicothe streets, now operated by Enoch J Salt. He was the father of the Maddock Brothers, of this city, who have inherited his practical and ingenious mechanical skill.”

“A fresh cross and anchor of flowers, wet with the dews of early morning lying on the grave of Benjamin B Gaylord, shows that though gone he is not forgotten. A massive Italian monument is over him, but as yet there is no inscription carved thereon. He was one of the early iron manufacturers, for years the master spirit of the upper rolling mill, a kind-hearted man, the idol of his workmen and a christian. He died about ten years ago.”

“One can almost reach to the top of the modest marble that marks the place where Joseph Riggs is buried. He was one of the prominent merchants in the earlier history of the city; was a Councilman and City Civil Engineer for many years, and died July 28th, 1877, in his 82nd year.”

Judge William Salter, one of the earliest furnace men in this section, has no inscription to tell his life history. He was at one time Sheriff of Fayette county, Pennsylvania; came on here, amasses quite a handsome competence in salt and furnace operations. He was at one time Associate Judge, and was elected Senator of the Scioto-Adams district. His sister, Nancy Mason, lies hard by.”

“The grave of James Pursell is surrounded by an iron fence, and marked by a monument of Italian marble, sadly marred by a wandering tramp who claimed he could polish it with a preparation which discolored it, as he was under the influence of liquor when he began the work. Mr. Pursell was one of the most active young wholesale merchants of the city, dealing in dry goods and china, and died March 22nd, 1856, when he was but 39 years old. He wife, Mrs. Amanda Pursell, survives him, and lives on Fourth, west of Chillicothe street.”

“The Dayton limestone base of the elegant Scotch granite monument by the grave of William Stewart was put in place by his own hand, and the monument of granite from his native land was erected in accordance with his expressed wish in life. He owned and operated the Raven Rock Stone Saw Mill and quarries, and was an uncle of HD Stewart. He was born in Ayr, Scotland, June 30th, 1811, and died in the environs of this city July 24th, 1873.”

JV Robinson5, father of LC Robinson6, is buried here in Greenlawn. He was a prosperous wholesale and retail dry goods merchant, who died business on Front street, below the present house of Damarin & Co., and was born October 19th, 1790, and died January 8th, 1865.”

Judge William V Peck, who is resting here, was born in Cayuga, New York, April 16th, 1804, and died in Portsmouth, December 30th, 1877. He was an eminent lawyer, served on the Common Pleas bench, and also in the Supreme Court. he was a leading Whig. he was one of a committee who received Ex-President John Quincy Adams at the old Bigelow Church, on Second street, about the year 1843, Mr. Adams saying, with reference to Judge Peck’s speech of welcome, ‘I have heard a great many speeches since I have been West, but I tell you that man Peck gave me the finest speech of reception I ever heard in my life.’ Judge Peck’s colleagues on the committee were Colonel John Row, Samuel M Tracy, Charles Tracy, Captain JW Davis, William Salter, Thomas Burt and William Waller, all dead.”

“A rough, uncouth block of freestone in the south-eastern corner of the cemetery marks the grave of Samuel Montgomery, one of the early pioneers who died October 4th, 1839, aged 72 years. A compass and square, roughly carved, tells that he journeyed toward the east.”

“The grave of the old-time merchant, John McDowell, is marked by an unpretentious stone narrating his birth, September 24th, 1798, and his death in the centennial year, on the 20th of March.”

The grave of Jane A McVey, infant daughter of JL & Emily McVey, who died February 11, 1844.

“No monument marks the grave of James L. McVey, one of the early druggists of the city, who kept on lower Front street. He will be remembered by the older surviving citizens. He died before the late war.”

An attractive monument at the grave of the pioneer grocer and furnaceman Charles AM Damarin, give his birth at Paris, France, April 11th, 1797, and notes his death April 29th, 1850. He built Hamden furnace and founded the extensive wholesale grocery of Damarin & Co., now doing business in this city.”

“The grave of Colonel John Row lies in the eastern part of the cemetery. He was the oldest merchant in the Scioto Valley, a popular hotel landlord, and was a postmaster four years. He was a fifer in the war of 1812, and a prominent Whig, Henry Clay being at one time his guest in this city. He was born in 1796, and died in 1871. At one time he was very wealthy, and owned large tracts of real estate, but security debts and unfortunate speculations in pork brought him to reduced circumstances before his death.”

William Waller‘s grave is distinguished by a monument of Italian marble. He was a native of Scioto county, born in Alexandria, February 7th, 1805. He was a mill merchant, son of the late Dr. Waller, and died of heart disease, November 23rd, 1854. He boarded at the Biggs House, kept then by Colonel Row and son Charles and roomed on Front street above Market. He was missed one morning from his meals, and John P Terry, Charles Row and his brother, George A Waller, becoming alarmed at his absence forced open the door to find him in the embrace of death.”

“The grave of John Squires is in Greenlawn. He was the father of Mrs. Charles C Row7, and died in 1853 of sun stroke, while on his way on a train, as deputy Sheriff, to arrest an offender. He was marshal of the city for 14 years, at one time part owner of Franklin furnace and manager of Junior furnace.”

“The Grave of Samuel Gunn has a freestone tombstone with Masonic Square and trowel carved at the head, and on either side of the inscription at opposite corners neatly encarved urns. He was a merchant and cooper, and died August 27, 1831.”

James Saulsbury8, who died April 11, 1863, is buried near by. He was a private in the war of 1812, and was a saddler. He died of hernia.”

Moses Thompson, a native of Virginia, who was Justice of the Peace in Wayne township, for many years, is buried in Greenlawn. He was born August 18, 1784 and died October 7, 1861. Some of our older citizens remember, and speak of his temperate fondness for sugar and ale, a popular drink forty years ago.”

“A small head stone marks the last resting place of AC Davis9, one of the highest Free Masons in the State in his day. He was a merchant tailor, born March 9, 1805 and passed away May 22, 1863.”

“We must reserve for another leisure hour a review of other citizens who, after life’s fitful fever has ended, lie under the evergreens of this beautiful city of the dead, where naught but the tuneful songs of the wild birds in day time, and the requiem of the night winds in the trees break the solemn silence.”10

  1. Samuel Booth Hempstead
  2. William S Huston
  3. Samuel Jones Huston
  4. William McClain
  5. Joshua VanZant Robinson
  6. Louis Cooper Robinson
  7. Lucinda Squires Row
  8. James Salsbury
  9. Arthur C Davis
  10. The Graveyard on the Hill. (1884, September 6). Portsmouth Times, p. 2.

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  1. […] week ago while working on the 1884 “Graveyard on the Hill” at Greenlawn Cemetery in Portsmouth, Ohio, my eye was caught by a small marble marker that appeared […]

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