Grave matters: Putting together the pieces on marker

A grave monument for a man who died more than 150 years ago may provide another clue to the final resting place of three Revolutionary War veterans and others interred before him.

Local history enthusiasts have known for several years about the stone bearing the name of Hosmer W. Bowen, which lays in the mud of the Muskingum River close to the bank near Mill Street in Waterford, often covered by water. Now, Phillip Crane, with the Lower Muskingum Historical Society, hopes it can be used to locate a small cemetery where people including the namesake of Fort Frye are buried – even if Bowen is no longer among them.

“We’ve got three or four different indicators or clues on where the cemetery was,” Crane said.

Crane and others are working to discover the site of a small cemetery believed to have been situated in the 19th century between Mill Street and where the railroad is now, not far behind the building that houses Jukebox Pizza. Among those believed to be laid to rest there are Joseph Frye, who designed the fort that bore his name; Dean Tyler, who taught classes at a blockhouse in the area in the 18th century; and Asa Coburn, who was among the second group of settlers to arrive in the new settlement of Marietta. All three men served in the Revolutionary War.

By researching the deeds to the property, Crane found that sometime after a number of people had been buried in the 30-square-foot cemetery, the land was purchased by Charles L. Bowen, Hosmer’s brother.

According to “The Muskingum and Wolf Creek,” a local history compilation by Richard Walker, Hosmer Bowen, christened with his grandmother’s maiden name, worked on a boat known as the Comet, which was built in this area. Records compiled by Clyde Swift and included in the book indicate Hosmer Bowen died at the age of 22 “at Cincinnati of injuries on board the Comet.”

“My theory is he was buried there on his brother’s property; the cemetery was already there,” Crane said.

But some confusion arises about this theory and the stone in the river because Hosmer Bowen’s name also adorns a marker in the nearby Waterford Cemetery.

The Bowen family was prominent in Waterford’s early history, with Hosmer’s uncles serving as local physicians and business owners. The Bowen name adorns some of the largest stones in Waterford Cemetery, Crane said.

Sue Trotter, president of the Lower Muskingum Historical Society, noted the railroad was expected to come through the area in the latter part of the 19th century and suggested that might have played a part in the movement of Hosmer Bowen’s stone.

“Whether someone was ornery and pushed the stone over the bank into the river … maybe the railroad came through and cleared it out; we just don’t know,” she said.

Crane said it’s possible the stone could have been dumped in the river at the direction of the Bowen family.

Hosmer’s father died in 1877, followed by his mother in 1878, Crane said. His brother may have decided to add Hosmer’s name to the stone and move his body to the other cemetery, with the prospect of the railroad coming through providing added motivation.

Crane doesn’t think Hosmer’s name on the Waterford Cemetery stone is merely symbolic, because there are secondary markers for each individual at the plot, to show precisely where they are buried.

And if Hosmer was not buried on the property, his old memorial no longer served its purpose.

“I think two men could have … carried it down there and thrown it into the river,” Crane said. “We feel that when they discarded Hosmer Bowen’s marker, they would have carried it (on) a direct path to the river.”

Other research has indicated the cemetery, whose markers were gone as early as 1881, was 200 to 300 feet behind a barn that once stood near the Jukebox building. Crane believes volunteers could use that information to identify a general area for the possible cemetery site, then walk the direct path back from where the marker was dumped to pinpoint the location of the graves.

The Waterford Township trustees have begun clearing the property where the cemetery is believed to be, and volunteers like Barlow resident Margie Cunningham have done some research at the site, including driving a probe into the ground to find possible artifacts. But Trotter said the historical society needs to get permission from property owner CSX to do more in-depth work.

Crane will present his research on the cemetery so far at the society’s next meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. May 6, at the Oliver Tucker Museum in Beverly. The meeting is open to the public.