Grave matters: Waterford’s Nixon Cemetery

WATERTOWN TOWNSHIP – Tucked in a remote corner of a large property of rolling, green hills overlooking Wolf Creek is the final resting place of at least seven members of the Nixon family that once called that acreage home.

Seven members of the Nixon family are buried there: Adaline (1831 to 1904, wife of George H. Nixon), Emma C. (died in 1862, daughter of George H. Nixon), George D. (died in 1862, son of George H. Nixon), George H. (1828 to 1894), Lucy (1797 to 1879), Mary E. (died in 1862) and the patriarch, Otis Nixon (1796 to 1877).

Otis Nixon was born March 11, 1796, in Framingham, Mass., son of Capt. Thomas and Lydia Nixon. Otis came to Gallia County in 1818. He then lived in New York from 1825 to 1832. He moved to Watertown Township and finally settled on the farm in 1834.

“His first wife was Margaret Swain, of whom at least three children were born – Thomas Nixon (born 1819), Eliza Nixon (born 1821) and Lydia S. (born 1923) … His first wife must have died, and in 1827, he married Lucy Lee,” said Phill Crane, with the Lower Muskingum Historical Society.

According to “Williams History of Washington County, Ohio, 1788 to 1881,” Otis Nixon was one of the prominent residents of Watertown Township, with a farm of about 230 acres. The 1875 Atlas of Washington County Ohio indicates the farm might have been divided between his son, George H. Nixon, and a J.A. Nixon.

“What a wonderful farm it was,” Crane said. “It was 47 years of a little paradise.”

That is in stark contrast to the condition of the headstones in the small plot of land dedicated to the Nixon family today, now in ruins, Crane said.

Only accessible by a rough pasture road and a 4-wheel drive truck or tractor, off Camp Hervida Road in Watertown Township, is the old Nixon farm, also known as the Craig place, said James “Chicken” Pugh, 81, who lives nearby on Stevens Road.

“Ain’t no smooth road, I can tell you,” Pugh said.

All that remains within the small cemetery space are broken and toppled headstones, a few trees, two fence posts and whatever evidence was left by the pasturing cattle.

Pugh said he doesn’t know if anyone else is buried in the small cemetery or only those people represented by stones.

Three of the stones are apparently children, who all died in 1862.

“My grandma told me the three young ones died in the plague,” said Nixon descendant and Waterford resident Charlie Campbell, 73, who lives on Ohio 339.

Details of the plague in 1862 were not readily available in Times research.

He does remember a bit about Charles H. Nixon, his great-grandfather and grandson of Otis Nixon.

“My grandma told me he was a big man,” he said.

Campbell said his family had a picture of Charles H. Nixon with a fish he caught. It was longer than he was tall.

At one time, the family seems to have been lost to relatives.

Communication being what it was, decades before the Internet and Facebook, Mrs. Thomas, of Buffalo, N.Y., had lost track of her uncle and other relatives in Waterford Township. She wrote a letter of inquiry to the postmaster of Waterford:

“Dear Mr. Post master, Will you be so kind as to inform me if there is any persons living in your place by the name of Nixon. My Uncles Name was Otis Nixon. … We would like to hear from them very much. Please Answer and Oblige.”

The letter is owned by the Lower Muskingum Historical Society.

The property and cattle where the cemetery is are now owned by the Norman Arnold family, Pugh said.

“Joe (Arnold) used to have the fence around it, kept it mowed and kept it up,” Pugh said.

No one from the Arnold family could be reached for comment.

At one time, Nixon Cemetery certainly had been better taken care of because of the presence of the two remaining fence posts, Crane said.

Trustees said they can’t afford to get involved with improving the site.

“Any money to reset stones, we don’t do that,” Watertown Township Trustee Doug Parks said. “Do we need to put a cemetery levy (on the ballot)? I don’t know if it would fly or not.”