Protect the Past: Mound Cemetery

Mound Cemetery on Fifth Street, which houses a giant Adena burial mound inside its gates, is not just an everyday final resting place, but an enclosed piece of history that dates back to both the BC era and Marietta’s earliest history.

In the heart of Marietta, the mound built by ancient Adena mound builders and now under the protection of its namesake cemetery, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Marietta’s founders decided to establish the cemetery around the conus mound to protect it in 1801.

“Stone steps were placed along the north side of the Mound, which was restored to its original shape and protected by a railing at the summit,” wrote Willia Dawson Cotton in the book “Sketch of Mound Cemetery.”

Maintained by the city of Marietta’s public facilities department with only a few cemetery workers, the space withstood the test of several eras as the founders of Marietta intended.

“The fact that the conus mound is there, the early founders realized how important it was, so they put some things in place to make sure it was protected by bearing their own distinguished citizens around it,” said historian Scott Britton, who regularly gives tours of the cemetery through The Castle. “When you bury people around something, people aren’t likely to dig it all up with a shovel.”

The theory the founders seems to have had held more than 200 years later, because now the site is under the protection of the city.

“We’re picking up a little more on the mowing in the past few years, and we try to weed-eat more,” said Marietta Public Facilities Supervisor Tanner Huffman. “We’ve actually started doing the mound once a week; mowing and picking up sticks.”

Huffman is a life-long resident of Marietta, and said after recently being appointed to his leadership position, noted that the state of the cemeteries was not as good as it was long ago, and said he made it a point to change that.

“It’s a very historical cemetery, and I know the history and I love it,” he said. “It’s on our radar now, but it’s also our job, just to take care of the cemeteries and care about them.”

Those invested in the well-being of Mound Cemetery have taken notice of the increased frequency in maintenance.

“We have new people working on it now and I think they are doing a great job, and we’re pleased with everything they’ve done,” said historian Kurt Ludwig, a volunteer for Marietta Cemeteries Coming Alive, an organization that works to restore gravestones and document and archive cemetery records.

The prehistoric burial mound, surrounded by what is considered a “mote-like” ditch, is known as the Great Mound, and is interpreted for use as a ceremonial sight, according to research compiled by local archaeologist Wes Clarke.

Upon settling Marietta, the founders noticed a small network of the mounds in a 95-acre area, one being the conus mound found in the cemetery, another at Camp Tupper, one along Sacra Via and the other near the Washington County Public Library.

Today, soldiers from wars as early as the Revolutionary War are buried there, along with other significant figures like Marietta founder Rufus Putnam.

“Side by side with the defenders of our nation lie men who in times of peace gave strength and character not only to their little village but to the great state of Ohio,” Cotton wrote.

Britton said though there are plenty of historical cemeteries in existence, Mound is one of a kind.

“It’s even more than a regular cemetery because the mound is there that dates back 2,000 years ago, and it makes it more unique than other historical cemeteries,” he said. “But the folks that are buried there, the veterans, the founders of the town, the government officials, certainly merit it for national recognition, too.”