Norwalk's Woodlawn Cemetery has had a self-guided walking tour pamphlet available for several years, and every now and then (when I feel ambitious) I lead guided walking tours in the summer.
One of the tours will take place at 1 p.m. July 18 and the other is set for 1 p.m. Aug. 22. Meet at the public mausoleum.
The very first actual burial in Woodlawn was a six-month-old infant, Herbert Barnhart. He was the son of John and Juliette Roscoe Barnhart, who lived on Drake Road northwest of Norwalk. The Barnharts moved to Keokuk Co., Iowa, after the Civil War. Little Herbert's original monument still exists and is a stop on the tour.
Woodlawn Cemetery is operated by the Norwalk Cemetery Association, a nonprofit corporation organized in 1854 to establish a new cemetery for the town. Prior to that time most burials took place in the Episcopal Cemetery behind the church on West Main. This location was a chronic problem, though. The church sold burial lots there but there never was a care program established. Cows and pigs roamed freely through the grounds and there was no attention given to cutting grass, trimming brush, etc. After Woodlawn was opened, many burials were transferred from the old cemetery.
Several veterans of the American Revolution are buried in the Episcopal Cemetery, but its chief claim to fame might be that the two Indians legally executed in 1819 for murder were hanged and buried there. Negosheek and Negoneba were Ottawa Indians from the Toledo area who murdered two Americans trapping along the Portage River near Port Clinton, in territory then governed by Huron County. I've written of their story several times before.
The original area of Woodlawn was 30 acres, which has been added to several times. A century ago the Association also owned a 100-acre farm south of their present property. It was their plan to develop this into a garden-type environment for burials, with extensive shrubbery and winding walks. This plan died a-borning, however, and the land was sold. By 1900 the cemetery had become "THE" place for burial. That is, people far out in the country away from the city of Norwalk found Woodlawn more acceptable than their neighborhood rural cemeteries.
Charles Justice was superintendent of the cemetery in the 1880s, and after his retirement owned eight acres west of the present main entrance to Woodlawn. In 1923 he announced plans to survey this into burial lots for a cemetery to be called the Norwalk City Cemetery. Some 375 lots were offered for sale, but I can find no record of any lot sales or burials. Most of this proposed project is now owned by the Cemetery Association, which operates Woodlawn.
In 1854, Woodlawn Cemetery was called The New Cemetery, to distinguish it from The Old Cemetery behind the Episcopal Church. In 1869, at the suggestion of Reflector editor Frederick Wickham, the name was changed to Woodlawn Cemetery. The street was then known as Medina Street, and continued as such until 1886 when City Council adopted the present name of Woodlawn Avenue.
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REMEMBER: My "Just Like Old Times" books are on sale at Colonial Flower and Gift Shoppe at 7 W. Main St. in Uptown Norwalk. These preserve my earlier columns in permanent book form.
Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.