Cemetery tour shares stories from Bay's past

Kaycee Zack portrays Sarah Johnson Osborn during the Lakeside Cemetery Tour on Oct. 26. Sarah donated the land for Lakeside Cemetery for her sister Rebecca’s grave after she and her son, Dennis, drowned crossing the Rocky River in 1814. Photo by Denny Wendell

Blue skies, gorgeous fall colors and seasonably warm temperatures welcomed visitors to the Lakeside Cemetery Tour. The Oct. 26 event was co-sponsored by the Bay Village Historical Society and Huntington Playhouse. Visitors received a better understanding about the cemetery’s historic beginning, founded 200 years ago after the untimely deaths of Rebecca Porter, her infant son, Dennis, and George Smith as they crossed the Rocky River returning from Cleveland.

Rebecca’s sister and brother-in-law, Sarah and Reuben Osborn, were so distraught over their loss that they donated land for a public burying ground that bordered on the two family's properties. Numerous burials would take place over the years in a six-row layout with many graves presumed unmarked today. 

Dover, which is now Bay Village, Westlake and the northern portion of North Olmsted, experienced growth as more settlers were moving into the area and the population was increasing. Expansion of the cemetery was deemed necessary in 1877. Land was purchased from the Osborn and Hassler families to the north, east and west to bring it to its present size.

This additional property was divided into lots, which were sold into the 1920s, for approximately $5 to $7. The lots, for the most part, fit three graves. There are over 270 known burials at the cemetery with the last being T. Richard “Dick” Martin, former City Council President, in 2011.

Those buried in the cemetery were not only from Dover, but also surrounding areas. Several of these individuals were highlighted on the tour through re-enactors. There was Regina Wischmeyer, whose family owned the Wischmeyer Hotel on Lake Road, and Alfred Marion Wolf, a Civil War veteran whose home was where the present Bay Lodge is located. There was also Margaret Van Allen Cahoon, wife of early settler Joel, who grew up in Washington, D.C., in a well-to-do family and whose daughter (Ida Cahoon) donated the land for Cahoon Park. 

Olaf Aslaksen, a native of Norway who left home at the age of 16 and sailed the high seas, was represented, he being a resident of Avon Lake. Sarah Osborn, sister and aunt of the first burials was also included. Sarah and Reuben would take in the three daughters of Rebecca Porter and raise them. Their home, which was relocated to Cahoon Park, is currently the Osborn Learning Center.

Sarah Osborn’s only son, Selden, was also portrayed, an interesting gentleman whose home was located across the street and just west of the cemetery. Selden was an herb doctor who traveled by horseback throughout the area. His original herb book is on display at the Osborn Learning Center. Luman Laomi Griswold never fully recovered after the Civil War and died as a result of a lingering illness. His mother married Caleb Eddy and he lived in Dover, Avon and Sheffield Lake. Besides the cemetery re-enactors, Nathan Clark was present to help the spirits rise for the occasion.

Vistors were welcomed into the backstage area of Huntington Playhouse to view the costume and lighting areas after hearing the history of the Playhouse. McGorray-Hanna Funeral Homes underwrote the tour. 

Additional information is available on the history of the area, cemetery and genealogical sketches in the book "Retracing Footsteps." This publication is available through the Bay Village Historical Society at Rose Hill Museum or by calling 440-835-4472. Future tours are planned for the coming years, so stay tuned.

Read More on Local History
Volume 6, Issue 23, Posted 10:29 AM, 11.11.2014