by Ashley Heeney
Tallmadge -- The Old Tallmadge Cemetery will be "coming to life" three days in July.
As part of the city's bicentennial celebration, the Tallmadge Historical Society will host 45-minute to one-hour tours of the cemetery July 5, 7 and 12 at 7 p.m.
The evenings will include a cemetery tour complete with narration, music, actors and refreshments, sponsored by The Tallmadge Historical Society and the Tallmadge Foundation according to historical society member Sandra Wybenga.
Starting at the newly erected Scaccio gazebo, guests will be led through the Old Cemetery by a 20-member cast of what have been described as "prominent" Tallmadge citizens portraying former residents. A narrator and the cast will perform a script written by Frank Chaff, drama teacher at Tallmadge High School. Wybenga said each tour is exactly the same.
The tour will head toward South Avenue and through the cemetery and back, concluding at the Schenkenberger house for refreshments and greetings from the cast.
Wybenga said no rain dates have been scheduled.
"We're just hoping for good weather," she said. While the cemetery has two paved paths, the tour itself is not handicap accessible. Ages 8 and older are invited, said Diane Grimm, historical society member.
Reservations are strongly encouraged, said Wybenga, adding, "We're hoping to keep the number of guests for each tour to around 30 people."
Reservations are requested and can be made by calling Grimm at 330-633-2420 or Wybenga at 330-633-9223.
Brief History of the Cemeteries
According to information collected by Stow resident Judy Davis who surveyed the cemeteries and put the information into a three-volume text, the Old Tallmadge Cemetery was laid out in 1824 and owned by the First Congregational Church. Davis said Fred Wybenga, historical society president, has purchase order forms at Old Town Hall for the texts she self-published.
In 1854, the church trustees sold the cemetery ground to the Tallmadge Township trustees. They increased its size and two more additions followed, in 1872 and 1923. Land to the south was secured in 1893 for the New Tallmadge Cemetery, where the first burial was in 1923.
Longtime Tallmadge residents are buried at both the Old and the New cemeteries, which have many stories to tell.
"You can see many graves which are also street names," commented Wybenga of tombstones bearing the names of Bierce, Strecker and Thomas and so on.
The Old Tallmadge Cemetery also bears unique structures on its grounds. "The Vault," is dated 1881, although historian Frank Lawrence and 1883 notes from the Tallmadge Historical Society said the structure was not built until 1883.
"The purpose of the vault was to provide a place to shelter bodies during the winter until the ground was soft enough to dig graves," wrote Judy Davis.
Wybenga said the vault, no longer in use, will be open during the tour "for the first time that anyone can remember," she said.
The inscription on the cemetery's only mausoleum, erected by Andrew Treat, indicates it's the resting place of Andrew, who died in 1888, his wife Marietta Treat, and their son and his wife, Joseph and Mary Ella Treat.