Stonewall Cemetery
Unique And Fascinating

Paul Molyneux

In 1798, Nathaniel Wilson gathered his family and joined the great migration west. He settled in wilderness that became Fairfield County, Ohio (Hocking Township). His spot is just west of the county seat, Lancaster and just one-half mile off US Route 22.

In 1817, the need for a family burial site arose and he selected a plot at the top of a small knoll which survives to this day. By 1838, Nathaniel decided to erect a wall around the grounds purportedly for two reasons. First, because the white man had been so unfeeling and had desecrated many of the native burial grounds, the Native Americans frequently returned favor. Second, grave robbers were rather common in that day and this afforded some protection for any keepsakes or valuables which might have been buried with a loved one's remains.

Nathaniel and his son, Gustin, began to quarry blackhand sandstone from a hilltop a couple of miles away and to fashion the stones into the building blocks for a truly unique wall. They built an arched entrance of smaller stones in true keystone design and secured the area with a cast iron gate. Above the gate and fitted into the arch is a large semi-circular slab of sandstone that bears an inscription detailing its origin. A lone Lebanon cedar grew in the center of the round burial area.

Stonewall Cemetery, as it has since been named, is a fascinating way to take a break if you're traveling in the area. With easy access and the lack of admission costs, one can immerse himself in the rich history and folklore that surround it on any budget. Here are the major drawing cards:

Nathaniel Wilson was a very caring man and also a very patriotic citizen. When he died, the title to the cemetery was willed to "all the presidents of the United States." At this writing, the current owner is George W. Bush along with the preceding living presidents. The specific reason for this is unknown, but several conjectures makes sense. Perhaps the builder was worried that the final resting place of his loved ones would become neglected and fall out of record. This idea is supported by the fact that he also included an acre of land planted with locust trees as an endowment to provide for perpetual care. Others feel that Wilson left the plot to the presidents as a hedge against neglect. There is, by the way, a provision included that any president may be interred there free of charge.

Of course, hardly any cemetery escapes rumors of haunting. Stonewall Cemetery is no exception. Fairfield County has numerous haunting legends about ghosts and suicides and wrongful murders, etc. But this place carries a tale that is uniquely different. It is simply believed that if one climbs to the top of the wall at night and walks around it thirteen times, the dead people inside will pull you in. Should you decide to test this, let me know it it's true.

A recent discovery (rediscovery?) has come to light. The entryway faces the north star, Polaris. On a clear night, standing at the inside rear of the structure, the north star is directly above the center of the keystone in the arch over the entrance. Did Nathaniel Wilson have some mystical intent when he designed the wall? We'll probably never know, but it is interesting to note that many of the ancient woodland Native Americans in this region constructed their burial grounds in alignment with the heavens.

I've saved the best for last. The stonewall itself is unique. There is no other wall constructed in this fashion. Look carefully at the accompanying pictures and you will discover that the "round" wall is actually a decagram (ten sides). An even closer inspection will reveal that there are two shapes of stones in the wall (see side bar). In most stone structures, corners are created by abutting two stones which have been mitered to a close fit at the desired angle. There are no joints at the angles of this one. It is the only wall known to be built like this.

When you're in central Ohio, just south of Columbus, include Stonewall Cemetery in your itinerary. After many years of neglect, the amazing place is now under the stewardship of the Fairfield County Historical Parks Commission and it is open to the public in near pristine condition. It's a very easy access, no cost delight that can be included in any itinerary.

For more information, check out these websites:

Illustrations Follow

Published March, 2006 - Clever Magazine

Photos and illustration: Paul Molyneux

Exterior showing gate and arch.

Exterior with background for size comparison