New Albany leaders are helping facilitate the restoration of the Old Burying Ground, New Albany's first known cemetery that dates back to the 1850s.
By spring, New Albany City Council expects to know more about options for restoring the local cemetery known as the Old Burying Ground.
The New Albany Cemetery Restoration Advisory Board has been meeting to review the results of a report from archaeological work performed last year at the site, said public-services director Mark Nemec. The cemetery, which dates back to the 1850s, is southeast of Village Hall on the edge of Rose Run.
City Council in November 2015 approved spending $33,467.06 for Columbus-based Ohio Valley Archaeology to perform minor excavation, Nemec said.
Advisory board members are reviewing the report from that work and expect to discuss the findings with City Council in March, he said. A list of recommendations for restoration and associated costs will be included. Work likely would be done over several years, he said.
Former Mayor Nancy Ferguson, who founded the advisory board after urging City Council in 2015 to help restore the cemetery, said Ohio Valley Archaeology's work was thorough.
"They have found monuments we didn't know existed," she said.
Nemec said Ohio Valley Archaeology found the cemetery's original boundaries. Through minor excavation, the surveyors also located headstones beneath the surface of the ground.
However, it will be difficult to ascertain for certain how many gravesites the cemetery holds.
According to Ohio Valley Archaeology's report, historical records indicate anywhere from 68 to 134 people were buried at the cemetery. The company used the documents to determine the range.
Records also say as many as 66 of those people could have been moved to the nearby Maplewood Cemetery, which opened in the 1880s off Reynoldsburg-New Albany Road.
Thus far, Ohio Valley Archaeology's geophysical surveys have identified 50 possible gravesites, as well as the foundation of a small building. Ferguson said advisory board members believe the small building was used to house caskets during the winter until the ground thawed enough for burial.
Nemec said several gravesites probably weren't detected during the surveys, which is normal given the age of the cemetery.
"Ground can compact, and it's hard to really know that something was really there at one time," he said.
The gravestones that have been recovered also outnumber the detected gravesites.
Nemec said the city is storing 65 gravestones and 21 fragments. They were cleaned and are in a city garage off Main Street, he said.
City Council will determine what to do with the stones, Nemec said. Some would need to be restored, and city officials don't know which graves match the stones. Many of the markers still were in the vicinity of the cemetery, but most were laid near trees and no longer marked the actual sites where bodies are buried.
The Old Burying Ground cemetery was used from 1837 to 1882, advisory board chairman Brian Zets told ThisWeek last year.
The founders of New Albany and the area's first residents are believed to be buried there.
Jesse Kohn, who sold one-fifth of an acre to the Plain Township trustees for $5 on July 29, 1854, for the Old Burying Ground, has a grave at the site. It formerly was obscured by brush, which was cleared for the survey.