Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Standing Skeletons -- An Old, Old Lucasville Mystery

It is my understanding that an area west of the old Valley Elementary building in Lucasville, near Lucasville Cemetery, was a repository of early artifacts of native people. I have heard people theorize that the site may have contained remains not only of Algonquian-speaking tribes like the Shawnee but also those of much earlier inhabitants like the Mound Builders.

In talking with these older Lucasvillians, I discovered high waters of the Scioto would often wash out arrowheads and other interesting native relics from the bank there. These folks told me that locals would periodically search after waters receded and make amazing discoveries. At one time, some people had stunning collections of these works.

A striking article titled “A Walk Through a Country Graveyard: The Early Dead of Lucasville” published in the Portsmouth Times on November 28, 1874 confirms at least some of these suspicions. Here is part of the article mentioned:
Lucasville, a small town on the East bank of the old bed of the Scioto River, in this county, seems to have been on the outskirts of an old burying ground, and the ashes of those who have died within the memory of the older citizens, are almost commingled with that of the dead of which nothing is known, save that the disinterred anatomy, which is much larger than that of the white or red men, shows that their manner of interment differed from ours.

In a meadow owned by James D. Thomas, and lying northwest of town, several skeletons have been discovered. The western part of the meadow is bounded by the band of the old bed of the Scioto. Here the bank has given away several times, revealing upright anatomy, showing the dead were buried in a standing position. Skulls have been found at about the depth we bury our dead, or probably not too deep.

In the northeastern part of the meadow some laborers exhumed a skeleton buried in the same way. They were excavating gravel for the turnpike. This meadow contains a number of mounds, the largest of which we should judge is about thirty by forty feet square. It stands just to the left of the old Chillicothe road and to the right of the old Lucasville burying ground. The road was a narrow serpentine one: it evidently followed the Indian path to the old fort of settlement at Chillicothe.”

* Concerning Vertical Burial

Upright burials? Maybe they are coming back around. They are evidently happening now in Victoria, Australia. They took the phrase “think outside of the box” literally and recreated a new type of cemetery.  No box, no gravestone and the body is buried standing upright making enough room for more than 40,000 graves sites. The first ever vertical cemetery promises to be a simpler and more economic option than the traditional burial process.

"The cylindric graves are dug by the same equipment used to dig holes for power poles and measure two feet wide and are nine feet deep.  The body, wrapped in a biodegradable shroud, is slowly lowered into the grave feet first, using a trolley with a cable to ensure a slow descent.

"To give an idea of how much space this repositioning saves let’s look at the size of of the NFL football field.  We determined that it would fit approx. 1,600 standard horizontal graves but when you position the bodies vertically in graves two feet in diameter you are able to fit 14,400 which increases the  capacity ninefold.

"In addition to solving the issue of space, Upright Burials aims to deliver an environmentally friendly option that will provide families with less financial burden and complicated decision making in a time of despair. The vertical cemetery does not offer or allow memorial services, graveside services, flowers, cars or bagpipers on their grounds and as a result an upright burial costs about half that of a traditional burial."

"Changing Tradition with Upright Burials." https://mysendoff.com/2012/07/upright-burials/

As a note of caution and proper respect, it is illegal to pick up arrowheads on state and federal land in Ohio, so any seeking must occur on private property. To hunt on private property, people need permission from the landowner.

Of course, now, unlike in the days of old, collecting native objects is very controversial. Laws prohibit many collection activities, and Native American groups have rightly cited ethical issues about grave-robbing activities. Perhaps the public interest in artifacts is best addressed by viewing selected displays in local museums.

The Southern Ohio Museum on Gallia Street in Portsmouth, Ohio has an ongoing exhibit “Art of the Ancients: The Ohio Valley. Here is a description of the museum's display:

“The distant past will come alive as visitors cross the bridge in time to Art of the Ancients: The Ohio Valley, the Southern Ohio Museum's new permanent collection of 10,000 Native American Artifacts from 1,500 to 8,000 years old. Starting more than 3,000 years ago and lasting about 1,500 years, these ancient cultures proposed throughout southern Ohio and northern Kentucky, settling primarily along the streams and rivers feeding the Ohio River. While many details about the Adena and Hopewell people remain unknown, articles crafted from stone, bone, shell and other durable materials managed to survive to offer important clues about the lives of their creators.”

A unique, mini-booklet form of “A Walk Through A Country Grave Yard” is available for a small price from the Lucasville Area Historical Society. It contains the quote above and other interesting information about a few of those in the Lucasville Cemetery. Click here for details: http://sccogs.com/?page_id=400

Closing Trivia -- A Tennessee Methodist Conference circuit preacher, Rev. Joshua Boucher, was buried standing up in Old Town Cemetery in Athens, Alabama on August 23, 1845. Boucher had arthritis and was concerned that it might prevent him from rising on the Day of Judgment. Now that was one "upright" man.


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