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Cemeteries near Otterbein look spooky but tell the university’s and city’s history

Cemeteries near Otterbein look spooky but tell the university’s and city’s history

As Halloween begins, the two cemeteries that flank Otterbein’s north and south sides of campus can provide spooky backdrops for students heading to class, but these final resting places can also shed light on the history of the university and Westerville.

Beth Weinhardt, Westerville Public Library local history manager, gives us a look inside the graveyards to see how their and Otterbein’s history intertwines. Enter if you dare!


Old Methodist/Lincoln Street Cemetery

In 1849, Garrit Sharp donated a half an acre to the Methodist Church to be used for a burial ground for members of the congregation and other citizens of the community. There was already a cemetery on the south side of the town, Pioneer Cemetery, which was the resting place of early settlers in the area. The new cemetery at the end of Lincoln Street has several names: Old Methodist Cemetery and the Lincoln Street Cemetery. This cemetery is surrounded by Otterbein’s campus, now between residence halls Home Street Commons and Engle Hall.

There are approximately 219 burials on the small piece of land. Some bodies that were on family plots in private family cemeteries were moved to the Old Methodist Cemetery. It had a method for burying by age which was not popular with some families. Infants were buried together in two sections. Youth had two sections and “grown persons” had the final two sections. Some families disliked this system because it separated families by age. Garrit Sharp was buried there along with 15 other members of the Sharp family. The Sharps were an important part of the Underground Railroad in Westerville. Several of their homes were used as stops where fugitive slaves hid. Garrit Sharp was one of the earliest pioneers in the area and Westerville was known as “Sharpsville” for a few years after its settlement.

The other prominent family buried in the cemetery are the Westervelts. They came to the area in 1817, and had the village of Westerville named after them when they gave a gift of land for the founding of the Blendon Young Men’s Seminary, the precursor to Otterbein University. Twelve Westervelt family members are interred in the Old Methodist Cemetery. There are at least nine Civil War veterans who have memorial markers or are interred there. The cemetery has some sad stories recorded on the stones. The Eggleston family lost three young children all under the age of four who were buried in the cemetery between 1866 and 1876. 


Otterbein Cemetery

Founded in 1856 by the Otterbein Cemetery Association, the burial ground at the south end of Grove Street was regarded as the United Brethren cemetery for many years. Seven presidents of Otterbein University are buried there. Leaders of the Anti-Saloon League are there with the Rev. Purley Baker building his own personal family mausoleum which looks like a fieldstone igloo.

One of the most famous of Westerville’s residents, and 1858 Otterbein graduate, Benjamin R. Hanby has his grave marked with a tall obelisk and an Ohio Historical Marker. He wrote important pieces of music including the iconic Civil War ballad Darling Nelly Gray and the popular holiday song Up on the Housetop.

Important Westerville and Otterbein benefactors, Frank and Vida Clements rest there within hearing distance of the musical carillon which Vida donated to Otterbein. A Bolun tribe prince from Sierra Leone, Joseph Caulker, was laid to rest there after a tragic fire in his Otterbein dorm room took his life shortly before graduation in 1900. Many Caulker relatives followed in his footsteps as students at Otterbein and visit his grave when in town.

One of the special features of the Otterbein Cemetery is the Otterbein Mausoleum which was built in 1923. It has 290 crypts. Its exterior is Indiana limestone with Egyptian motifs that were popular in the 1920s. The interior is marble with five large stained glass windows depicting scenes from the life of Christ. Several Otterbein University professors and staff were laid to rest here, including Edward W. Schear (Science), Sarah M. Sherrick (English), Alzo P. Rossolot (History/Government), Noah E. Cornetet (Greek) and Gustav F. Meyer (Music). Twenty-one veterans of the Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I and World War II are also in the mausoleum.