A History of The Bridgetown Cemetery
By: Joe Flickinger
The Bridgetown Cemetery has served the West Side for close to 150 years. During that time, we have witnessed all the growth and prosperity our community has experienced through those years. Our cemetery has nearly doubled in size since its founding. We pride ourselves on keeping a beautiful, peaceful setting for our loved ones. Since its founding, we have silently witnessed the events of our world, good and bad. Let us look back almost 150 years ago. Let's imagine that a new TV Channel has been created which allows us to look back in time to witness the events of the past...
The year was 1864. The Civil War was in its final full year. Ohio Native Ulysses S. Grant was leading the Union Army toward victory over the Confederate Army. Cincinnati was experiencing enormous growth. Inside the city limits the population was over 200,000; Cheviot was a small collection of homes and businesses. Westwood was quickly becoming a destination for the rich and wealthy to escape the smog and soot of the city. Green Township was filled with lush forests and beautiful creeks trickling by sparsely located farms. The residents of our area were faced with a big problem: where to bury their loved ones. The only public cemeteries were the Bethel and Green Township Cemeteries located on Harrison Ave in the heart of the small town of Cheviot. These cemeteries were not large enough to meet the demands of a quickly growing area. A group of Green Township Landowners met to discuss this issue. Their decision was to form a new cemetery to meet the needs of the non-Catholic population of the township.
On December 1, 1864 a deed was recorded at the old Hamilton County Courthouse in downtown Cincinnati and seven acres along Cleves Pike(today's Bridgetown Road) officially became known as The First German Protestant Cemetery. Thus the original portion of The Bridgetown Cemetery was established. Sales in the newly created cemetery were made to mostly landowners who had the means to purchase family lots with six graves or more. The option to purchase single graves was also available.
In 1870 some of the same men who founded the new cemetery established the First German Protestant Church on land donated by the Cemetery to the church so they could construct their building. The church founders finished their building on the half acre donated by the cemetery in 1871, which in years later included a garage and parsonage.
Soon after it was necessary to put their loved ones in a safe place during the winter months. Without the convenience of modern machinery, it became difficult to dig graves in harsh winter or summer conditions. So, despite a depression that was gripping the country at the time, the cemetery association raised enough funds to construct a limestone and brick chapel, which was built by local stone mason Phillip Steinman I. It included a steeple with a bell, and was used as a safe place to keep their loved ones until it became possible to dig. Today, this building serves as a historical landmark in the original portion of the cemetery.
In the year 1896, Westwood left Green Township and was annexed by the City of Cincinnati. This meant city amenities could be enjoyed by more west side citizens. Streetlights, water, sewers, and streetcars all began to show up in the Western Hills area. By 1900 the West Side was experiencing a building boom. Also, by 1901, the area witnessed a "horseless carriage" or two making an appearance. Consequently, the cemetery grew with the increase in population.
In 1917 things radically changed with the US entry into WWI. The anti-German feelings made their way to the cemetery, since the records were no longer written in old German Script. A flu epidemic ravaged the world as well. The cemetery saw an increase in activity as a result. At this point, our Receiving Vault no longer was used to store bodies. It was converted to storage for tools and equipment.
Around 1930 the it became apparent to the cemetery trustees that additional land needed to be purchased to enlarge the cemetery. They figured the current seven acres would be filled by 1950. And so, despite the Great Depression raging through our country, the trustees scrimped and saved and purchased 12.277 acres from the Schaperklaus Family for $14,000. This extended our property from Bridgetown Road to Harrison Avenue.
After WWII, the cemetery once again turned to developing the new land. Work included grading the land, and planting grass. On October1, 1961 at 3pm the dedication ceremony for the new portion of the cemetery was held. The Ceremony included Pastors from three local churches and the Syrian Temple Shrine Chanters. It was at this ceremony, the Cemetery officially changed its name to the Bridgetown Cemetery, and its status to a non-denominational cemetery.
In October 1963 our current administration building was finished, which included a shop and office area. Shortly afterwords, a branch of the Muddy Creek which ran through the center of the entire property was enclosed by sewer pipes and fill dirt from a widening of Glenway Ave was used to cover the ravine and pipe. This cut off all potential for flooding in the middle of the cemetery as the ravine became a gently rolling knoll.
In 1976, the city of Cheviot disinterred the graves from the Green Township Cemetery and reburied them in a single large plot, with a single stone dedicated to the lives of the pioneers Green Township placed on top of the large single grave. Any headstones leftover were buried here as well. A list of those buried here is available in the cemetery office.
As we look forward to our 150th anniversary, the Bridgetown Cemetery continues to give the love, respect, and care to your loved ones last resting place. We strive to keep the cemetery a beautiful place for decades to come.
Copyright 2001, 2010 Joe Flickinger, All Rights reserved.