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Directory facility proposed for Oak Hill Cemetery

Thursday, February 9, 2012

(Photo)
Pictured, left to right, Richard Waterbury, Orville Saxby, Lila Saxby, Mickey Conley, Peg Corrington, and Margaret Patterson are members of the local citizens committee and are posed in front of a new directory that they hope to have housed at Oak Hill Cemetery. The group is currently raising funds to have a structure built at Oak Hill to permanently house the directory. Photo by Mike Leckband
The City of Cherokee, Pilot Rock Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR), and a committee of local citizens of Cherokee propose to construct a 24' x 24' structure at the Oak Hill Cemetery to house a directory of those buried in the cemetery.

The structure will have open sides, a brown steel roof, tan vinyl encased support posts, and sit on a 26' x 26' concrete pad. There will be rows of signage listing the gravesites and a map of the cemetery on the south wall.

The rows of signage will be spaced for handicapped accessibility. The directory will be located at the main entrance to the Oak Hill Cemetery directly north of the existing maintenance building. Access to the directory will be as level as possible to make it handicapped accessible and easy to mow around.

The structure and signage will cost approximately $30,000. The project committee is asking individuals, businesses and organizations to donate to the directory project. If you would like to donate to this project please make checks payable to the Cherokee Community Foundation. The foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and your donation is tax deductible. Please add Oak Hill Cemetery Directory in the memo section of your check.

The checks may be mailed or dropped off at the Cherokee City Hall at 416 W. Main St. or Cherokee State Bank at 212 W. Willow St.

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Oak Hill Cemetery Then and Now:

Although Cherokee County was settled in 1856, the first officially designated cemetery was not established until 1871. The first death in the county was in January of 1857. The first burial place in Cherokee was the Old Cherokee Cemetery located on the bluff overlooking Mill Creek. That cemetery was abandoned and most of the bodies were moved to Oak Hill Cemetery when it was opened.

Burials prior to 1871 were often made on the land owned by the deceased's family. Most of these family burial plots have been forgotten and lost. There are no actual cemetery records in Cherokee County prior to 1871. Currently, there are 23 cemeteries plus two inactive Pioneer Cemeteries in Cherokee County.

The current site for Oak Hill Cemetery was selected in 1874. Landscaping for the cemetery was done by R. Lewis. The first meeting of the Cherokee Cemetery Association was Aug. 16, 1890, 16 years after the site of Oak Hill Cemetery was established. The Association wrote to H.D. Walrath to gather information about the early history of the cemetery. Walrath was one of the participants in setting up the plots at Oak Hill Cemetery. Walrath replied to the Cherokee Cemetery Association in a letter, which in turn was printed in the March 1921 issue of the semi-weekly Democrat, a local newspaper. This letter in its entirety is found at the Cherokee County Archives.

The letter stated that at the regular meeting of the Cherokee City Council abut 45 years ago, it was decided to select suitable ground and a name for the cemetery. The land offered by Walter Harriman west of town was the land chosen. Walrath suggested the name Oak Hill because the land was covered by scrub oak. The council selected his name. Walrath's closing paragraph was a call to citizens to help pay for the land. "Trusting with that thought in mind we would appreciate a monetary response from all those with lots in the cemetery."

The cemetery has grown to over 8,000 gravesites. It has become difficult for cemetery visitors to locate gravesites.

Pilot Rock Chapter NSDAR has assisted several cemeteries in establishing directories. The Oak Hill Cemetery Directory Committee thinks that it is now time for the largest cemetery in Cherokee County to have a directory of its own.



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