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Finding Loved Ones in Beech Grove Cemetery - Now Possible



Beech Grove Cemetery in Springfield Township is the final resting place for over 5,300 people, a large portion being African American veterans. The graves here date as far back as 1890. Beech Grove was under the care of the Bethel AME Church until the church disbanded and the property fell delinquent. By the time Springfield Township was required to take over its care, there was in excess of $100,000 in tax liens and a trail of debt. The three designated property lines only further complicated the township's efforts to legally take over basic maintenance. 


Hamilton County Land Bank worked with Springfield Township's Law Director, Trustees and staff for over two years to undergo the legal process required to forgive the liens and transfer the property to Springfield Township. Since that time, the Public Works Department has worked to restore the neglected property. Dead trees and a dangerous structure were removed, gateway fencing has been installed and many gravestones have been repaired. The biggest expense incurred involves new technology that has already helped families find their loved ones. 


"We inherited three old filing cabinets filled with cemetery records in disarray," shares Springfield Township Trustee, Gwen McFarlin. "As soon as we took over the cemetery, families were calling begging for help. They hadn't been able to find their mothers, fathers, grandparents - ever," she said. Trustees Gwen McFarlin, Joe Honerlaw and Mark Berning authorized the funds in order to do what was right - to locate and properly document every person buried at Beech Grove Cemetery. Gwen recalls, "The people resting here in Beech Grove deserve our attention. They've been forgotten too long, and this is not how we do things in Springfield Township. We care for one another. We take the time to do what's right, even if it's not the easiest thing to do."


The company RA Consultants was hired by the Township to map where a person is buried using modern GIS technologies. Now, relatives can search on Springfield Township's website to locate a grave, view the photograph of the headstone and locate the site on a map. The website map is color coded; green for a headstone, blue is the designation for military and purple is the location of an individual without a headstone. At this time, only one section of the cemetery has been mapped with the unmarked graves.


"There are several unmarked graves at Beech Grove, and that is when the difficult 'detective work' comes in to play" explains McFarlin. Through the process of basic research involving a plot receipt, Springfield Township Public Works employees have been able to positively identify where some people, such as Freda and Prince Holcomb, are buried.  


Gordon Holcomb was first interviewed in early October by Channel 9 News. His story found him tirelessly looking for his mother, father and both grandparents who were buried at Beech Grove. At the time of their death, there wasn't enough money to purchase gravestones for any of these family members. When the story aired, the township was not aware of Mr. Holcomb's search. Once the story aired, the search was on to find Mr Holcomb's relatives. Channel 9 News was at the scene when Trustee Gwen McFarlin led to the sites where his mother, father and both grandparents were buried. Gordon was grateful that the search was over. He finally had a place where he could speak to his family - in their resting place. Next, he would like to find a way to purchase proper headstones. (The news story can be viewed in the video below).


Rehabilitation continues to restore Beech Grove Cemetery. A column baring niche will be installed in 2019 for cremation services. To purchase a niche or to become a volunteer to help restore headstones call 522-4004. To search for someone buried at Beech Grove, visit https://www.springfieldtwp.org/417/Cemeteries