Improvement work continues on historic Jackson Cemetery

SPRINGCREEK TWP., Miami County – Work on a master plan for improvements to the historic Jackson Cemetery near Piqua is ready to move forward.

The Miami County commissioners heard an update in March on efforts to plan for improvements and raise funding from Sherri Hamilton of the team of volunteers exploring options and the Land of the Freed nonprofit organization.

She said, “a dedicated team of volunteers has been working for more than 18 months on the initiative to restore the African Jackson Cemetery in Rossville.”

A veteran, Hamilton said she has “immense pride and respect for the soldiers who were laid to rest in that cemetery. They served at a time when they didn’t enjoy the same freedoms as their fellow soldiers in addition to their families. It takes an extra level of sacrifice. Along with the others buried there, they deserve to have this resting place restored.”

The project is now under Land of the Freed, she said.

The commissioners in 2022 agreed to earmark a portion of the county American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, funding to help with the plans for the cemetery. They initially approved spending up to $2,500 for Choice One Engineering of Sidney to draw up a concept plan. About one-half of that funding has been used, said Michael Clarey, the commissioners’ chief administrative officer.

In addition, the commissioners were asked to help pay for improvements, confirming at the March meeting that they were considering an amount of around $50,000.

They agreed with earlier remarks that the condition of the cemetery was not acceptable. Among work will be determining how many people are buried in the cemetery, which was designed with an Ohio Historical Marker that honors the Jackson Cemetery on one side and the Randolph Settlement on the other.

The Randolph Settlement is where slaves freed by John Randolph in Virginia came after arriving in Ohio in the 1840s. They established a settlement in Rossville, just north of Piqua, including a cemetery in 1866.

Hamilton said the organization is working with partners, including the Ohio History Connection, to help identify other possible funding sources. Commission President Greg Simmons also suggested the group contact the office of Congressman Mike Carey, saying commissioners have mentioned the project to Carey and his staff.

Federal funds also may be available for work on cemeteries such as Jackson Cemetery. The cemetery lies in Springcreek Twp. where trustees have mowed the area. Discussions also have been held with trustees on future maintenance work once improvements are made, the commissioners and Hamilton said.

Among suggested improvements in discussions have been an entrance feature, pull-off parking spots, lighting ideas, wayfinding and boundary designation. The goals include using natural landscaping and providing ease of maintenance for the township.

The committee includes Piqua Mayor Kris Lee and other descendants of those buried in the cemetery, Hamilton said.

“The work is very rewarding for all of us. We meet regularly to plan for a beautiful space, longevity. We appreciate your time and your support of a project,” she said.

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