John Eha is working hard to earn his Eagle Scout Status

By Chuck Gibson  

LOVELAND, OH (July 22, 2021) – When Loveland Boy Scout John Eha chose to “clean-up” a local area cemetery as his Eagle Scout project; he could not have predicted the time and effort it would take to complete the project.

St. Columban Boy Scout John Eha working on his Eagle Scout project to restore a historic cemetery in Loveland (Chuck Gibson)

The cemetery is officially listed as the Hill-Wagoner Cemetery, but is also known as Hill Graveyard, Jones-Paxton Cemetery, and the Ramsey Cemetery. Just a look at those names gives locals a pretty good idea of the historic value of the cemetery. The different names only made research to identify grave locations and names of those buried that much more difficult for John Eha. If you’re trying to figure out where this graveyard/cemetery is located, it is officially within the Loveland City limits in Hamilton Township, Warren County on the east side of State Route 48 behind building lots at the end of Sentry Hill Drive.

“Welcome to our quaint little cemetery,” said Eha, as he greeted visitors and helpers to a work day at the site in early June. “When we were first getting in here, we were lost; just trying to find our way around toward the center. We just didn’t know where we were.”

That offers some insight into the deteriorated and overgrown condition of the somewhat neglected cemetery. Overgrowth was simply so thick John, the other scouts helping out, and the adults overseeing the effort could not easily discern exactly where they were within the three quarter acre burial grounds. The group started work by walking carefully around the area marking headstones and suspected headstones to help navigate the geography of the site.

“We were going off of certain things with certain headstones,” Eha explained. “A lot of it was just guessing and hoping we were going in the right direction.”

If that sounds like kind of a rough start, that’s nothing compared to the meetings and advance work Eha did with Loveland City leaders to secure approval for the project. It took months of planning just to have the opportunity to walk into the overgrown cemetery and begin searching for gravestones and markers mostly well-hidden by the overgrowth of fallen trees, seedlings, weeds, grasses, and assorted other thorny brush. He’ll tell you it is worth it though as he began to discover and identify historic gravestones dating back to and before Civil War times. After just the first two work days, a lot of clearing began to reveal the history and maybe even charm of the Hill-Wagoner Cemetery.

The blue flags represent “rocks” which may be gravesites (Chuck Gibson)

“We’re marking all rocks that we find that are at least placed into the ground and not just sitting there on top,” said Eha. “There are a bunch that we’re saying: hey this is a possible grave site.”

Eha and his helpers will go back to the rocks identified as “possible grave sites” using a probe device to determine if there is actually something, or someone, buried in that location. It has been a process. They are working somewhat blindly without knowing how many graves are actually in the cemetery.

“There is no exact number,” Eha explained. “There was an online survey we found indicating about 40 bodies that have names to them.”

Through their clean-up effort, the group has marked possible graves totaling close to 100. Eha is not only working hard to clean up the cemetery grounds, he is also diligently searching for records to identify the actual names and number of people in gravesites within the cemetery. Again, it has been a challenging process with places like Warren County Genealogical Society rendering virtually no records at all.

“It’s the same with Loveland,” he said. “They don’t have identifiable records that belong directly to this.”

Their efforts to clean up have turned up more information than any outside research simply by reading names and dates on the grave markers they have uncovered. Of course, some of those are illegible due to decay. There are some names familiar as native Loveland families among those they’ve been able to find. John Hill is one laid to rest after his death January 6, 1803 at the age of 68 years old. There is evidence of Civil War veterans could be buried there, but they have been unable to find records to verify any names. One grave marker appears to be that of a C. F. Radcliffe with some military markings on the stone which indicate he may have served with the 36th regiment – possibly as a volunteer from Indiana, or Illinois.

The grave marker of C.F. Radcliffe which may be a Civil War veteran gravesite (Chuck Gibson)

No matter the challenge, John Eha is not alone in his Eagle Scout project effort. Aside from his own father and Scout Leader, Jeff Eha, Michael Brock, Scout Leader, and Kevin Barrett adult volunteer have joined in to help on multiple work days.

“These projects have to meet a certain standard,” said Brock, who earned his Eagle Scout status more than 40 years ago. “These guys are doing 10 times more work and heavy lifting. I give these scouts a lot of credit. They do good work. I think it’s very ambitious. I think it is a great learning experience for John. These guys are young men. It’s great.”

Brock noted John had to work with city leaders and learning the government process. Other Scouts have been lending a helping hand on work days with John.  too. Sam Moeller, Nigel Beeker and Liam Barrett have been doing some of the heavy lifting along with John. Moeller is 20, already earned his Eagle Scout, and made a personal commitment to help other Scouts with their Eagle Scout projects

A work day work crew: l-r Front Row – Nigel Beeker, Jeff Eha, Michael Brock, l-r Back Row: Sam Moeller, John Eha, Kevin Barrett and Liam Barrett. (Chuck Gibson)

“At some point, I said I’d show up to help on everyone’s Eagle Scout project, I’m trying to keep that commitment,” said Moeller. “We’re clearing out all the debris, the trees, making it so people can actually know it’s a graveyard. It’s been a couple weekends now.”

There will be more weekends. The work is nearing completion, but not finished yet. Rain has slowed progress and provided some muddy work days along the way. Nigel Beeker was on hand during one muddy Saturday workday in mid-June. He’s another St. Columban Scout who has already completed his Eagle Scout project. John helped him with his project, so he’s returning the favor assisting on the cemetery restoration project.

“This is a lot bigger than what I did,” said Beeker. “First time here, I was like: this is not a graveyard, this is a jungle. It’s amazing how quickly we’ve cleared out the area. We’re making progress.”

Eha is uncertain when they will complete the project. Best guess now is he’s completed about 75% of the clearing. There are some big trees which still need to be removed.

Orange X’s mark three of the “Big Trees” Eha believes City of Loveland Public Works will remove to help complete restoration of the cemetery. (Chuck Gibson)

“The big trees we have left are going to be cut down by Loveland (Public Works) and they’ll carry them out I believe,” said Eha. “If they don’t carry them out, we’ll have to, and that’s okay.”

Once they have a “nice clear plot”, Eha has plans to complete the gravesite identification process. He hopes to accomplish that on the last couple work days. When that happens, we’ll have the rest of the story and finished site photos for you here on Loveland Beacon.

John Eha is a member of the St. Columban – Loveland, Oh Boy Scout Troop. He attends Loveland High School.