Cemetary Stone Restoration
Eleutherian College founder's
headstone restored in Lancaster
Research help determine location of original graves
LANCASTER, Ind. (July 2015) – The headstones of Elder Thomas Craven and his wife, Rebecca, have been returned to their rightful places in the College Hill Cemetery in Lancaster, Ind., where they were both buried about 150 years ago. Lancaster is located just a few miles north of Madison, in Jefferson County.
Craven and fellow abolitionists founded the Eleutherian Institute in 1848 to provide education “to students of all races and genders,” according to a historical marker on the site. Renamed Eleutherian College in 1854, its mission remained to educate women and African-Americans.
Photo by Phyllis McLaughlin
Thomas Craven's headstone is located in the College Hill Cemetery in Lancaster, Ind., were recently restored as part of a preservation project headed by Donna Denning.
It also became a crucial link in the Underground Railroad, which was very active in Jefferson County before and during the Civil War.
The Craven-Rowlison headstone project, finished this spring, was a couple years in the making. Local cemetery expert Donna Denning has been given all the credit for getting the work done, said David W. Clashman, president of the College Hill Cemetery Association.
Denning, who has done much work refurbishing headstones in cemeteries throughout Jefferson County and Kentucky, had discovered the Cravens’ headstones on display in the bookstore operated by the college.
“The stones had been removed quite a few years ago,” along with the headstone of a member of the Rowlison family, said Allen Manning, who assisted Denning with the project.
Clashman said an old photograph of the headstones before they were moved showed they had been set inside a stonewall fence with an iron gate. That fence had been bulldozed over, and after extensive research, Denning determined that the Cravens’ burial sites were underneath the pile of rock.
“We went through the rocks to see if we could find the bases for the headstones,” Manning said. “Only one was found – the base for Thomas Craven’s stone – but it was not salvageable,” he said.
At that point, the Jefferson County Genealogical Society stepped in to hire the Elliott Limestone Co. of Bedford, Ind., to create limestone bases that fit the time period for the headstones. “They did a real nice job,” Manning said.
Photo by Phyllis McLaughlin
Rebecca Craven’s headstone, also located in the College Hill Cemetery in Lancaster, Ind.
“Plans are in place to use the rocks to rebuild the fence,” Manning added. The original iron gate that secured the Cravens’ plot was refurbished by Madison Iron Works, located on West Main Street, and will be reset with the stone walls.
College Hill Cemetery has 164 interments, according to FindAGrave.com, and Clashman said the last person buried there probably was his grandmother, Laura Belle (McDonough) Boyd, who died in 1967.
Before that, Clashman said families were required to keep their own plots cleared away. He said he recalled going to the cemetery with his father in the 1950s to clear off their family plots.
“It was nothing but briars and bushes,” he recalled. “We cleared out our plots once or twice a year.”
In the 1960s, Howard Fewell took on the job of keeping the cemetery mowed and did the work for about 30 years, Clashman said. Then, about 20 years ago, he and his cousin, Mary Clashman, took on the responsibility from Fewell.
They established the cemetery association to collect donations from other families of the interred to ensure its upkeep, hiring David Richmond of Bedford, Ky., to mow and trim the grounds every other week.
Recently, the association established the College Hill Cemetery Endowment through the Madison-Jefferson County Community Foundation with $33,000 from the association’s funds. The Community Foundation obtained a grant from the Indianapolis-based Lily Endowment that added $16,500 to the fund. The cemetery endowment will be managed by the Community Foundation; proceeds will be used to provide perpetual upkeep of the cemetery, which will be handled by the Eleutherian College Board of Directors.
“Our chief concern was that we didn’t have anyone to take it over for us,” David Clashman said.
“It has been quite a little project,” Mary Clashman said. “We are glad we were able to give the money to the Community Foundation and that the Eleutherian College Board was willing to take the proceeds of the endowment to keep it mowed. I am very grateful that we have found a way to take care of it.”
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