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Athey Cemetery oldest in county

Friday, May 23, 2008

(Photo)
There is a small pioneer cemetery located near Reelsville and Putnamville that is purported to be the oldest cemetery in Putnam County.

Named for the family on whose land it stood, James Athey, it does not house the oldest grave in the county but it is the site of the first home erected in Putnam County.

A historical Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) marker erected in October 1936 recognizes the site. Nearby is the Athey cemetery.

James Athey built the house in the winter of 1818-19 on land that belonged to the Miami Indians and was the site of their settlement and burial ground, the marker says.

The land that comprises Putnam County was purchased from Delaware, Potawatomi, Miami and Eel River Indians through the treaties of 1809 and 1818. In 1820 the land was surveyed and put up for sale.

The cabin preceded the formation of Putnam County, which did not happen until 1822. The cabin housed the forest court in Putnam County in 1823.

The Athey cemetery still stands today and is visited by descendents of many of those buried in the pioneer site. Among the names of those buried are surnames of Athey, Moyers, Johnson, Matkins, Webster and Rice, information at Web site www.roots.com said.

Mary Lou Hazelrigg, whose great-grandparents Henry and Elizabeth Strough Johnson are buried in the Athey Cemetery, visited the site in June 2007 and reported on www.rootsweb.com that there "appeared to be at least 17 stones still left in the cemetery."

Hazelrigg's great-grandfather was born in 1811 in Ohio. He came with his siblings and parents to Putnam County.

Hazelrigg also expressed her gratitude to a group who helped restore the Athey Cemetery in 2003.

"I know a group came in to reset the stones only a few years ago. They did a great job working with the stones. I am at least glad to see a gravel road that makes it possible to get to the cemetery for mowing now," she said in her Web site posting.

The gravel road was put in by the farmer who owns the land.

By 1830 the population in Putnam County grew to 8,195 and that number doubled by 1840.

By 1849 there were over 21,000 people countywide.

The group, who worked in the cemetery in 2003, was comprised of Susan Huber, Lee Creed, Sheila Morrison and Larry Tippin.

Also participating in the clean-up at that time were five direct descendents of the families buried in Athey.

According to the groups' comments posted online at www.Putanmindianacemeteries.com, they spent hours cleaning the grounds, then began the process of restoring as many tombstones as possible.

"After cleaning the stones, we performed a careful examination of names, dates and other legible markings. We also attempted to match up the stones that were fragmented," said the report.

"We were not able to locate the stones of James and Prudence Athey. This is disappointing as it is believed this is the same James Athey mentioned on Page 12 of the 1879 Atlas of Putnam County" continued the journal entry.

After carefully remapping the location of stones and documenting names and dates, the group took photographs.

"Our goal is to locate, restore and preserve the pioneer cemeteries in such a way they will be in good condition for future generations. We worked until almost dark. The area looks like a cemetery now," concluded the Web site entry.



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