If you live in Newcomerstown or pass through frequently, you probably have noticed from time to time the section of land on south Bridge Street that has some broken, crumbling grave markers scattered throughout. If you have never noticed it before, you might want to make a special effort to see it, soon!
These days it is fast fading from view and will one day only be a memory, or picture from the local history archives.
Newcomerstown residents are probably unaware of the significance of the site, but according to local history sources it is the site of the final resting place of Newcomerstown's settlers.
The first known burial occurred in Decembe, 1815 when 35-year-old Elizabeth Starker, wife of George Starker, passed away.
The following year (February 1816) Leonard Neighbor, the eldest son of Newcomerstown's founder, Nicholas Neighbor, was buried there at the age of 31.
Over a 50-year period, many of the settlers (or pioneers) and their family members were buried in the cemetery.
It was Newcomerstown's first burial place as State Street and West Lawn cemeteries had not yet been established.
According to local folk-lore, an Irish man only known as Paddy, the town shoe cobbler fell into the Ohio-Erie canal lock, near the old cider mill (once located in the vicinity of what is now the Canal Road), and drowned in 1851.
It was told that six Irish men working nearby later removed his body from the canal and put him into a crudely made coffin.
They later consumed more than their share of some type of an alcoholic beverage and became quite inebriated.
They reportedly put the coffin down at least six times during their trek to the cemetery to engage in several fist fights. Paddy, the cobbler was supposedly buried in the middle of the cemetery, near a clump of trees.
These pioneers whom had trekked all the way across the mountains from the state of New Jersey in 1814 to settle in what is now Newcomerstown had no idea that their final resting place would eventually be in the midst of a business district, two centuries later.
Actually, when the cemetery was established in 1815, it was then situated at the very west edge of the village, nothing existing beyond that point other than wilderness all the way to the Tuscarawas River banks.
Over the years, the cemetery has greatly changed from what the pioneers once knew it to be.
The oak and maple trees that once were plentiful throughout the cemetery have been removed at some point.
The cemetery was also double the size that it is now, but the growth of industry and the village's population changed that fact.
The former C&M railroad (that extended north to south through Newcomerstown) constructed about 1860, reduced the original size of the cemetery to what it is now.
Many of the graves were later relocated to the East State Street Cemetery, the broken, crumbling grave markers removed and reportedly deposited along, and possibly into the murky depths of the Tuscarawas River, west of town.
Just prior to the start of the Civil War, about 1859-1860, there had been at least 200 recorded burials in the cemetery.
It was around this time that the East State Street Cemetery was established and burials in the Pioneer Cemetery ceased.
It is unknown what the original name of the cemetery was or if it even had a name, but around the time that interest generated in the village's original history, many locals began referring to it as the Pioneer Cemetery.
A few of the family names that are known to have been buried in the Pioneer Cemetery are: Neighbor, Wiandt, Delong, Booth, Clouse, Tufford, Patterson, Parks.
These family names are no doubt connected to many of the local residents that still reside in Newcomerstown and surrounding areas.
Years from now, after the grave markers are all gone, and nothing exists, hopefully, our local history will serve as a reminder to future generations that the village once had a beautifully shaded and peaceful final resting place for its pioneers -- those people that called Newcomerstown their home.