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Bethel United Brethren Cemetery
Jacksonburg Road & W.E. Oler Road
Wayne County
Indiana  USA

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Cemetery notes and/or description:
LAST KNOWN BURIAL: 1878 (from tombstone inscriptions)

Perry Township, Wayne County, Indiana, at the junction of Jacksonburg Road and W. E. Oler Road, on the northwest corner. It is located southwest of Economy with the Martindale Creek running nearby. A smaller "stream" runs along the north side of the grounds and flows into the creek.

This is an abandoned cemetery. Its condition is very poor as it has never been maintained, only occassional mowing.

It sits on a high hill with the Jacksonburg Road curling around its east and northeastern sides. On the north side along the road, is a very steep embankment with a stream below. The embankment has eroded exposing tree roots; a condition that has existed for many, many decades. It is possible that some tombstones and remains have fallen down this embankment into the stream below. A few stones have always sat very close to the edge.

In the 1960's through the 1970's, livestock were allowed to roam the grounds, trampling many of the tombstones.

Although this is a fairly small plot, there were probably more burials here than tombstones. Some headstones may be buried in the ground. It appears that some graves where only marked with field stones.

In 1968 the headstone inscriptions were read by Beverly Yount and recorded in her book, "Tombstone Inscriptions in Wayne County, Indiana," Volume 3, Page 2. She remarks that there are probably more burials than her records indicate. I have used her work in compiling data for this cemetery. I only found 3 or 4 of the 21 names she listed. They were the only stones still legible, although there were several others on the ground, (see conditions below).

Very poor, although the grass had been mowed. The area is fenced with wire fencing. Few visible stones standing, most fallen on the ground, half buried and broken. In the middle of the grounds are about 3 or 4 stones still standing but difficult to read. Several field stones and small headstones along the northern boundry. Bases for a few stones could be found throughout the grounds, presumably the stones themselves are now buried. One tombstone appeared to have been moved to the northern edge of the grounds. It was lying on top of tree roots, still intact and legible. I assume this was not its original location and might have been moved sometime in the past for mowing purposes.

I took photographs of every tombstone, broken piece & base I could find. Many could not be read. I even took photographs of the rocks that appear to be marking graves. I hope to do rubbings in the near future of those stones which are not easily readable. I have more photographs than what has been placed on this site. Since the stones cannot be identified with a specific person and with limitations on how many photos can appear on the main page, those photos do not appear here. If in the future I can identify a particular stone with a person, I will place the respective photo with the memorial.

The official name of this Christian denomination was: Church of the United Brethren in Christ. But it was commonly known as the "United Brethren Church." The local congregation took the name of "Bethel."

The Bethel United Brethren in Christ Church was organized in 1843 by Rev. Jones, a circuit preacher. Meetings were first held in a school house and a few years later a church building was constructed.

(A one room school stood about one-fourth mile north of the present cemetery site. This may have been the school the county history is referring too. In the late 1970's the old school site was identified with a sign, which over the years rusted and has since been removed).

"The History of Wayne County, Indiana," by Andrew W. Young, published in 1872, mentions the church: "The United Brethren formed a church...near the southeast corner of the township, on the south line...Robert Millman, James Wright, Lewis Perry, James Powell and their wives, are the names of members recollected. Preacher then in charge, Daniel Stover; present preacher [1872], James Cook; presiding elder, John T. Vardeman."

The church sat at the northwest corner of the intersection of Jacksonburg Road and W. E. Oler Road. The cemetery was located on its north side. The building was oriented toward the west with the main entrance on the east. It had very tall windows. (I think it also had a belfry at one time but not positive in my recollection of that feature).

When exactly the congregation disbanded is not currently known. It possibly could have been a result of the national denominational upheavals of 1889, which split the denomination into two groups. Or it could have been at an earlier date since the last known burial in the cemetery is 1878. In which case it might have been due to the shrinkage of the membership.

Whatever the reason for disbanding, the remaining members of the congregation united with the Sugar Grove United Brethren in Christ Church on Sugar Grove Road, according to local historical records. The Sugar Grove meetinghouse being about four miles to the southeast and with its own cemetery, the burial ground at Bethel soon fell out of use.

There is an interesting bit of history connected to the Sugar Grove Church; which I will mention here since they have a connection to the Bethel congregation. When the United Brethren in Christ denomination split into two groups in 1889, the Sugar Grove congregation also split. For a time there where two church buildings within several yards of each other. In January 1942, one of the buildings burned to the ground. The two congregations being weary of the national divisions that separated them, decided to put an end to the situation on the local level. Each group withdrew from its respective denomination, and together formed and organized the Sugar Grove Community Church. They used the surviving building as their meeting place. This congregation still exists today and continues to worship in the old surviving building. Although its outward appearance has changed due to several additions, the sanctuary still contains its country chapel charm with carved ceiling beams, hand carved pulpit furniture and panes of old colored glass.

At the Bethel site, the former frame church building was used as a barn from about the 1950's through the early 1980's. A huge open doorway was cut into its east side where the main entrance had once been. Over the years it stored farm equipment and grain; also housing hogs and cattle. Throughout this period the building stood proud with the outline of its tall windows still visible and boarded over. Yet it was a sorry sight compared to what its former glory must have been. It was finally removed in about the mid to late 1980's. Only the few remaining headstones in the cemetery indicate there once had been a house of worship on these grounds.

The Hagerstown Exponent newspaper wrote an article about this site in the 1970's.

This description & history written by Find A Grave member:
tombstone2c (#47280299)
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Bethel United Brethren Cemetery
Added by: tombstone2c
Bethel United Brethren Cemetery
Added by: tombstone2c
Bethel United Brethren Cemetery
Added by: tombstone2c
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