On a pastoral hillside in Athens, Ohio, is one of the most poignant cemeteries I’ve ever seen. Called simply “The Ridges” by locals, it’s the burial grounds for the old Athens State Psychiatric Hospital (originally called the Athens Lunatic Asylum). If their bodies were not claimed by their families, patients who died at the hospital from the 1870’s until 1944 were buried in sloping rows with small, numbered headstones as their only markers.
For decades, the list of names of those buried at The Ridges was considered restricted information. Over the years, a few families breached the red tape necessary to find their loved ones and install traditional markers with names and dates. The cemetery fell into sad disrepair for many years, but has been restored today through the efforts of dedicated volunteers. The Athens council National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Athens) spearheaded The Ridges Cemeteries Project, and in 2005 the state legislature finally passed a bill making the names of those buried public. Terry Gilkey has created a downloadable directory to the graves.
On my last visit, I was struck by the number of Civil War veterans buried at The Ridges. Some are still identified only by their number.
|Grave No. 265|
Other families have replaced the anonymous stones with personalized markers. John C. Bocock served in Company B of the 91st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, the same company as my great-great-great-grandfather, Newel King, and his brother Wesley King. They had to have known one another. Were they friends?
Here are some other Civil War veterans who rest at The Ridges:
|John R. Gillespie|
|Adam Kern, Co. D, 17th Ohio Infantry|
|Nathan C. Littler, Sergeant Major, 73rd Ohio Infantry|
|William M. Riley, Co. A, 3rd Ohio Infantry|
On this Memorial Day, it seems fitting to pay tribute to these soldiers whose final months or years, perhaps, were difficult ones. It's good to know they have not been forgotten.
May they rest in peace.