GREENWOOD TOWNSHIP —
The search for Old Geneva Cemetery began as a routine investigation by Hall, who personally tends to his family’s genealogy, often toting several history books and whole binders full of family records.
“What I do is get a picture of the headstone to go with the individual,” he said, referencing his extensive family history, complete with wedding licenses, birth certificates, military documentation and more.
With the roots of his family tree in mind, Hall set out for Geneva in search of his great-great ancestor John Hall, an early settler in the region said to have owned and developed sizable portions of land prior to his listed death in 1832.
“He may have been from Holland or Ireland originally, about five or six generations back,” Hall said. “I believe he came to Geneva from New Jersey and served in the War of 1812.”
John Hall preceded other early settlers in death, including Thomas Abbott and John Sutton, two of Geneva’s founding fathers, according to Carl Hall.
“Thomas, John and Abraham Sutton were three brothers from Salem County (N.J.),” Hall said. “Thomas and Abraham changed their last names to Abbott and Peterson (respectively), according to the history books. Those families are all related.”
As a result of their influence and local development, modern-day Geneva encompasses what was known as “Sutton’s Corners” in the 1800s, Brubaker said.
Brubaker compiled her and Hall’s collective research and historical findings, including a list of people believed to have been buried there.
A few names that stand out are John Sutton, Thomas Sutton Abbott and Ezra Peterson, Abraham’s son, and John Hall.
Hunting for graves
In an effort to achieve his goal, Hall enlisted the help of Brubaker as well as several local relatives, including his cousin Scott Hall of Meadville.
“From what I gathered, a few people knew about (the cemetery), but they didn’t have a lot of interest in it,” Scott said. “I got some more relatives involved a few months ago.”
Their search issued an unexpected challenge: local rumors and research only hinted at the cemetery’s location. Even Crawford County Historical Society records could only approximate the area, according to Ed Edinger, secretary and treasurer.
“We never saw any markers because the cemetery area was solid with vegetation,” Edinger said in a letter to the Tribune last week.
Edinger’s letter included part of a census of local cemeteries compiled by the Crawford County Historical Society around 2007. The report’s estimated location of the burial site matched Hall’s findings.
“The surveyors never saw this cemetery,” the report read, revealing the peculiar twist that kept the gravestones hidden in the tall grass. “It is said the grave markers were once removed from the cemetery and then returned, but left scattered and lying flat on the ground.”
This hearsay account was also corroborated by Carl and Scott Hall, who mentioned rumors of the headstones being taken away at some point to make a sidewalk.