'To dwell with fellow clay'

The phrase "To Dwell with Fellow Clay" is the fourth line of verse inscribed on the cemetery marker of Smith Townsend in the East Cleveland Township Cemetery. Mr. Townsend died in 1833 and the phrase is taken from a hymn by Isaac Watt, who also wrote the Christmas carol "Joy to the World."

This column title is part of that of a book by Nancy Fogel West, the rest of which is: “The story of the East Cleveland Township Cemetery.” This odd title is taken from one of the older tombstones there. I stumbled upon the cemetery on a visit to University Circle years ago. The area once known as East Cleveland Township included today’s University Circle. The cemetery once had an entrance on Euclid Avenue but today the only entrance is nearly hidden at 1621 East 118th Street.

The cemetery fell into disrepair until a group of concerned citizens founded the East Cleveland Township Cemetery Foundation in 2003. Nancy West is one of those citizens. The book was published in 2007. I came upon it when I began searching for history books about the east side.

If you are a regular reader of this column “Digging Dover” you may know that my wife, mother-in-law and I recently relocated to Gates Mills to be closer to our youngest daughter and her growing family. The three-month process of purchasing our Gates Mills home and selling our treasured Westlake Krumwiede home was arduous.

The whole adventure has been a pivot from my plan to stay in that house and the Westlake/Bay Village community forever. To give you an idea of the level of commitment to “Dover,” one of my first tasks when we decided to move was to sell the cemetery plots in the historic part of Evergreen Cemetery that I had purchased when I retired!

One thing that I had to confront during the move was that I own too many heavy books, unwieldly maps and large historic building parts, bulging files, etc. Added to the typical propensity of baby boomers to acquire possessions (which none of our progeny want) I have this particular passion for local history and all of its accompanying accoutrements.

The deeper question is: Why do I care about the history of Dover Township, Cuyahoga County and the Western Reserve? Why is it important to me to connect to the past and to research and tell the stories?

Nancy West began to answer that question in the introduction to her book. She was explaining why she wrote her book and who it is directed to. She includes a long quote from an address by Alexander Hadden, the 1916 president of the Early Settlers Association (which organization still exists today, by the way), from the “Annals of the Early Settlers Association of Cuyahoga County, 1916”:

“In a rough sort of way, folks can be divided into three classes. There is a class of people who are always looking into the future. If they could have their way they would travel ahead of the sun and live in constant dawn; they love to see the dark places light up. They love to see new things; they feed on newness. The second class are those who live in that very short space of time called the present. They are like children on a railroad train. They don’t care where they came from; they don’t care where they are going, but they like to look out the window and see what they are surrounded by. Then there is the third class who, if they could have their way, would travel backward, with their back to the sun and live in a perpetual twilight; the landscape would always be fading and glimmering; their interest is in what has gone before. They love to trace back the present to the past.”

Nancy West concludes: “So as you read this story, look into the future and visualize what your children or grandchildren might learn from the early struggles that made this great City; or live in the present and enjoy the natural beauty that is now East Cleveland Township Cemetery; or if you are really courageous step back in time and try to understand and experience the lives of our early settlers.”

I am not sure that I am being courageous when I research these stories. If anything, it is an escape from what I perceive as the insanity of much of today's culture, the present where everything is disposable, debatable and seemingly detached from the great history and traditions and foundations of the past. I admit that there is a bit of romanticizing going on in the “glimmering, perpetual twilight” of the past. It is for me the place of poetry and repose and reflection.

I am grateful for those who live for the future, who strive for the technological advances that make these columns possible by making so much data available to use and assemble with the art of writing into articles that bring enjoyment to the reader and this writer. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

William Krause

William R. Krause, AICP, retired as the Assistant Planning Director of the City of Westlake in 2020 after over 30 years with the city. He also served on the Bay Village Planning Commission for 5 years. He was a trustee for the Bay Village Historical Society from 2020 to 2021 and a former board member of the Westlake Historical Society. He was chair of their Lilly Weston Committee and was a member of the Reuben Osborn Learning Center Steering Committee. He is currently a Trustee of the Western Reserve Architectural Historians. He has been married to Debra for 40 years and is the father of three grown children, grandfather of six and owner of a Shih Tzu named Cammy.

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Volume 13, Issue 24, Posted 9:47 AM, 12.21.2021