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Potter’s Field project gives old graveyard a makeover

Girl Scout Troop 40522 received a Bronze Award for their work cleaning up Potter's Field cemetery in Price Hill
Girl Scout Troop 40522 received a Bronze Award for their work cleaning up Potter's Field cemetery in Price Hill
Julie Hotchkiss

This summer, a Junior Girl Scout Troop on the west side of Cincinnati took on a formidable task—cleaning up the area leading into Potter’s Field on Guerley Road in Price Hill. On Wednesday, November 6, at the monthly meeting of the Price Hill Historical Society, the young women will share what their project accomplished. The meeting begins at 7:00 pm with regular business; the troop will give a talk at about 8:00 pm. The meeting, at the Society’s museum, 3640 Warsaw Avenue, is open to the public.

Potter’s Field cemetery served as the final resting ground for Cincinnati citizens who died indigent or unknown for more than 130 years, from its founding in 1848 until it was closed for burials in May 1981. No one knows exactly how many people are buried at Potter’s Field, but estimates are that there are 10,000 or more burials in the 25-acre cemetery.

The plot began as a city cemetery, then was maintained by Dunham Hospital nearby, became part of the Hamilton County Welfare Department, and finally reverted back to the city’s care when it closed in 1981. It is now under the city’s Parks Department, but they stopped maintaining the area years ago. The entrance, off a private driveway on Guerley Road, was overgrown to the point that it was almost impossible to get into the cemetery itself.

But one small troop of Girl Scouts came up with the project for their Bronze Award, the first of a series of three special awards for girls in the scouting program. They spent several weekends hacking through underbrush and cleaning up the entrance area and into the burial ground, and the results are quite amazing. And they didn’t stop there; they also wanted to find out about the history of the cemetery.

That brought them to the Price Hill Historical Society one evening last June to begin their research. They even found where the old books that listed burials are now located. They had been at the Hamilton County Welfare Department in the 1990s, but had somehow made their way to the Cincinnati Public Library, and are now kept in the local history and genealogy department there.

The scout troop created a scrapbook of the project that they shared with the Price Hill Historical Society and the Cincinnati Parks Department. The girls received their Bronze Awards in September , and the results of their efforts are still quite evident at the old cemetery. At the meeting, members of the Price Hill Historical Society will commend the troop for their efforts in preserving a Price Hill landmark.

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