LIMA, Ohio (AP) -- Deborah Davis' family has deep roots in Lima -- even though those roots have been dug up and transplanted. Twice. But now her ancestors can finally rest in peace.
Her great-great-great-grandfather, U.S. Army Gen. William Blackburn, was buried in the original Lima cemetery in 1858. So were the War of 1812 veteran's two wives and his mother. Years later, the cemetery was moved to a different street, according to records at the Allen County Historical Society. The graves were moved yet again in 1968, under court order, to make room for Neon Products Inc.
"My father, Richard Davis, was the last trustee of the old cemetery. He oversaw the exhumations," Davis said recently near Blackburn's final resting place, in the southeast corner of Woodlawn Cemetery in Lima. "He said it was horrifying. At one point, a coffin fell open, and he caught a glimpse of the red hair of his dead grandmother."
Vandalism and decay in the 40-some years since have sustained a glimmer of her father's sense of devastation, Davis said, despite efforts to replicate the layout of the burial plots when the graves were moved to Woodlawn. For more than 20 years, Blackburn's marble monument -- a tall, round shaft on a square pedestal, topped with a pineapple -- has lain broken in four pieces, its corners worn and chipped. Monuments for his wives were in a similar state of disrepair.
Enter William Timmermeister.
The owner of a local auto dealership, president of the county Historical Society and a longtime friend of Davis, Timmermeister offered to pay for a restoration of the stones.
Much of that work was completed recently. John "Walt" Walters, owner of Graveyard Groomer, of Connersville, Ind., and his two-man crew lovingly cleaned and pieced together the broken stones, worked a special epoxy into the missing areas and polished the marble to its original luster.
Timmermeister and Davis watched some of the restoration work.
"I was completely surprised by his offer to do this," Davis said. "It all started a year ago when the Historical Society put up an exhibit of Gen. Blackburn in the new part of the museum."
"She mentioned what a shame it was the monuments were in such disrepair, so I said let's have them restored," Timmermeister said. "It's good for the history of Allen County."
Blackburn was born in Maryland in 1787. He was a receiver for the U.S. Land Office in Lima and an Ohio assemblyman. His first home in the area was in Wapakoneta, but he later settled in the Allentown section of American Township. He fought with the Ohio militia in the War of 1812 and was a veteran of the Battle of the Timbers, which was fought near present-day Perrysburg, but he did not attain the rank of general until later -- he was a mere 25 years old in 1812.
Apparently he was an imposing figure.
"Gen. Blackburn was a tall man, and heavy," Davis said, recalling family lore. "He was so big, he had a horse named Tam-O'-Shanter, who had to be blindfolded before the general could mount him."
Information from: The Lima News, http://www.limanews.com