Compared to the development around Harmony and Zelienople, the Mennonite Meetinghouse Cemetery is a comforting place, said Rodney Gasch, Historic Harmony president.
“It's a place that really hasn't changed. You're walking on exactly how it might have looked like 100 years ago. That's getting harder to find in Butler County,” Gasch said. “(The Scouts) really did a wonderful job taking on this task.”
Gator Martineau, 15; Tyler Rasmussen, 13; Greyson Jones, 14; and Jessie James Martineau are the four Boy Scouts of Troop 1606 of Cranberry Township who worked to restore the Mennonite Meetinghouse Cemetery, 114 Wise Road, Harmony, as their Eagle Scout projects.
Tyler approached the museum with the idea.
“It was really a Godsend to us,” Gasch said.
The Mennonite Meetinghouse Cemetery was built in 1825 adjacent to the existing cemetery, he said. The meetinghouse and cemetery are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Burials began about 1815, he said, adding one tragic detail about the cemetery are the number of infant and small children graves from the 1800s.Since that time, stones have become catawampus and the infant grave markers ended up positioned along the cemetery wall, he said.“With any old land, there's shifting, especially graves with wooden caskets,” Gasch said about the reason why the gravestones toppled over.A number of graves were not marked because they had either been marked by wooden crosses that deteriorated or their marker rested along the wall.“Many didn't have names,” he said. Others had initials while erosion from the last 100 years removed the writing from others.Scouts dug around the stones to loosen the earth and set them vertically. They also repositioned the stones for the people buried at the wall.Of about 16 Scouts, the troop has one Eagle Scout and four currently working to the designation, said Sam Jones, Scout leader since 2017.
This year is an exception to the average of one Scout attaining the rank of Eagle a year, he said.Scouts must earn 21 merit badges that are skill- or educational- based, which introduce Scouts to skills they might be interested in as future careers.They must also be active in a troop for six months, demonstrate how they have lived and implemented Scout spirit and serve in a position of responsibility for six months.An Eagle project benefits a religious institution, community or school and allows Scouts to exhibit leadership.The project was large enough for the four Scouts to divide the work between them, Jones said.Each Scout was responsible for and independently repaired two to three rows of headstones. Once completed, they worked together to go above and beyond and do more work than planned.Scouting programs are designed to develop future leaders who are civically minded, Jones said. The project will make the community a better place.
“We are hoping to build responsible young men who will become leaders in their respective communities,” Jones said. “This project allowed them to demonstrate some of those leadership skills ... they could find other people in the community that had needs and take pride in their local community.”Benefits include helping the Harmony Museum to better preserve the cemetery that was entrusted to the museum and to show respect for the early pioneers from 150 years ago, Gasch said.“Now we don't have any markers laying on the ground or misplaced that were relocated to the wall. Now, all the markers are marking graves,” he said. “That's important.”One important aspect of the project is showing respect for ancestors, Gasch said.“Not only does this show respect for people who would have walked the same streets we did 100 years to 150 years ago, but they also make it much easier to maintain,” he said.