Forgotten Old Catholic Cemetery Forefront Of St. Marys' History

Pictured is the cross that overlooks the Old Catholic Cemetery on the corner of Plum and Maple streets in St. Marys.
By: 
JAKE DOWLING
Managing Editor

In an attempt to better know his family’s ancestry, a St. Marys resident uncovered years of history of a relative who happens to be one of the first people to live in town.

Robert Makley has been conducting research on his family history for nearly half a century and when his research led him to his great-great-grandfather, Makley discovered more than just a name attached to St. Marys, he tied together the remains of a forgotten cemetery.

“With my interest in history, I wanted to find out what role my family had in our country’s history. Both of my parents were of the Greatest Generation,” Makley said. “Then I started questioning them about past relatives and researching those on my father’s side as well as my mother’s side. When I found information on their parents and followed the leads to others in the family tree, it was like living their lives along with them and experiencing their period in time.

The man who unofficially started the family name was George Wilhelm Möglich, who became one of the first longtime residents of St. Marys in the 1800s and early 1900s.

Möglich was originally from Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1832 from Stadelhofen to Dayton with his father and brothers, who were all blacksmiths. Möglich — the German spelling of the Americanized version of Makley — then came to the St. Marys area with his sister Barbara in 1849 where he started his own blacksmith shop by 1850 on Spring Street where he was the patriarch of the Makley Black Smith and Welding business which lasted from the 1850s through the 1980s in St. Marys.

Möglich married Caroline Martz, who passed away in 1930 and was buried at the Gethsemane Cemetery at Greenville Road and Ash Street.

The Makleys raised a family of 15 children, four daughters and 11 sons and also raised four adopted children. Even with all this responsibility, the couple would find time to be active in the community — such as assisting in the founding of the first Catholic church in St. Marys and follow the direction of William Kimpel as he directed The St. Marys Brass Band.

While researching his great-great-grandfather, Makley found that Möglich was buried in the Old Catholic Cemetery in 1904 — a somewhat forgotten cemetery that is located on the south side of Maple Street and east of Plum Street. There is a large cross that overlooks a well-manicured plot of land and once served as a cemetery where early Catholic residents were buried until around 1913 when Gethsemane was opened for burials. The cross was dedicated in 1895.

Möglich passed away on Feb. 17, 1904 at the age of 76. The roughly 1.5-acre cemetery where he is buried has 24 memorials or stones, according to FindAGrave.com. Makley estimated about five or six stones were still present at the cemetery but were spread out yards in front of the cross. Over the years, however, markers at the Old Catholic Cemetery had been removed to the side of the cemetery.

“Over the years, someone got tired of moving all of the stones so most of stones were moved to the woods in the back of the cemetery,” Makley added.

In 2012, Nathan Huber collected all of the stones he could find along the tree line in the back of the cemetery as part of an Eagle Scout project. The only mystery is where the graves to those stones are located. Holy Rosary Catholic Church currently maintains the cemetery.

Makley thought it was possible that some graves were moved out of the Old Catholic Cemetery, but was unsure because records of the graves were burnt in a fire at Holy Rosary in 1913. Another theory was people were frightened by the cholera epidemic that struck Ohio in the mid to late 1800s. They were concerned that those buried there after passing from cholera, malaria or other contagious illnesses caused by conditions of the time could spread, Makley said.

“I don’t know how many or whatever is still left over there,” he said. “But I would imagine that the majority of people who were buried there are still there.”

Makley said he was a sophomore in high school when he first began his research in 1971 and roughly 48 years later, Makley ordered a marker to be placed at the base of the cross that would acknowledge Möglich/Makley’s burial in this cemetery and, when it arrives, will place it in the cemetery at 2 p.m. Sunday to honor his great-great grandfather.

“Finding the resting place of George Wilhelm Möglich/Makley and being able to replace his marker for future generations of my family to find and pay their respect to my great-great grandfather and their relative, as well as mentioning on his marker where his wife is buried gives me the feeling of a great accomplishment and I know he appreciates his memory being kept alive,” Makley said. “Talking about and making known the story of the ‘forgotten cemetery’ also feels good to remind our community that there are souls resting in a small plot of land just to the east of our downtown.”

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