Paris association to place wreaths at vets’ gravesites

PARIS, Pa. – The Paris Cemetery Association will be placing evergreen sprays on veterans’ graves from 10 to noon Saturday at the cemetery in conjunction with the Wreaths Across America program.

Lou and Nancy Valles of Paris and Jim and Cathy Drummond of Paris donated the evergreen cuttings, and association members assembled the sprays. Among those assisting in creating the sprays were Bill Swan, Phyllis Swan, Deane Ralston, Mary Ann Marisella, Elaine Ferrari, Mary Kladakis, Patty Rhoades, Grace Myers and Elizabeth Myers.

Those whose family members are veterans interred in the cemetery are welcome to come and decorate their family member’s grave. Those wanting to place a spray on a veteran’s grave may check in with the group and receive a spray and directions to a veteran’s grave. There are 22 Revolutionary and Civil War veterans, including Medal of Honor recipient Uriah H. Brown, interred in the cemetery, and the group hopes to cover at least their graves and possibly other veterans in the cemetery.

Brown was a member of the 30th Ohio Infantry Co. G, out of Columbus, Ohio, during the Civil War. During the May 22, 1963, assault on Vicksburg, Miss., Brown volunteered to carry siege materials over heavily fortified ground, under enemy fire, and attempted to build a bridge over a deep ditch and set a ladder against the fort’s walls. The expectation of casualties was so high only unmarried men were allowed to volunteer for the “forlorn hope.” Brown was wounded but survived and managed to carry five other wounded men to safety.

The activity will go on as planned, regardless of the weather.

“If it snows, the veterans’ graves have been marked with flags by our local veterans’ groups, so we will be able to find them,” said Rhoades.

The group also is asking local churches to ring their bells 21 times at noon in honor of veterans and those who are active-duty military.

The group also welcomes any local residents who have family members interred at the cemetery and want to use this day as an opportunity to decorate their loved ones’ graves for the holidays.

Burials in the cemetery date back to the 1820s, and headstones are inscribed in Chinese, Greek, Czech, Slavic, German and Arabic, in addition to English. There is an early “Baby Land,” where children who died during an influenza epidemic were interred.

Residents became concerned about the upkeep of the cemetery after volunteer caretaker Leslie Grossmann of Paris said funds to provide everyday maintenance were nearly depleted.

The cemetery association, which oversaw the cemetery’s operation and care, literally died out with member Tom Vincineti. However, a perpetual care fund was never established.

The citizens committee is exploring options for the cemetery, including the reformation of the cemetery association. As the group attempts to reincorporate the cemetery board, they are looking for the original board members’ heirs so those heirs may wave responsibility for the cemetery. The group is searching for the heirs of Francis Finegan, David A. Lyons, David Gardener, D.M. Fulton, D.S. Fulton and J.J. McClurg.

The group believes the original deeds were signed over to the cemetery by Ross Aten and Harriett Simmons and are searching for their heirs as well.

There are four separate deeds for the 19 and one-half acres making up the cemetery and a title search may prove difficult, as the area was claimed by Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

The group also hopes to preserve the history of the cemetery with the assistance of local historians.

For information, call Rhoades at (724) 729-3657.