Wednesday, March 10, 1999

Slice of area's past in cemetery

Historian wants Ohio designation

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BUNKER HILL — This small farming community in Butler County's Reily Township isn't revolutionary, but it could be known for something soon.

        Area historian Thomas F. Stander has asked the Ohio Bicentennial Commission to erect a historical marker to commemorate the Bunker Hill Universalist Pioneer Cemetery on Reily-Millville Road northwest of Millville.

        “It's the only remaining area in southern Ohio where you can see almost 300 years of evolution of a cemetery — from a Native American buri al ground to an early 19th-century family cemetery,” said Mr. Stander, who teaches at Southern Ohio College.

        Many veterans — Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, Civil War — were buried in the community cemetery, including Lt. Jonathan Bressler, a Confed erate officer who grew up here.

        According to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, of which Mr. Stander is a member, Lt. Bressler is the only documented Confederate officer buried in Southwest Ohio.

        “His family moved from Pennsylvania to Bunker Hill, where he learned the carpenter trade,” Mr. Stander said. “Before the Civil War, there was a big building boom in Mobile, Ala., and he and a lot of people from this area went there to work. When the war came, he had already been down there 10 years, so he felt a part of the South. He joined the Alabama State Artillery. He had three brothers in the Union service; one was killed in 1864 at Kenesaw Mountain (in Georgia).

        “After the war, he stayed down there and married, but eventually he decided to come home. He died here in 1909.”

        In 1806 and 1811, the Deneen and Welliver families started cemeteries here, adjoining American Indian grounds. In 1854, the Universalist Society bought the sites and started its own cemetery. The society organized in the community in 1845, and started a church in 1854. Fire destroyed it in 1924.

        The cemetery is now owned by MetroParks of Butler County. In 1964, the Universalist Church (now the Universalist-Unitarian) deeded the property to the park system.

        The site is a significant part of Butler County history, said Derek L. Conklin, county


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