Warrensville West Cemetery

In the late 1950s, the Shaker Historical Society undertook the daunting task of creating a memorial marker to tell the story of a small unmarked burial ground commonly referred to as the "Lee Road Cemetery" or the "Old Manx Cemetery." This graveyard, located at 3451 Lee Road, was the second oldest burial ground in Cuyahoga County, and the oldest designated landmark in Shaker Heights. Records for the cemetery, however, had long been lost, and only a few burials had taken place in the previous half-century. The Shaker Historical Society would need to interpret a story for the space through a study of grave inscriptions, newspaper articles, county histories, maps, and accounts provided by descendants of those buried. The narrative of the recovered history was framed to tell the tale of Shaker Height's common heritage and be a celebration of the region's pioneer past.

The memorial marker was to inscribe new meaning into the public burial grounds. The Shaker Historical Society intended to transform the unmarked and deserted graveyard into a shrine, and a space where residents of Shaker Heights could pay tribute to the region's founders. Concise and inclusive, trustees of the historical society decided on what they hoped would be a perfect tribute:

"First Burial 1811
Final Resting Place Of
Pioneer Families
Manx Settlers
Veterans Of Five Wars
North Union Shakers"

Dedicated on Memorial Day, 1959, the plaque captured the stories of patriotic veterans, brave pioneers, industrious immigrants and pious Shakers. Its placement among the weathered gravestones offered a point of departure for discovering and memorializing the colorful, unique history of both Warrensville Township and Shaker Heights.

Images

Warrensville West, c. 1935

Warrensville West, c. 1935

Despite the honors laid upon the region's founders by mid-century, there had always been a strained relationship between the farming community of Warrensville Township and the affluent suburb of Shaker Heights. Even the cemetery had been the site of a political struggle. The unmarked burial grounds fronting Lee Road was the property of Warrensville Township until 1932. As Shaker Heights became increasingly residential in character, the graveyard was considered an eye-sore by residents. Shaker Heights requested to take operation of the cemetery in 1931, but trustees of Warrensville Township refused. After a year of legal wrangling, Shaker Heights decided to move forward with plans to improve the grounds without permission from the trustees. A four-foot tall retaining wall was built, and the grounds were cleaned and landscaped. Image courtesy of City of Shaker Heights Planning Department. View File Details Page

Cemetery Marker, c. 1959

Cemetery Marker, c. 1959

The Shaker Historical Society had been active in marking sites of historic significance in Shaker Heights since its establishment in 1947. Other markers placed in the community by the society included a mill wheel at Shaker Square (1947), various gateposts marking the sites of Shaker communities (1948, 1950, 1953), a War Memorial near City Hall (1948), and a boulder and plaque at the site of the Shaker re-internment in Warrensville West (1949). Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Cemetery Lot Receipt, 1900

Cemetery Lot Receipt, 1900

Early burial grounds located in the outlying areas of Cuyahoga County were often informally created. As townships formed and development encroached on family and community grave sites, the grounds were sold to newly formed governments at a small price. Township trustees took over responsibility for these grounds in order to provide designated and affordable burial sites to residents of the community. Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Pioneer Elm Dedication, 1934

Pioneer Elm Dedication, 1934

The cleanup, landscaping, and beautification of Warrensville West Cemetery during the early 1930s helped transform the burial grounds into a site for public commemoration. In 1934, the Moreland Garden Club dedicated an elm in honor of Warrensville's pioneer settlers. Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Warrensville West and Eastview School, 1919

Warrensville West and Eastview School, 1919

Currently bounded by Heinan's and the Kingsbury Building, this 1919 photograph shows Warrensville West Cemetery prior to the development of the area as a commercial center for Shaker Heights. The picture was taken at the newly constructed rapid transit entrance near Lee Road and Moreland Boulevard (now Van Aken). Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Dedication Announcement, 1959

Dedication Announcement, 1959

On the day of the marker's dedication, a procession was held from Shaker Height's City Hall to the Warrensville West Cemetery. Speakers at the unveiling included a representative from the Manx Mona Relief Society and direct descendants of pioneers Moses Warren Sr. and Asa Stile. Tribute was also paid to the North Union Shakers and the 22 war veterans buried in the cemetery. Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Richard Raponi, “Warrensville West Cemetery,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 27, 2017, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/408.
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