The “Indian Hunter” grave of John Quincy Adams Ward in OakDale Cemetery in Urbana, Ohio, is one of the stops on the 2012 Tombstone Trail. Urbana is the first Ohio stop for the trail, which originated in Noble and DeKalb counties. Staff photo by Bob Braley
URBANA, Ohio — The Tombstone Trail may have been born in Noble and DeKalb Counties, but it has expanded beyond the Hoosier State to Ohio.
DeKalb County Historian and Noble County Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director John Bry went to Urbana, Ohio the last weekend of October to perform his annual cemetery tour there. His visit marked the beginning of the Ohio Tombstone Trail.
Bry’s annual tour in the Buckeye State has become an annual tradition attracting more than 500 tourgoers in just a few hours’ time. Bry volunteers his time for the event, and all proceeds go to the Champaign County Preservation Alliance and the local Soroptomist group.
Last year part of the proceeds raised that evening allowed the monument of Anna Bosler to be completed 70 years after her death. She was the first female sheriff in Ohio.
“Urbana and Champaign County is my second hometown in many ways, and I have been designing and developing tours of OakDale Cemetery in Urbana for years. It still amazes me just how many people turn out for it year after year,” Bry said.
Bry and his parents located to Urbana in 1989 when his father worked for Navistar International in nearby Springfield.
The Brys became very involved in the county, and at age 19, John founded the Champaign County Preservation Alliance. It was the first countywide preservation group in the state at the time. The organization continues today, and its efforts to preserve the unique character of the community helped contribute to Urbana being named as Ohio’s Best Hometown in 2011.
Bry also served as Urbana’s downtown revitalization manager from 2000-2004, and is advising the community yet on the redevelopment of a historic hotel. He has also successfully written grants to revitalize historic structures in the community.
When Champaign County heard about the Tombstone Trail Bry created in Indiana, they proceeded to be the first location outside of Indiana to follow suit. Additional trails are expected to form in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts next year.
Bry changes the tour in Urbana every year.
Among the subjects highlighted this year were the Glessner Family who played a key role in establishing International Harvester, Jonas Slaughter who was the barber to Mark Twain, and John Quincy Adams Ward who is considered the Dean of American Sculpture.
Ward died in New York City in 1911, but his remains were returned to Urbana and his grave is marked by an exact scale copy of his monument called “The Indian Hunter”. The original Ward creation is in New York’s Central Park.
Champaign County is about two-and-a-half hours from the local areas near Dayton and Columbus.
The Tombstone Trail in Indiana is currently in its third season, and currently includes Noble, Whitley, Huntington, and Kosciusko counties.