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‘We had to honor them somehow’: Butler County cemetery in shambles gets some TLC

He went from showcasing trophies to preserving tombstones.

When C.J. Castle, 17, a senior at Madison High School and marching band member, was considering a Boy Scout Eagle Project, he wanted to build a trophy case for the marching band. He knew his Scoutmaster Ken Gairland and Gary Webb, both accomplished carpenters, would assist in the project.

Then Webb died.

That left Castle scrambling to find another project.

While driving from his home on Wayne Madison Road to his high school every morning, and to his Boy Scout meetings every Tuesday night at the Middletown Sportsmen’s Club, Castle’s attention was drawn to the Old Jacksonburg Cemetery on Ohio 744. He noticed the cemetery, no longer in use, was in disarray, and a few of the headstones — some from the early 1800s — were lying in the high weeds.

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“It was a wreck,” Castle’s mother, Stacey, said of the cemetery.

Many of the headstones at the Old Jacksonburg Cemetery in Wayne Twp. date back to the early 1800s. (NICK GRAHAM/STAFF)

Castle was looking for “a tough project” and figured what would be more challenging than cleaning, repositioning and repairing headstones, digging holes, mixing and pouring concrete, pulling weeds, and unburying headstones that were embedded into the ground.

“This is sad,” Castle remembers thinking of the cemetery’s condition. “Somebody needs to do something about this.”

That somebody was Charles Joseph Castle.

He completed the necessary Eagle Scout paperwork during the summer of 2017, and started the labor portion at the start of this summer. Every weekend, without fail, Castle drove less than one mile from his home to the cemetery and worked on the restoration.

The project was more extensive than he thought. Twenty-one tombstones were knocked over so Castle built a foundation and placed the headstones in concrete. There also were about 40 headstones that either were misplaced or severely damaged. So Castle built a 12-foot by 12-foot concrete slab that serves as a final resting place for those tombstones.

“We had to honor them somehow,” he said of the unreadable headstones.

With help from fellow Troop 29 Boy Scouts, C.J. Castle completed a restoration project at Old Jacksonburg Cemetery in Wayne Township.  (NICK GRAHAM/STAFF)

Castle spent about $100 on materials and received financial assistance from Wayne Twp. officials, he said. With help from fellow Troop 29 Boy Scouts, Castle recently completed the project. The next step is to make a formal presentation before a Board of Review.

Then he will be known forever as an Eagle Scout, the highest youth rank.

“It makes me very proud that he took the time and effort,” his mother said.

Castle also has received thank-you cards from Wayne Twp. residents.

“It’s great to see him walk around that project proud, beaming with excitement,” Gairland said. “It was 100 percent his idea. He became married to the job. He got sucked into it.”

Castle was asked why he was attracted to a cemetery project, especially one no longer active.

“When someone passes, their memory still stays alive,” he answered. “That’s how they live forever. They were all human beings once. They deserve the same respect as a living person.”

Those trophies will have to wait.

C.J. Castle built a 12-foot by 12-foot concrete slab that serves as a final resting place for about 40 headstones that either were misplaced or severely damaged. (NICK GRAHAM/STAFF)

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