Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Graveyard Rabbit: New Carnival on the Block

Announced on Jan 31 at The Graveyard Rabbit: New Carnival on the Block:

The topic for the premier edition of this carnival is "exceptional finds." Share with us those rare and unique cemeteries, gravestones, monuments, memorials, inscriptions, etc. Send one, send two; it's up to you! Submissions are due on February 25. And hey, bring a friend! Let's make this the best carnival debut in history!
I've been putting off writing this article because I couldn't decide what to share. I'm afraid I have already written articles about my most exceptional finds that relate to my own family, so I'm going to take this opportunity to write about a grave I found which does not belong to a family member. Now I know that "I" didn't actually discover this grave, that other people realized where he was buried, but when I visited the Mentor Avenue Cemetery in Lake County, Ohio, I was surprised to find a large zinc marker for Jonathan Goldsmith. Perhaps, unless your grew up in North East Ohio or if you are some kind of architecture expert, you may not know who he was, but since I DID grow up there, I recognized the name right away! He was a well-known architect and builder in the part of Ohio that used to be called "The Connecticut Western Reserve".

A few years ago while visiting my mom in Painesville, she and I were driving along Mentor Avenue and for the first time, I saw a cemetery in a spot that I only remembered as an overgrown field. My mom told me that someone had made it a project to clean it up, making it visible for the first time in decades! It's hard to imagine that such a thing could remain unknown for so long along such a busy road. The cemetery is now usually referred to as Mentor Avenue Cemetery, but has been called Painesville Twp Cemetery, Blish Cemetery, and Nye Road Cemetery at different times. Many Lake County pioneer families are represented there, and you can see some history and a full transcript on a page from the Lake County Genealogical Society (Ohio) Projects Site. In 2006, after I began submitting photographs to Find a Grave, I talked my mom into spending an afternoon there with me exploring and taking pictures. That's when I found Mr. Goldsmith's grave marker.

I decided to submit his information to Find a Grave and I thought he needed more than just the bare biography that I could create from the information on his grave and from my own memory, so I looked for biographical sources on the internet that I could use to compose something original without much success, but luckily, I found an out-of-print book on eBay called Jonathan Goldsmith, pioneer master builder in the Western Reserve by Elizabeth Hitchcock that I was able to get for a reasonable price. It became my main source in writing a biography for him on Find a Grave which I am also republishing below. I hope you find it interesting! I also hope you'll also take a few minutes to visit his memorial that I created there. It contains more pictures, including a famous example of his work at Jonathan Goldsmith.

Master Builder, Architect. Jonathan Goldsmith was considered a pioneer in the Greek Revival Style of architecture, and he was also known for creating buildings in the Federal style. Originally apprenticed to a shoemaker in his native Connecticut, he bought out his apprenticeship four years early and apprenticed himself to a carpenter-joiner.

In 1805, he went into business for himself, first in Hebron, CT, and later in Hinsdale, MA. In 1808, he married Abigail Jones, and in 1811, he, his wife and their two eldest children followed many of Mrs. Goldsmith's family members to Painesville, OH. At first, he was only able to find work as a cobbler, and when the War of 1812 broke out, he volunteered for service. After returning home, he went on to become a well-known architect and builder in the area of Ohio once known as the Connecticut Western Reserve.

Goldsmith's buildings include 30 homes and commercial buildings in Painesville, another handful around Lake County, and 10 houses in Cleveland. Many still exist today, although many more have been demolished. The front doorway of one of those razed homes, known as the Isaac Gillet House, has been exhibited at the Cleveland Museum of Art. His drawings were also included in an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum's titled "The Greek Revival in the United States" in 1943. His work is better documented than many other 19th century builders due to the efforts of his daughter Lucia, who preserved his drawings and other manuscripts. Many of his personal and professional papers are stored at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland.

He was also known as a mechanic and farmer, and he is credited with inventing a multiple plow. While visiting his son, Gillett Goldsmith, who lived in Bexar County, TX, he obtained a patent from the Republic of Texas on May 7, 1840. In later years, Goldsmith suffered financial setbacks resulting in his selling his home, which he had built himself in 1818, as well as 86 acres of land. His final building project was the creation of a smaller house, later known as "Ingleside" where he lived until his death. The home was purchased in 1911 by the Lake County Agricultural Society as part of a parcel of 36 acres that is now the Lake County Fairgrounds. It was destroyed by fire in 1929. Jonathan Goldsmith was buried in the Painesville Twp Cemetery (now known as the Mentor Avenue Cemetery), located less than a mile from his home.


  1. This is really interesting. You also deserve a pat on the back for your determination to bring Mr. Goldsmith's life out of the shadows. Nice job.

    Can I post a link over on the "We First Met on F-a-G" group?


  2. Thanks Eileen! Feel free to post it wherever you want!

  3. Very interesting! Isn't it amazing how a person can come to life when you find their tombstone in a cemetery. You are to be applauded on the detective work and the biography. I also love findagrave!!!!

  4. Great Job of researcing the past - Thank you for your efforts!!
    Lee Bodnar
    Painesville Towmship Hall
    55 Nye Road
    Painesville Twp, OH 44077

  5. A wealth of information may be found on Jonathan Goldsmith,Masterbuilder of the Western Reserve, including wood pieces of his work at the Lake County History Center in Painesville Township. The Lake County History Center has been using the Blish Cemetery for many years for its tours in October. Jonathan Goldsmith's monument is made of Pot Metal and could be purchased from the Sears catalogue at a very inexpensive price. The Western Reserve was called the Connecticut Western Reserve, not the New Western Reserve.
    LCHS Staff

  6. Thanks for the update! As a child growing up in P'ville Twp, I clearly remember learning about the "New" Western Reserve, but I have corrected my entry. A Google search provided a few sites that still call it that, including this one:

    Welcome to Painesville Township
    Lake County, Ohio

    As for the metal that Mr Goldsmith's marker is made of, it is actually zinc, once called White Bronze. A description can be read at the website for the Association for Gravestone Studies


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