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The days were passing in 1970 and Lewis H. Woolsey had a problem. A big problem.
Surveying the 80-acre landscape of what would become Kings Island’s parking lot when the park opened in 1972, the construction project manager had 35,000 dump truck loads of dirt to move. He needed the project to stay on schedule and standing in his way was a cemetery, hidden somewhere on the giant plot of land. Before excavation could begin, his crew needed to find the cemetery and protect it. The clock was ticking.
The small early American cemetery, today known by most as the Dog Street cemetery, had been largely untended since 1890. At the time of Kings Island’s construction there was no Kings Island Drive (the road in front of Kings Island’s property), and the bygone cemetery was located just far enough off Columbia Road on private property, that it was not easily accessible by the public. The local company town, Kings Mills, had just been incorporated in 1884, and in the years that followed, the cemetery’s maintenance and upkeep from the local township had fallen off.
If ever there were a ‘needle in a haystack’ challenge, this was it. How do you find a forgotten, overgrown cemetery on 80 acres of unexcavated land? The search crew led by Woolsey had a rough idea of where the cemetery might be, and after some time spent searching with vehicles and by foot, a discovery was made. Remnants of an early barbed wire fence that appeared to surround a small area. Inside the fence, foot high myrtle covered the ground and waist high weeds and dense trees made it difficult to see anything on the ground. But, after some searching inside the area, a worker spotted it -- a single tombstone.
The cemetery had been found.
“We always knew it was there,” Woolsey commented in an October 1970 Cincinnati Enquirer story by Middletown Bureau Chief Irene Wright.
Surveying the land, Woolsey noted that only one or two of the 69 gravestones were still standing.
“About the only way you can locate some of the stones (was) to step on them,” he recalled in the 1970 article.
The site was originally part of the John D. Hoff Farm, the Dill Farm and the R. Eugene King Farm. Currently, the responsibility of the cemetery’s upkeep rests with Deerfield Township. If you are visiting the park today, the plot of land is located near the parking toll booths at the main parking lot entrance near the north end of the property. While it is most commonly known as the Dog Street cemetery, it also is known as the Union Methodist cemetery, the J. D. Hoff cemetery and the Dill Graveyard.
Visitors to the site will notice that many of the identifying markers on the stones have worn off from the weather, but several remain. The earliest burial at Dog Street Cemetery is recorded by the local historical society as 1803 with the final burial occurring in 1869. Perhaps the cemetery’s most distinguished occupant is Peter Monfort, reported to be a Revolutionary War veteran who served in Brinckerhoff’s Regiment New York Militia. He died in 1823.
‘Missouri Jane’ Galeener
When a cemetery is located at an amusement park, you can be sure that urban lore will surround it. As for Kings Island, some say ghosts dwell the cemetery late at night, including that of a five-year-old girl named “Missouri Jane” Galeener* whose headstone can be found in the cemetery. While unsubstantiated, it is reported by some websites that the little girl drowned in pond of water near the cemetery in 1846. The same websites report that park guests describe apparitions inside the amusement park of a young girl, about 4 ft. tall, dressed in a 19th century blue dress as she roams the parking lot and the area near the K.I. & Miami Valley Railroad, among other locations. While most suspect that Missouri Jane died of cholera, one thing we know for sure is that after her death the Galeener family moved to Vienna, Illinois, leaving behind the memory (and perhaps the spirit) of the young girl.
As Halloween approaches, do you think Kings Island haunted? Tell us in the comments below.
Kings Island’s 50th Anniversary season is approaching in 2022. Be sure to keep an eye on the Kings Island blog for more park history.
*The script on Missouri Jane’s tombstone is difficult to read and reported spellings of her last name vary between ‘Galeener’ and ‘Galeenor’. We’ve elected to use “Galeener” based on this image of the family tombstone located in Vienna, Illinois.
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