HAMILTON - The Hamilton Cemetery now has a sign listing who is buried in Potter’s Field, thanks to Hamilton High School senior Brandon Cleveland.
“It is a sign – a memorial for the people in Potter’s field – a pauper’s grave,” said Cleveland, who is in Boy Scout Troop 76 and completed the memorial as part of his Eagle Scout project. “It’s a place where people could be buried if they didn’t have enough money to buy a headstone or buy a plot and the county would take care of it.”
Cleveland said potter’s fields are becoming a thing of the past now that many counties have struck deals with life insurance companies to cover the costs of burials. The Hamilton Potter’s Field has 72 people buried there with only 15 headstones, leaving 60 people unnamed and unmarked. The oldest recorded entry is 1908 and the newest 2005.
“A lot of people don’t even know where their ancestors are buried. To me, the purpose of a cemetery is a place to go where we can pay our respects to lost family members, friends and loved ones,” Cleveland said. “I thought that I might be able to help.”
The project was brought to his attention by a scout leader who pointed out a similar memorial sign in the Grantsdale cemetery for all unmarked graves.
In June, Cleveland’s first step was to gain approval from the Boy Scout Leaders. His design was later approved by the Hamilton Cemetery. He then gathered financial and material contributions from the community, including Donaldson Bros. Ready Mix Inc., Elks Lodge and Eagles Club.
Cleveland planned the work, purchased the materials and organized other boy scouts to handle the hard labor. Through it all, he gained valuable leadership experience.
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“I told them when to come together and where,” Cleveland said. “I taught them how to use the tools they would need. And if there wasn’t enough boys, I helped.”
The sign is made of a painted steel frame with plaques showing the names of the deceased and the year of interment pop-riveted to the frame. The unit was set deep in the ground with expanding cement-like foam and decorated with a base of bricks, landscaping fabric, bark, flags and pots that will hold flowers next spring.
Eleven boy scouts and six adults participated in the project that was completed two weeks ago.
Cleveland started in Cub Scouts when he was 8 years old and said scouting impacted his life.
“Scouting helps teach responsibility and reliance,” he said. “There are leaders, but scouting teaches boys how to act in a group, how to organize without being told how to and introduces you to a lot of things you wouldn’t normally do. That’s the point of merit badges – they introduce you to prospective careers. You need a minimum of 32 badges to become an Eagle Scout. So, to become an Eagle it is really saying you have prepared yourself for life.
“Scouting has been a real big part of my life. I’m not sure who I would be without it.”