WATERTOWN TOWNSHIP - The Woodruff Cemetery in Watertown Township has been in use for more than 200 years, and it's about to get a lot bigger.
A neighboring property owner is donating about three-quarters of an acre of land to the township to expand the cemetery, said township Trustee Gene Morris.
More than 125 people have been interred there since the early 1800s.
"It's about, oh, probably three-fourths (full)," Morris said.
"And then in the future, if they need the space, they'll have it."
Marvin Hanger, who owns the adjacent farm, said the land he's donating is a bit too steep and doesn't offer much of a turning radius for equipment, so he thought he'd give it to the cemetery.
The only cost to the township from adding the land will be the expense of regular maintenance, Morris said.
The existing cemetery covers about half an acre, according to Washington County Deputy Engineer Roger Wright.
The engineer's office is working to survey the cemetery to establish its precise dimensions, since it's only ever been described in an exemption to a deed.
"We really don't have a deed for that," Wright said. "The cemetery's always just been there."
A number of the markers in the cemetery have succumbed to age and the elements, but among those that were legible when a reading was conducted in 1999, the earliest burial was on Feb. 26, 1807, when Abner and Catharine Woodruff laid their 1-month-old daughter, Malina, to rest.
According to Williams' "History of Washington County," Abner Woodruff arrived in Watertown Township in 1798 at a settlement called Sandusfield, named for the Massachusetts town from which many of the settlers came.
He soon moved to the southern part of the township. Both Abner and Catharine Woodruff and other children of theirs are buried in the cemetery that bears the family name.
It's also the final resting place for at least five Civil War veterans, including Clark Woodruff, who died in 1955.
A Revolutionary War veteran named Duty Green, who served with Abner Woodruff as an overseer of the poor in Wesley Township, is buried there as well. There were also two World War II veterans buried there as of 1999.
Morris said there are still occasional burials in the Woodruff cemetery, the most recent coming in July. The township oversees a total of seven cemeteries, with two other active ones. Morris estimated they have a burial once every five years or so.
Although the people who are laid to rest at the Woodruff Cemetery generally have a family connection, Morris said it is open to anybody.