Students enjoy connecting with the past


Students from Clinton Junior High school were swarming Woodlawn Cemetery, researching and cleaning as they visited the grounds, working on an ongoing project by Clinton Junior High teacher Kelbey McMath.

McMath, who teaches eighth grade, instructs social studies, has continued the “Cemeterian Project” he started working on more than three years ago. 

“Thinking of our cemetery, I thought of all the veterans who are buried there and how many were being lost to time,” McMath explained.  “I thought it would be great to give students a chance to analyze primary sources from the time (period) to see what they could find.”

Each student researches extensively to find information about the veteran whose grave they clean. They find out when they were born and died, how they died, about their families, and in doing all this, they also learn more about the U.S Civil war. 

Students Reese Lyons, 13, and Emilie Blazer, 13, worked on veteran Israel S. Cope.

“It was really cool cleaning the stone,” said Lyons.  “I think finding information about Israel helped me try to clean it better because I knew stuff about him and he wasn’t just a stranger.”

Something that struck both of them in doing the research was that Cope did survive the war, which claimed more than 500,000 lives. Blazer noted their research could not find when he actually died, even though he did have a gravestone. The gravestone is also missing the date when he died.

Lyons and Bazer learned that he was a Union Captain, he was married to Martha and had a son, George. Sometimes the research provides contrary information, different birthplaces or different spellings of names. Once in a while, the information provides a glimpse into the past, shootouts, trains running people over or even people who later held elected positions in government.

      • See the complete story in the Friday, Oct. 29, print edition of the Clinton Journal or now in the Journal E-Edition for subscribers.