Willoughby Pioneer Burial Ground (Belden Hill)

Picture taken by Cynthia Turk


Belden Hill is the site of Willoughby’s first cemetery. This hill on the west side of Erie Road, is north of the railroad tracks, across from Pelton Road bridge. The burial ground was described as the north bluff of the hill, but older residents recalled seeing stones in early 20th century to the left of the driveway up to the old Belden house that later used to be the Willoughby Winery. It is possible that the whole area was used at the time. There was a house on the hill on the corner of Erie and Stevens Blvd. which overlooked the cemetery. This Robinson Elwell house was moved to Western Reserve Historical Society’s Hale Farm historical village.

Although it was earlier thought that the first lot owners for this burying ground were from 1829, it is now known, upon finding the original Chagrin town minutes at Western Reserve Historical Society, that the list was for the Village Cemetery (Chagrin Burying Grounds). The conclusion may be drawn that this cemetery, therefore predates 1829.

Two persons were noted in the DAR inscription readings of the late 1920s as having been “moved from old cemetery to the Center.” One was Martin Wirt, 1760-1815. The other was John Campbell 1759- ___. Both appear to have had SAR markers rather than actual gravestones. Neither was found in the cemetery in 2003. In the book Soldiers and Widows of the American Revolution who lived in Lake County, Ohio by Mildred Steed, of John Campbell it states that he died October 18, 1846 at age 85. He is buried in the Orangeville Cemetery in New York and has a stone there. Of Martin Wirt, Steed says that he died in Willoughby in July of 1815, and was buried on the spur of a hill north of the Chagrin River, which is no longer there (1985). His body was moved to the Willoughby Cemetery, Section 3, Lot 396, Grave 3.

A file at the Lake County Historical Society states that the stones have all been removed but the graves remain undisturbed.