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Huffman Cemetery: Tracking Down a Graveyard in the Heart of Broad Ripple

There has been much discussion of late regarding the future of the cemetery sites at the proposed location of the Indy Eleven Soccer stadium. Other local historians and archivists have been spreading the word about the Greenlawn and old city cemetery sites, and I do not plan to explore that topic which they have covered so well. However, these discussions reminded me of something I stumbled across a while back: an old cemetery near Broad Ripple.


First, I have covered cemeteries before. This post looked at the Crows Nest Cemetery, and I also discussed the cemetery at the former Marion County Poor Farm site at 21st and Tibbs Ave. This site was discussed in a prior blog posting and in a chapter in Vanished Indianapolis. Interestingly, last year I was contacted by an individual who had been metal detecting at the poor farm cemetery site, although he had no knowledge of the land’s former use (there is nothing on site marking it). He found a coffin plate, essentially a white metal decoration which was placed on the top of a coffin. While it was surprising that burials at the poor farm cemetery would have such pieces, I am not surprised that such items, would still be located at the site, along with the remains of those buried there.


Anyway, the topic for today’s post has its roots in this blog post from the Historic Indianapolis blog, which addresses a question about whether there was ever cemetery at the site of the Broad Ripple fire station at Guilford and Westfield Blvd. The post concludes there was no cemetery at this site. In general, most burials from the Broad Ripple area were at the Union Chapel Cemetery, along the White River south of the present-day Fashion Mall, or Crown Hill Cemetery.


However, there seems to have been another cemetery in Broad Ripple. While exploring the 1901 Baist Atlas for a project related to the ice industry in Indianapolis, I spotted what appears to be a graveyard along the Monon Railroad. The excerpt from the 1901 Biast map shows the graveyard. Broad Ripple Avenue is the east-west road to the north of the graveyard. Also note the "high school" northwest of the graveyard. This is the present site of Broad Ripple High (soon to be Middle) School.

1901 Baist Atlas, IU Indianapolis University Library

Assuming this cemetery had been explored before, I dug into the archives at local institutions, and online, to see if I could find any reference to the cemetery. Very little was found. I then looked back before 1901 to see if the cemetery was noted on earlier maps. Unfortunately, the available maps that I reviewed revealed nothing. The 1855 map of Marion County shows nothing, although, to be fair, the map does not contain other cemeteries. It does show us that the owner of the land where the cemetery would be located (red X below) is J. Huffman. Huffman was not the original owner of this land after the area was open for purchase by Euro-American settlers, but apparently obtained ownership to this land, and many other parcels in the Broad Ripple area, by the middle 1850s.

Condit Map of Marion County (1855), Indiana State Library Map Collection

The next major map available for review is 1866, which again shows no cemetery at the site, although the Huffman family continues to own the property. The Samuel Morrisson Marion County Map from sometime in the 1870s shows numerous cemeteries, but not the one south of Broad Ripple on the Huffman land. The 1889 Atlas of Marion County shows no cemetery, although at least a portion of the land where the cemetery is supposed to be appears to have been sold to someone who is not a Huffman. A 1915 map showing the right of way for the Monon Railroad as it comes into Broad Ripple does shows the cemetery (yellow highlight below). Note that north is to the left on this map.

Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation Landscape Architectural Drawings, Ball State University

I then turned to the Genealogical Society of Marion County’s webpage which includes a very useful section which details cemeteries of Indianapolis and Marion County. Looking at their list of cemeteries for Washington Township (pictured below), one possible match caught my eye: “Huffman-Rink Cemetery.” With the Huffman family owning much of the land around the cemetery, I thought this could be a match, although the address is identified as 61st and SR 37 seemed off. While present day 61st Street runs just south of the cemetery site, SR 37 had been routed along Allisonville through the northeast side of the city, and later along I-465.

Credit: Marion County Genealogical Society

However, another drop-down menu on the website lists a “Huffman Farm Cemetery.” Clicking on this, provides a location which, as suggested above states: “Present location would be approximately just north of Fall Creek and I-465.” However, this location on the east side is somewhat off, and an image of a map (shown below) is also provided, which places the location of the cemetery as between 62nd and 61st Streets, and just east of the Monon Railroad, now known as the Monon Trail.

Credit: Marion County Genealogical Society

This map was part of a Works Progress Administration (“WPA”) project in 1939 which had participants mapping out cemeteries across the country. While this map was drawn from the Genealogical Society of Marion County’s webpage, a collection of these maps is maintained at the State Library, and other local archival institutions. The map shows the cemetery as having 35 plots, although a note states “arbitrary rows & lots,” suggesting the map of the cemetery may be a best guess by the surveyors of this cemetery.


Finally, I consulted the Indiana State Historic Architectural and Archaeological Research Database (or "SHAARD") which included an entry for the Huffman-Rink Cemetery. The SHAARD record notes that the cemetery was established around 1850, but also notes that it was damaged by subsequent construction.


The 1937 aerial map of the Broad Ripple area shows no telltale signs of the cemetery. The location of the cemetery is marked below in what appears to be a field area, bordered on the west by the Monon, the east by a narrow road and a tree line, and on the north and south, hints of a tree or fence line. Note Broad Ripple High School to the northeast of the cemetery, and the school’s football field, directly to the east.

1937 aerial, MapIndy, https://maps.indy.gov/MapIndy/

Who was interred at the cemetery is difficult to determine, as is the number of graves. Since it was on Huffman land for a long period of time, it would seem logical that members of the family were buried there. However, I could track down no mentions of the cemetery in local newspapers. The Genealogical Society of Marion County includes a chart identifying five burials of the Huffman family. Three which were infants or stillborn deaths with death years in 1862, and 1904 and 1905. Then, a Matilda and Philip Huffman are identified, with death years of 1862 and 1869, respectively. The 1862 date of death for Matilda and the one of the infants suggests she may have died soon after childbirth. Notes on each burial indicate that the remains were moved to Crown Hill in 1908, and their graves are still there today.


The website Find a Grave contains some additional information. Matilda and Philip Huffman are not mentioned on this site, but Jonas and Mary Huffman are identified as being interred at the cemetery. They were both early settlers in Marion County and Jonas is noted to be the original owner of several large tracks of land near present day Broad Ripple after the land was first open for sale to Euro-American settlers. In fact, the “J. Huffman” listed on the 1855 map above is Jonas Huffman. Jonas died in 1863, while Mary had died in 1856. Philip Huffman, referenced above, appears to be the son of Jonas.


A Samuel and Julia Ann Rink are also listed, likely the source of the “Huffman-Rink Cemetery" name which is sometimes applied to the burial ground. I did not locate anyone named Rink owning land around Broad Ripple in the mid-1800s. However, A Samuel Rinker and Elisa Rinker are identified as being members of Jona Huffman's household in the 1850 census (below), or at least, they resided on his land. Elisa is noted to be 11 or 12 years old. This is likely the source of the "Rink" name on the cemetery.

In the 1860 census, the Rinker family is more filled out, with Julia Ann now being listed, along with additional children. An "Eliza" is still listed, although she is listed as being 10 years old in this census, and the name is spelled with a "Z". Unclear if this was the same Eliza (or Elisa) from 1850, or perhaps there was a death, and a subsequently born child was named Eliza.


Also listed as being buried at the cemetery are Isaac Estep, who died in 1850, and Joseph Ray, who died in 1863. Estep appears in the 1840 census for Washington Township, and had several family members associated with his household, although it is unclear if they were interred at the Huffman cemetery. Joseph Ray must have lived close to Jonas Huffman, as both men appear next to each other in the 1840 census). Ray was married to Eleanor, and it appears they had two daughters, although I could not locate anything about where Eleanor and the other family members were interred.


The cemetery persisted well into the 20th century as indicated by the WPA map discussed above. Also, the 1941 Baist map still shows the cemetery (below). However, the rampant expansion of new neighborhoods on the north side of Indianapolis and around Broad Ripple in the years after World War II finally spelled the end for the cemetery.

1941 Baist Atlas, IU Indianapolis, University Library Sanborn and Baist Collection

In 1950 an apartment/townhouse complex was constructed on the cemetery site. No references to a relocation of remains from the site was found in local sources, although it is possible relocation had already been done at the time of construction. The apartment/townhouse complex still stands today, although the railroad they had been constructed next to is long gone and replaced by the Monon Trail. The complex/site of the cemetery, as seen from the trail and from Carvel Avenue on the east side of the former cemetery, is shown below.



Note: If anyone has any family documents or other materials related to this cemetery, please let me know. I'd like to supplement this post with new information if possible.



Sources


United States Census, 1840, 1850, 1860 (Ancestry.com)


1941 Baist Atlas, IU Indianapolis University Library Sanborn Map and Baist Atlas Collection, https://library.indianapolis.iu.edu/digitalcollections/sanbornjp2


1901 Baist Atlas, IU Indianapolis University Library Sanborn Map and Baist Atlas Collection, https://library.indianapolis.iu.edu/digitalcollections/sanbornjp2


Condit Map of Marion County (1855), Indiana State Library Map Collection (via the Library of Congress), https://www.loc.gov/item/2013593172/


Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation Landscape Architectural Drawings, Andrew Seager Archives of the Built Environment, Ball State University


Genealogical Society of Marion County as noted above, Genealogical Society of Marion County, IN- Welcome (genealogyindy.org)



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5 Comments


Ed Fujawa
Ed Fujawa
Jun 21

Yeah, I spotted some of those sources you mentioned. I don't get a sense this was nearly as large as Bethel, although there could have been some remains left there, and ignored when the 1950s construction took place.

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Edwaleni Group
Edwaleni Group
Jun 20

4 pages of Huffmans buried at Crown Hill, it's likely the ones that were known/found were moved. But if they got buried under dirt, they are all probably still there.

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Edwaleni Group
Edwaleni Group
Jun 20

I might add, that cemetery movements almost never capture all of the gravesites. Infants, poor, no markers or coffins can leave old cemeteries subject to discovery years later.


https://www.cbsnews.com/chicago/news/archaeologists-relocating-graves-found-in-yard-in-oak-brook/


I have a great aunt buried in an abandoned cemetery and I am trying to work with the county to get it either revived or relocated, but no one wants to know what a ground sonar will detect and find.

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Edwaleni Group
Edwaleni Group
Jun 20

When a 2018 expansion of Indianapolis International Airport called for relocation of Bethel Cemetery, archaeologists faced a huge challenge. Early surveys of the cemetery, established in 1838, indicated stones bearing 196 names, but ground penetrating radar and archaeology revealed 543 graves.


Lets hope it isn't that bad.

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Edwaleni Group
Edwaleni Group
Jun 20

https://accessgenealogy.com/indiana/huffman-cemetery-records-washington-marion-county-indiana.htm


HUFFMANJonas, b. 15 Oct. 1795, d. 13 June 1863, Husb. of Mary.

Mary, d. 10 Aug. 1856, ae. 66 yrs. Wife of Jonas Huffman.


RAYJoseph, d. 15 Nov. 1863, ae. 73 yrs.


RINKJulia Ann, b. 20 Aug. 1828, d. 15 Mar. 1863.Samuel, b. 1 Oct. 1820, d. 11 May 1864, Husb. of Julia Ann.


Only a few stones, there is a dump grounds near and many burials are under the dirt.

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