Archive for June 17th, 2010

At Malabar Farm State Park, there is a tiny pioneer cemetery up on the hill.

Entire cemetery surrounded by white picket fence

Never heard of Malabar Farm? My grandmother is disappointed in you.

It’s ok, she was disappointed in most of us, too, when we went there during a family reunion. Malabar Farm in Lucas, Ohio, was the home of Louis Bromfield, author and conservationist. A prolific writer, he produced novels, plays, short stories, non-fiction works, and finally an autobiography, writing more and more about conservation later in his life. Four of his books were transformed into films and brought him acclaim on the silver screen. He won the Pulitzer Prize for the novel Early Autumn.

Despite Bromfield’s acclaim, in popular culture of my grandparents’ day, Malabar Farm’s wider claim to fame was as the location of the 1945 wedding and honeymoon of Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart.

Malabar Farm and Bromfield’s passion are now preserved as an Ohio State Park, demonstrating the conservation methods that Bromfield pioneered. The Big House that Bromfield and his family lived in remains, full of artifacts of their lives, and a working farm surrounds it. On a small rise, a little pioneer cemetery stands, which nearly has more names than tombstones: Pioneer Cemetery, Olivet Cemetery, Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Schrack Cemetery, Malabar Farm Cemetery, Bromfield Cemetery. The park calls it Pioneer Cemetery on the map and Olivet Cemetery on the sign.

Olivet Cemetery sign

Surrounded by a pristine white picket fence, the graves inside are sometimes swallowed by the lush plants that flourish in the farm’s sun and rain.

William Ferguson tombstone in a bed of grasses and flowers

The cemetery was there before Louis Bromfield bought his farm, as evidenced by the 19th century dates on a number of tombstones. George Franklin served in the Civil War, as did George Baughman.

George Franklin tombstone with American flag and GAR marker

George F. Baughman military tombstone
And there Louis Bromfield, his wife, his mother, and his father, lie in quiet repose with the residents of a previous century on the same land.

Louis Bromfield grave slab with American flag and metal veteran's marker

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