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Grave tales uncovered: Learning history while touring Oakwood Cemetery October 2022

Grave tales uncovered

Learning history while touring Oakwood Cemetery

Charles Ohlin, education director at the Packard Museum in Warren, right, discusses Packard family members buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Warren during a tour Sunday at the cemetery. More than 20 people attended.

WARREN — Learning the history of the Packard family and Oakwood Cemetery were part of a weekend program hosted by the National Packard Museum that allowed people to tour one of the city’s oldest cemeteries.

Charles Ohlin, director of education for the museum, led the tour and said the goal of Sunday’s event was to promote the Packard family history and to share interesting and unusual stories of the family.

“We like to share the fun stories to get people interested in the local history,” said Ohlin, who was assisted by Cindee Mines, a local historian who also has gathered history on the Packards and on Oakwood Cemetery.

“We have this beautiful cemetery here in Warren that has a lot of history,” Mines said.

The more than 20 participants had sunny skies and moderate temperatures to walk through the cemetery, where Ohlin shared interesting facts about the Packard family members buried there. The theme of the tour was “Skeletons in the Closet: Packard Genealogy Tour.”

Howland resident Bruce Gump said he always has been interested in the Packard family and its contributions.

“I enjoy learning new history. It is important to remember what went on before us and to learn about what they did right and what they did wrong,” he said.

Linda Cowin of the Leavittsburg Historical Society said she tries to go on the many area historical-themed tours.

“From a historical aspect, I love being on these tours. The Packards are so interesting to hear about,” she said.

Bill and Jane Flanagan of Niles said they heard about the tour and out of curiosity decided to join.

”We love cemetery tours and hearing information we did not know about,” Bill Flanagan said.

Ohlin said he and Mines research what they are going to share with the public on the tours, which have different themes. This is the last one scheduled for 2022.

“We love it when people ask questions. It makes for a better tour,” said Ohlin, who teaches at Kent State University.

Many of the Packard family members are buried in Oakwood Cemetery, which Mines said was founded in 1849. She said the large cemetery vault was where the bodies were kept in the winter months since the ground was too cold and hard to dig for a burial.

“They couldn’t bury anyone in the winter, so they waited until the summer when the ground was easier to dig,” Mines said.

She said a chapel was added in the early 1900s, which today is used as the cemetery office.

Ohlin said when they are researching, they check source material.

“Just because something was written long ago and continues to be written, it is not always correct. We read where someone lost all their money in one year and then read something that the next year the same person built a huge mansion,” he said.

He said the Packards were respected businessmen, but like many families, they did have a few skeletons in the closet. From failing business ventures to an embarrassing arrest, an undisclosed disease to a “rather unfortunate” marriage, the Packards had their share of misfortune and heartache.

Ohlin said one family member, Caroltta Packard, lived in the wealthy section of Manhattan, New York. He said once she let her griffon dog, Chico, run loose in a park and a judge imposed a $5 fine, which at the time was an unusually large fine. Ohlin said the health department had warned about people being bitten daily by all types of dogs at the park, but Carlotta Packard claimed her dog was “friendly and harmless.”

He said other family members had scandals, including Charlie Packard, son of Frank Packard, who had a mistress that his wife found out about. She filed for divorce, which was quite controversial at the time.