AVON LAKE – No one knows who they are, or if they are even buried at Lake Shore Cemetery, but on a windy Sunday morning two unknown seamen were given a memorial there.
President of the Avon Lake Historical Society Gerry Vogel said the legend of two seamen whose bodies washed ashore in the early 1800s is just that – a legend. Stories say that the two seamen died during the Battle of Lake Erie and that they washed ashore in the then-unpopulated area of Avon Lake, near Lake Shore Cemetery.
Although there are no documented records on the men’s deaths, Vogel said it is important to remember the city’s history and honor those who died during the Battle of Lake Erie, which observes its 200th anniversary Tuesday.
“It matters to us today, because there’s probably some truth to it,” he said.
During the dedication ceremony, a memorial marker was placed near several tombstones, many of which were so old that the names were barely legible. The marker reads, “This memorial is dedicated to two seamen who perished during the Battle of Lake Erie September 10, 1813 and, according to legend, are buried in these grounds. Their names, rank and citizenry are known only to God. May they rest in peace.”
The memorial marker was purchased with donations from Avon Lake residents, according to John Shondel, who suggested a dedication ceremony for the two seamen would be appropriate.
Shondel, an Avon Lake Councilman at-large and Sergeant at Arms of American Legion Post 211, said he believed the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie should be recognized in Avon Lake, and the dedication ceremony was one way to accomplish that. Shondel said 17 people donated money to the memorial marker fund, raising more than $800 for the project. The remaining money was donated to the Avon Lake Historical Society for future projects.
“I think it’s another example of the entire community’s dedication to the history of the community,” he said. “I’ve only lived here eight years, but I’m very, very impressed with the patriotic spirit of Avon Lake.”
Shondel, an Army veteran, talked about his best friend, who was killed while serving in Vietnam in 1967. From then on, Shondel promised himself he would do “everything and anything” to help fellow veterans.
The Battle of Lake Erie, which lasted one day, was not a particularly intense battle compared to others, according to Shondel. The battle between the American and British forces for control of the lake was fought near Put-in-Bay off South Bass Island during the War of 1812.
Led by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the Navy, with a fleet of nine ships, captured the British fleet of six ships. The battle resulted in a loss of 27 Americans and 41 British.
State Rep. Matt Lundy, D-Elyria, who gave the keynote address at Sunday’s ceremony, said the memorial at Lake Shore Cemetery would ensure that those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie would be remembered. He thanked veterans for their service, including those veterans who were in attendance and the ones buried at the cemetery.
“Today we salute you, the brave buried here. You will not be forgotten,” he said.