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Rest-in-Peace Tombstone

Family Cemeteries

 

I have visited most of my family cemeteries in eastern Indiana and western Ohio. Many thoughts flash through my mind as I wander around walking in ancestor footsteps. Past grave sites someone in the family may have dug by hand. Caskets were likely built and lowered into the ground by family and friends. Tombstones ordered and set in place, where family stopped, cried and relived family memories. Old time funerals, like birth and often deaths, were in the family home, where children and the visitors would have said their last goodbyes. Families made it a day visiting the deceased in cemeteries often packing a picnic lunch. They planted flowers, told stories, reminisced and introduced the young to relatives they never knew. I have a few photos of garden plants in cemeteries. They might have walked, rode in a horse drawn buggy or wagon, Model A or T, while today we arrive in sleek modern automobiles.

The You Tube video "Light a candle on Oct. 15 for babies lost to miscarriage or stillbirth" reminded me of my photo below of the 8 children of Isabel Toler and Daniel Eikenberry, 2nd cousin 4 times removed, buried in the Keefer Cemetery in Union County, Indiana who lost one child in 1900, then 6 more young adult children ages 23 to 27 between February 25, 1902 and November 5, 1903, then a grandson in 1909 of some unknown epidemic. One of the tombstones is not in the photo. One married son Riley is buried in the Kingery Cemetery just across the state line in Ohio, his 9 year old son died in 1909 is included below. 8 family members in 3 years, I can only image the pain the family experienced.

Eikenberry Children Tombstones in Keefer Cemetery
A dreary November day in 2003 of the 6 Eikenberry Siblings Tombstones 1900-1903 and a nephew in 1909

Originally I photographed just direct ancestor tombstones and their families, but now try to identify siblings and children before visiting. Many families are buried in family plots in early burials then close by in later burials. My earliest original tombstones so far date from 1773 in Maryland, 1825, 1828 and 1837 in southwestern Ohio. In some respects they are in better shape than some tombstones dating from 50 to a 100 years later.

Horror stories of farmers allowing pigs and cattle to graze in cemeteries often destroyed brittle old tombstones. In 2010 Dick Eastman in his online newsletter discussed a cemetery in Ventura California that buried the tombstones in a Canyon along a river to turn a 3,000 burial cemetery into a park and then denined a request to remove a Civil War veteran's body to a more resepected National Military Cemetery. In 2005 I was told how neighbor kids on four-wheelers destroyed an Ohio pioneer cemetery across the street. The broken tombstones are now in disorganized piles. An old hand drawn map at the Brookville Historical Society confirms that at one time they had been in neat orderly rows. Web sites and cemetery records have stories of farmers plowing over tombstones, burying tombstones in ponds to expand their acreage or lining the floors of their barns or foundations with tombstones. I was told about someone using tombstones as stepping stones to their mobile home. I've even read of repossessed tombstones. Indiana makes it a felony to damage grave sites when they enforce the laws. I recently visited an Ohio ancestor's family cemetery falling into the creek from spring floods eroding and destroying the pioneer graves. Several already fell into the creek and have been lost. I pulled one tombstone out of the creek, but have not had time to follow up any further.

Many well intended people use concrete to "restore" old cemeteries often hiding age information, names and epitaphs in the concrete. Concrete freezes and thaws at a different temperature than many old tombstones of the 18th century, then often break off at the concrete line shown on my Cemetery Restoration page. Several ancestors tombstones have suffered these misguided restorations including great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Barbara MEYER HECKMAN of Preble County, Ohio, and great-great-great-grandfather Edmund TIMMONS of Delphos, Van Wert County, Ohio hiding their information forever!

A 1912 newspaper article in The Columbia City Post describes grave yard thieves as ghouls stealing 3 to 5 pounds of lead originally used to seal the tombstones to their base. Many old cemeteries were surrounded by heavy iron fences with gates to keep out animals. The old Auburn, Indiana cemetery and Lindenwood Cemetery in Fort Wayne, Indiana still have their late 1880's iron fence. A 1961 Columbia City Post newspaper article describes the Broxon Cemetery fence being sold for scrap. The fence had originally enclosed the county jail until 1902.

Indiana Cemetery Questions and Answers
Compiled by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology

If I want to clean up a cemetery I’m concerned about, may I go ahead and do so? No. Members of the public should not attempt to clean up or maintain cemeteries until they have clearly determined who the legal landowner is, and obtained that person’s permission to go onto the land. Unsolicited voluntary clean-up efforts might be viewed by the landowner as trespassing. In addition, there are proper ways, as well as harmful ways, to clean and repair stones, and anyone attempting to conduct such activities should be acquainted with the proper techniques.

 

Christian Clip Art

State Cemeteries Where Relatives Are Buried

Christian Clip Art

Access to Cemeteries on Private Land

Federal Grants

Ohio Cemetery Laws

Maryland

  • [BRE] cemetery upkeep - Kemper Cemetery John "Ephrata" Landis - Margarethe Naas buried here many German language tombstone buried flat under the grass

Pennsylvania

  • Brethren List cemetery upkeep discussion suggest Boy Scouts help maintain old cemeteries

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