Meandering home after lunch down along the South Chariton on Sunday, a day trending toward gray and showers, I stopped at Rush Cemetery to visit the biggest red cedar I know of and also to ponder the two rows of minimally marked graves there that remain a mystery --- to me at least. I left the conversation about those graves maybe 30 years ago, when Helen McCracken still was alive and kicking, and it could be that someone's worked it all out by now.
Rush in this instance is a family name, not a speed, and Rushes have been burying their dead here --- and still are --- since the 1850s, along with other neighborhood families.
The cemetery is located in Section 3 of Wayne County's Benton Township, about two and a half miles south of Cambria. Turn south off the blacktop just east of Cambria and drive south past the Cambria Cemetery, then start watching on your left for the cemetery lane after you crest the hill south of the South Chariton crossing, just before the road wanders off to the southwest.
The short lane off the east side of the main road leads through oak timber to a parking area in front of the cemetery gates. The cemetery itself is a clearing that opens out to the east and southeast with a number of fine trees near the west fence.
Hickory nuts were beginning to fall from a grand shagbark specimen due east of the gate, so I stopped to admire it. You don't have to get too close to see where "shagbark" comes from and low-growing limbs offer a look at husked nuts not yet ready to come down.
Looking northeast through that hickory's leaves, you get a good view of the huge red cedar that I would guess was transplanted here sometime during the 1850s to shade a grave then fresh. This is the biggest cedar I know of, although I'm sure there are others that match or surpass it (there are lots of cedars in southern Iowa, it's our only native "evergreen"). Just look at that trunk!
The row of mystery graves is near the cemetery's eastern fence, almost due east of the big hickory. There are several similar stones scattered to the north, but the striking thing about these is the fact they're somewhat set apart and so evenly spaced.
The best guess 30 years ago was that these little stones marked the graves of Wayne Countyans who had died at the poor farm, some distance to the southeast between the cemetery and Corydon. So that's the story I'm sticking to --- until somebody tells me different.