Sunday, April 14, 2013

Reading a few passages from atop Mount Zion


I think of cemeteries sometimes as storybooks --- or multi-volume series --- written by the lives of all who rest therein, waiting to be read. This is a conceit that  doesn't bear too much thinking about or you'll give yourself a headache, but it is one way to approach these repositories of old bones and tombstone art.

Saturday's was a moody afternoon --- mixed sunshine and clouds, a spatter of rain and just a few signs of spring --- but it was apparently the only dry day we're going to see for a while. So I climbed Mount Zion to photograph Daniel Musselman's tombstone, now added to this earlier post.

Who would guess, looking at weathered marble with weeping willow and the death year 1856 inscribed, that when a young man Daniel and his unit of mounted Ketucky volunteers rode with William Henry Harrison along the north shore of Lake Erie to fight the British in the Battle of the Thames. This man deserves a War of 1812 flag holder. We should work on that.

This is such a pretty place, even when signs of spring are few and far between and and shreds of faded synthetic floral tributes are scattered far and wide.

Look down from the south fenceline toward Whitebreast Creek, cut deep into the earth in the distance, and you're looking at the path our predecessors here followed from the Des Moines River valley into Lucas County for a thousand years and more. I wonder if, before trees encroached, this was a lookout point.


And look west across open fields to wooded hills beyond. The trail turned road that now dead-ends in the cemetery once led through them and some who are commemorated here lived out there.


I've told some of the stories here before. This four-part tombstone, for example, marks the graves of Henry McKinnis and his three sons, Billie Ted, Henry Jr. and John, killed April 1, 1893, when the boiler used to power the sawmill they were operating near here exploded.


And here's the tombstone of Sheriff William Ramsey, shot dead in the line of duty by the deranged John McGinnis down near Freedom on June 28, 1889.


My cousin Ilene and I have been talking at the grocery store lately about the fenceline not far from where she grew up where John McGinnis reportedly was buried hurriedly and in obscurity as hundreds gathered here to honor their fallen sheriff, brought to Oakley from Chariton on a special seven-car train. She is going to investigate this further. The plaque at the base of Sheriff Ramsey's stone has been installed since the last time I photographed it, a sign from the present that the past has not been forgotten.

There once was a church here, too --- Mount Zion Primitive Baptist. You may read more about it here.

New stories are added yearly out here, in part because of family tradition but also because of the beauty of the place.

Paul died thousands of miles from his native Ukraine, but had developed an afinity for Mount Zion and so when he died the decision was made to bury him here. The back of his stone bears another inscription, this one in the Cyrillic script brought to Lucas County by our most recent wave of new neighbors.


Some of these newer stones invite the telling of stories that others are better equipped to share.


And sometimes, combined elements tell a story without prompting.


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