Friday, August 23, 2013

From Jones to Jones with friends: Part 1

Getting together with old friends and visiting old cemeteries are two of my favorite things to do, so Thursday was a darned good day. And lunch at the Millerton Cafe was the bonus.

This was an expedition to five of Wayne County's pioneer cemeteries, plus a grave site, put together by Dianne (Vincent) Mitchell and her husband, Harold, and Dianne's brother, Jacob, and his wife, Marilyn.

Dianne, Jacob, Doris (Cottrell) Christensen and myself are alumni of Dry Flat country school. We were joined by Cary DeVore (plus his wife, Brenda, for lunch --- she manages the Wayne County Historical Society's Prairie Trails Museum in Corydon) and Confidence-area neighbors Kari and Paula Spinler.

Our itinerary started at 9 a.m. at the tiny Jones Cemetery and ended midafternoon at the big Jones Cemetery. In between we visited Brown Cemetery, Adcock Cemetery, Squire Wadlington's grave and McDaniel Cemetery. Brown and McDaniel cemeteries are so remote and challenging to reach that only the Vincents had visited them previously.

The photo at the top here shows the group (from left) gathered around the single standing tombstone at little Jones --- Kari, Jacob, Doris, Marilyn, Paula, Dianne, Harold and Cary. Both Harold and Jacob are Church of Christ preachers --- Harold at Sunnyslope in the old neighborhood; Jake, recently retired from a church in south Texas. We caught Harold standing behind a pulpit-shaped tombstone at Big Jones looking hopeful, but settled for a rousing verse of The Old Rugged Cross inside Jones Cemetery Chapel.

Little Jones is located in the northwest corner of Section 10, Wright Township --- in an open field some distance east of the former site of Rabbit Hill country school. The school stood in the oak grove visible beyond the vehicles parked along the road in the distance. Big bales of hay now are parked in the former school yard.

Little Jones was in the worst shape of any of the cemeteries we visited and looks especially tough here because herbicide had been applied to kill weeds that had grown up in the staked cemetery area. Wayne County has formed a Pioneer Cemetery Commission recently that has begun to deal with situations like this, but its road is going to be a long and hard one.

According to Wayne County Genealogical Society research, the first burial here was made prior to 1860 and it was first mentioned when it was exempted as a burial place in a deed executed by owner Nathan Jones during 1866.

Although there are a few field stone markers on the site, the only visible tombstone marks the grave of Sarah, Nathan Jones' wife, who died Dec. 29, 1861, age 55 years, 3 months and 9 days.

We spent quite a bit of time trying to read the "fine print" --- an inscription running across the bottom of the stone. The first part is 1st Corinthians 15:49: "And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." Deciphering the second line is a work in progress.

When I walked back to this cemetery with my parents many years ago, there was a tree or two here and the graves were covered by grass --- not bare earth. Hopefully order will be restored one of these days.


Our next stop was the Brown family farm two miles south --- among the oldest farms in the county still owned by the same family. Benjamin Brown settled here during 1846, the first year Wayne County was open to Euro-American settlers.

Allison Brown (third from left) met us in front of the family home. Although the farm itself is owned by other family members, she purchased the 1911 house during 2010 and during the last three years has entirely renovated and restored it. Her ancestors would be proud.

The Browns settled first --- before there were roads --- a half mile west, where their small family cemetery remains. So Allison led us through three gates, across several fields and a farm pond dam and finally on a short hike down to a point of timber along the Walker branch of South Fork Creek where the cemetery is located. The first Brown home, a cabin dug into the hillside, was just to the northwest, Allison said.

There are six marked graves in the little cemetery, all in a single row on the downslope. The oldest of these graves is that of little Ralph, son of Benjamin and Carrie, who died Sept. 18, 1857, age 10 months and 3 days.

He was joined in the little cemetery by May, who died Sept. 30, 1864, age 4 years; Rosa, who died Aug. 30, 1866, age 7 years; father Benjamin, who died Sept. 25, 1872, age 75; and Frank, died Feb. 3, 1873, age 20. Mother Carolyn died June 2, 1905, and hers is the latest marked burial in the cemetery.

Her tombstone incorporated a small mystery --- a metal box wired to barbed wire wrapped around it. There was a note inside the box (yes, I'm nothing if not snoopy). Unfortunately, it had been written by a felt-tip pen and moisture had caused the ink to smear, making it indecipherable. Allison said she would work on figuring this out.

Doris is among the most prolific takers of photographs and creators of memorials for the Find-a-Grave Web site. So she was busy at Brown --- and all the other cemeteries we visited --- taking tombstone photographs and notes. Having conquered Lucas County's cemeteries, she's moving into Wayne.

Doris also introduced Marilyn to the fine art of grave-witching --- she got in a little practice both at Brown and the other cemeteries we visited.

After making our way back to the main road and thanking Allison for her hospitality, we were on our way to Adcock Cemetery, which has been hiding in plain sight east of Sunnyslope Church of Christ for many years until just recently when it was cleared of brush and refenced. More about that another time.

No comments: