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Monday, August 2, 2010

Lost and Forgotten

I went back to a place yesterday that I used to visit as a girl and had not seen for close to fifty years. I don't know when or how I learned there was an old family cemetery on our neighbor's farm but I went there every spring to pick huge bunches of lily-of-the-valley that covered the cemetery. It was not very well maintained. I remember the groundhog holes and poison ivy in it as well as the lily-of-the-valley. But I liked to wander around in there reading the names and ages on the stones. I wondered about the lives of the people and why (especially the children) had died. (Yes, I was infected with the history bug when I was nine years old.)
I did not remember any of the names that were on the stones and decided after all these years it was time to pay another visit to the cemetery. What family had started that cemetery? How old was it?
Yesterday we were down that way for a reunion so we stopped at the farm and asked if we may walk back to see the cemetery. The farm is owned by the third generation of the Lauver family and the current owner is my second cousin. He told us how to find the cemetery which is now surrounded by corn. A few years ago he cut down the trees that used to be around it so if he had not told us where to go into the cornfield we would have had a hard time finding it.
The condition of the cemetery has not improved with the passage of fifty years. In fact, it is even worse than when I last saw it. The iron fence that surrounded it is still there but it has fallen over. The lily-of-the-valley has been choked out by the weeds. The groundhog holes are still there and more numerous than ever. The stones that are still standing are few and far between with no semblance of rows. Some of them are lying face down while others are leaning against the fence or half-buried in the ground.
We tromped down or pulled out weeds to be able to see the stones. Some of them are weathered smooth but others were still readable. I photographed fourteen stones, most of which are readable. I did not find any one predominant family name but an assortment of Becker, Hauck, Ressler, Sauter, and Fry names. The oldest one I found was John Sauter, born January 6, 1760, died December 10, 1811.
I satisfied a little of my curiosity about this old cemetery but there are still many unanswered questions. I still wonder who these people were, exactly where they lived, and who started the cemetery. Restoring the cemetery would yield more information but it would also be a tremendous amount of work. The owners of the farm said the last burial was done there in 1933 but there was no visible stone for a burial that recent. I couldn't help feeling sad for the people who lie here with stones saying "in memory of" but are lost and forgotten in history.

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