Saturday, April 23, 2011

Endangered cemetery dirt storms


Recently, I was asked by a land developer to attempt to locate an old cemetery that may have been located within a plot of land that is currently a crop field. Currently, no physical evidence of the late 19th cemetery exists. No headstones, markers or, even the slightest ground depressions.

The developer was extremely concerned that, if there was a cemetery, somewhere on the plot of land, he wanted to ensure it was not only protected but, more importantly, respected.

When dealing with pre-1900, misplaced cemeteries, it is not uncommon to have no evidence of a grave yard. There are numerous reasons for this: over-growth of foliage; headstones being "disasembled" to use land for other purposes; never had headstones, as in the common practice when dealing with old African American cemeteries. These graves were often identified by wooden stakes, stones, pottery--eventually destroyed by the environment.

When dealing with an old cemetery that is adjacent to a crop field, another often not thought of reason for "misplacing" a cemetery occurs. The catalys for the disappearing cemetery begins just before planting season and ends during harvesting.

(above & below images)
Airborn dirt, flowing over road, caused by plowing of the cropfield

Imagine the above dirt storm flowing not over a road but instead, onto an adjacent small family cemetery located within the neighboring tree line of the crop field. Now, add ten; twenty-five; one hundred or, even two hundred years of this flowing dirt, coming to rest on that same cemetery.

The cemetery that was located "at one time" within the crop field area has been re-discovered. I had to spend some detailed time researching the grounds. The image below, is from this specific cemetery and represents, clearly, how plowed crop fields can, over time, encrouch a cemetery:

(Left; A) Grave head stone located nearly twenty inches under "visible" surface.

(Left; B) Actual headstone from the crop field cemetery---After washing stone, with only clear water & soft brush, information was re-discovered.

First name is hard to decifer.

Born: December 1825

Died: July16, 1908

I hope these images help to explain how some old & endangered cemeteries can become "mis-placed." Urban sprawling has dominated the once plentiful farm land. There are, however, land developers out there, who insist on taking the most extreme steps and care to protect the final resting places of people who once lived in their communities.

Take just a moment and think of all of the "forgotten" military Veterans who are laid to rest in the endangered cemeteries within your neighborhood.

To make a contribution to Resurrection Mission--protecting endangered cemeteries and search for our "forgotten" military Veterans please visit the Resurrection Mission Website.

Happy Easter & say thanks to our military troops and Veterans when you see them.