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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Little Graveyard on the Prairie

While on my quest last week to photograph all the covered bridges in our county, I stumbled across the Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery. What a find! A small graveyard, the tombstones are surrounded by native prairie grasses and plants from pre-settlement times. It is the only remaining piece of what was one a vast tall-grass prairie known as The Darby Plains. Because of its scientific and historical significance, the cemetery was dedicated as a state nature preserve in September, 1978, and is now being managed to aid and perpetuate these native prairie species.


(As always, click on pictures to enlarge)
 
The tombstones engulfed by the grasses.
As in most cemeteries, some of the markers were very simple ones.
While a few were larger monuments.
Prairie life was tough and often not kind to children.
This girl was only twelve years old.
Phebe Ann was a mere five years when she left this earth.
 
And little Mahalia only one.
 
But some, like Henry King, lived to a ripe old age.
His wife, Catharine, even outlived him.
And a little bonus.
Of all the butterflies that were sipping from the prairie nectar, this little guy (about 1 1/2 inches across), caught my eye the most.

42 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

These little graveyards are such treasures! We have a old one near my home in Indiana. We have graves dating back to the Civil War there. Next time I go home, I'll have to take some pictures. Very nice! It makes me a little sad though that someone isn't taking care of this one!

VioletSky said...

love old cemetaries. all those names and dates... so many untold stories.

I like the idea of the prairie grasses growing up around the stones. a wild area should be kept that way and not manicured to within an inch of its life.

that is what attracts butterlfies...

Susan said...

Sandy, the graveyard is meant to look that way. It's being preserved as the last stand of native tall-grass prairie in The Darby Plains.

I think it looks the way it would have looked 150 years ago, maybe after the pioneers went farther west to seek their fortunes.

Susan said...

Sanna, it think it is beautiful, too. And the butterflies and honeybees were everywhere! It was an amazing sight to see!

CottageGirl said...

Just lovely, Susan! Simple markers telling parts of a much larger story. One can only imagine the hows and the whys of those whose final resting place is that prairie.

... And the prairie itself ... a simple yet awe inspiring piece of our vast planet ... What a lovely trip that must have been. Thanks for taking us along!

CottageGirl said...

Oh ... BTW ... love the pic of the butterfly! Gorgeous!

Tattered and Lost said...

Really lovely. I used to love going through old cemeteries, especially near ghost towns. Haven't been in one in years.

When I was in college my watercolor professor used to send us to a local cemetery that had really interesting family mausoleums. My friend and I would usually go together to one spot. Students were scattered all over the cemetery painting. I remember my friend and I were painting, looking out over the San Francisco Bay, and we started noticing a trail of ants walking by. We got discussing where they might have come from which started to freak us out. Just about then the professor sneaked up behind us and scared the you know what out of us. Water went everywhere.

Tattered and Lost said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carol said...

Small cemetarys have always intrigued me. So much history in a few stones.

www.wildlifearoundus.blogspot.com

Alaine said...

One of my favourite things to do, wander through graveyards and ponder.

Char said...

what a sad but sweet find .... abandoned and forgotten. love the shots.

thank you for identifying the beautiful purple wildflowers. do they have that wonderful aroma I was smelling that day too? it was beautifully herbal that day but I wasn't sure if it was that blooming or something else.

Susan said...

CG, thank you for going along with me on my little trip! I was so excited about finding this little gem of a cemetery!

It was so peaceful with the tall grasses whispering in the gentle breezes and the sun shining down on the bees and the butterflies. If I hadn't had my dog with me in the van, I would stayed a lot longer.

Susan said...

Tattered, I love that story! I love cemeteries and my friends and I used to play in one when we were little kids...making up stories about the statues and mausoleums...I guess we were a little morbid! lol

I would love to visit a ghost town!

Susan said...

Carol, you can imagine so many stories about the people who are buried in these old, old cemeteries. I find them so peaceful and serene.

Susan said...

Alaine, my son and I are very fond of them, too. He, being the historian of the family, likes to visit ones with ancestors buried there. One can glean a lot of information for genealogy purposes.

Susan said...

Char, I would like to investigate further to find out if there are any of those families remaining in this area.

You're welcome! I think it's just a combination of all the lovely autumn fragrances. It's one of my favorite things about fall...that smell!

Ruth said...

Cemeteries of all kinds are intriguing. It's unusual to see this one without any trees around. I'm used to seeing shaded cemeteries, but I hadn't thought about that until seeing a prairie one. It's beautiful and rugged, and natural as it should be. I've seen lately how a new type of cemetery is coming up, people getting permits to bury people on their land in more rustic environs.

I've seen old cemeteries too where there will be maybe 10 kids from one family all the headstones lined up. After watching the HBO John Adams story I felt incredibly grateful for modern medical care (yet I still complain about it a lot because of high costs, etc.).

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

What a fascinating little area! I love your photos.

Susan said...

Ruthie, those were my thoughts exactly. I loved the ruggedness of it, the feeling that the families had buried their dead and moved on farther west.

Here's a link about eco-friendly burial and homemade coffins that I have bookmarked.

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Do-It-Yourself/Natural-Burial-Build-Coffin.aspx

Susan said...

Natashya, thank you! I love your recipes and pictures of the food!

The Bumbles said...

My mom used to take my brother and I to graveyards to do rubbings of the gravestones - she liked the old ones which had unique decorative markings. Thinking back now it could have been considered morbid but we just thought it was a fun arts & crafts lesson.

Cindy said...

I love these old cemeteries! We have one near our house too. It's fun to wander there looking at all the gravestones, reading the names and messages. There's also an Oregon pioneer cemetery across town that I need to photograph one of these days. Lots of history there!

Thanks for your reminders of things I need to do when I find myself with free time.

Oliag said...

I do love wandering through old cemeteries too...I get caught up thinking of all sorts of stories to go with the headstones....there are many, many historical cemeteries around here...some taken care of and some not...my own ancestors whole cemetary was moved to a new spot when a resevoir was built over their farmland...

Susan said...

Oh, Molly, rubbings are wonderful to do and great for the kids! I hadn't thought of that, so that can be a future project for the grandkids. Thanks!

Susan said...

Cindy, I'm not sure when you find free time as mother of an almost teenage daughter, your business and family life! But that would be a great thing for you to photograph!

When we were in Nebraska, I think, we got to see the preserved wagon ruts of a section of the Oregon Trail. That was awesome! Those ruts were very deep!

Susan said...

Oliag, thank goodness they moved your ancestor's cemetery before building the reservoir! I suppose they would be required to do so by law. It's not quite the same though, is it? I hope they moved it to a pretty spot.

CottageGirl said...

Perfect header!!!!!!

Oliag said...

Love the new header!...and yes the new cemetery site is beautiful...serene...

Susan said...

CG and Oliag, thank you! I think this one is my favorite so far.

ds said...

Those old cemetaries are both fascinating and slightly creepy. The sight of all of those old names--some known only as road signs, or on plaques--have such poignancy. The past is always with us, but it can be ephemeral. Places like these remind us that it is solid. Thank you.

BTW, I have left you something on my blog that you very much deserve. Pick it up when you can...
http://thirdstoreywindow.blogspot.com

Susan said...

History is always with us, isn't it, ds? We drive by road signs and building names every day and never give a thought about why they bear the names they do. Once in a while it's fun to find out the why.

Liss said...

Hi, you live in a real interesting area. It makes me glad when I hear that history is being protected for future generations.

To think some of these graves are 200 years old. I wounder what life was like on that spot back then.

Susan said...

Liss, Hi! And thanks for visiting!

I tend to think of it as boring around here, but it does have its charms. I'm finding out more about where I live. It's about time after 9 years! haha

I would imagine life then wasn't easy. Pioneers were made of grit and guts to be able to pick up and move to some unknown place and leave their extended families behind. I don't think many people could do that nowadays.

Tipper said...

Well I'm glad you stumbled onto the beautiful place-so you could share it with us : )

JackeeG4glamorous said...

I have a "thing" for cemetaries, they have so much life, believe it or not. They show so much about life anyway. I think your find is so awesome! Still, I love the covered bridge series a ton!

Susan said...

Thank you, Tipper! I love sharing my finds with everyone.

Susan said...

Hi Jackee! I agree with you about the life in cemeteries...this one was abuzz with bees and butterflies and other creatures of nature. Thank you for the nice compliments!

VioletSky said...

oooh, then have I got a tag for you - if you love sharing your finds, and photos! details on mine.

Ruth said...

Wonderful wonderful covered bridge header!! I love it.

California Girl said...

Graveyards fascinate me as well. I love to read the tombstones and imagine the life of the person beneath. Some graveyards are so lovely and others quite forlorn.

Susan said...

Ruthie, thank you!

Susan said...

Cali Girl, even in their forlorn states, those kinds are beautiful in their own way.