Old Back Road Cemeteries

Heading west and south of where I live, it’s not unusual to come across old back road cemeteries.

Some are now tucked away next to subdivisions and shopping centers. Twenty years ago, those things weren’t there, but the cemetery was. Probably for well over a hundred years.

Most of the time these old back road cemeteries sit at the highest spot, surrounded by pretty much nothing. Corn and soy bean fields, maybe a farm house nearby, otherwise nothing.

Came across one while out wandering, don’t even know the name of the road. I just know where it is, now.

Of course I had to pay a visit.

This one is really well kept. Somebody does a nice job of maintaining the grounds.

The oldest head stones date back to the mid 1800’s and when they get that old some of the stones collapse and there is no way to prop it back up. Who ever is taking care of this cemetery goes to a lot of trouble to trim back the grass on even the fallen stones.

I came across one stone that looked old and was in with others that date back over 150 years. I found it interesting, intriguing and disturbing all at once.

There was a name on it, a first name only.

That was it.

No birth date, no death date like all the others.

Just a first name.

Having been raised Catholic, I have a respect for the dead and where they lay. As kids we were told to watch where we walk so we weren’t walking on somebody’s grave.

To this day I have that in the back of my head.

Oops, sorry, scuse me, sorry…

Even so, when I found this head stone I had to fight the urge to take it with me.

What are the chances of ever coming across something like this again.

I think it would look good in my yard.


8 thoughts on “Old Back Road Cemeteries

  1. RK Henderson

    Pleased to meet another graveyard buff! Never miss the chance to walk through one; you find a lot of history there. (History that is quickly being lost as we shift heavily toward cremation…)

    And I concur that the memorials in those old cemeteries often present as many mysteries as they solve. I still remember a lot of them, such as the head-high 19th-century memorial made entirely of iron that I encountered when I lived in Scotland. It was raised (and obviously made) by the coworkers of a foundry employee. Again, one wonders at the backstory; you don’t see many factory workers memorialised like that.

    By the way, I’d bet that “Kenneth” is this person’s last name. Failing that, it could be the last headstone still standing in a family plot.

    Big subject; I’ve wanted to write a book about this stuff for years.

    Thanks for the post!

    Rusty Ring: Reflections of an Old-Timey Hermit

    1. Ken G Post author

      When I was a kid, this is going back 50-55 years ago, my grandparents on my ma’s side both died long before I was born. During the warmer months, a couple of times a month we would go out there and plant flowers. Back then you could dig up the plot and turn it into a garden. I’m sure that’s where the fascination started.

      Out this way, it’s interesting to drive on these back roads and then find grave markers with the same name as the roads. History indeed.

      And who maintains these things, they’re never run down. I know people who’s family has been living out this way for generations. I assume it’s them.

      The wife and I were talking about “Kenneth”. Could have just been somebody passing through and that’s all they knew about him. The markers around him are all pre Civil War and even though Illinois wasn’t a slave state, that doesn’t mean there weren’t any. Could be that.

      You should do a book on the old cemeteries, at least a local thing where you live if nothing else.

      Probably the most heart breaking thing about wandering these old sites is the amount of head stones for children.

      1. RK Henderson

        In the cemetery of my hometown (which was still the outback of nowhere when I was a kid), there’s Old Man Ruddell, its first settler, who died in his 60s. On his right is wife Elizabeth, age 24, and next to her is the baby she died giving birth to. On the left is second wife Catherine, 26, with the baby _she_ died giving birth to.

        Weighty meditation for a Zen monk.

        1. Ken G Post author

          I found a number of ones like that too Robin, in all of the cemeteries I visited. Life was hard 150 or so years ago.

  2. Howard Levett

    Fascinating subject to me as well. A lot of my extended family are buried back there in an old cemetery on the North side of the city. That’s all I remember…old. I hope that Robin fulfills his ambition to write a book. That would be interesting.

    1. Ken G Post author

      That would have to be Rosehill or Graceland on the north side Howard. Both are big and old.
      My extended family are in a couple of places just outside of the city. The one I used to go to as a kid to visit gone relatives was Resurrection Cemetery, home of the infamous Resurrection Mary. Once I had a car, we used to cruise by at night all the time to see if we could find her. Shame we never saw her.

    1. Ken G Post author

      It’s especially weird Ben when it’s your name on the gravestone and never saw anything like that before. I’ll be whistling past the graveyards from now on.


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