by Joy Neighbors, A Grave Interest
Sunday, January 14, 2024
Saturday, March 18, 2023
Cemeteries can disappear for a variety of reasons. We’ve lost many after family farms have been sold or abandoned. In the 20th century, numerous states didn’t have laws instructing the landholder to continue to care for the cemetery.
Thankfully, we now have some public officials that understand the necessity of keeping those sacred and vital plots intact. But parcels of land can slip through the cracks. Today, we’ll explore several cemeteries that have “disappeared,” although they remain somewhat intact, just not where you’d expect to find them.
INTO THE WOODS, Edgar County, IL
The family who lived there said the name of the cemetery was Adams, and it was located on their property. But it would take a four-wheeler to get there. We loaded up and traveled across a ditch, and a far distance into the woods. After climbing a hill, we found it. About three dozen graves were there, and in the early spring, the stones were easy to find. Last names included Adams, Bush, Buchanan, Jamison, and Legg. Find A Grave has a page for the cemetery with 34 documented stones.
It was an enjoyable foray into the woods, and wonderful to see landowners who considered themselves to be custodians of the graveyard. (If anyone recognizes these folks, please let me know their names. I have forgotten.)
IN THE FRONT YARD, Haysville, IN
|Cemetery in the Front Yard
Hope Cemetery in Dubois County, Indiana, is a fitting name for this small graveyard located in a front yard on Route 56 near Haysville. There are about a dozen grave markers; several with names and dates that are readable. The earliest burial date appears to be 1848 for Ezekiel T. Inman. The last was for Seth Alonzo Roberts, who was born August 1, 1881, and died on February 24, 1943.
SPRINGS SHOPPING CENTER, Louisville, KY
994 Breckenridge Lane
The Burk Family Cemetery is hiding in plain sight in Louisville. Surrounded by tall hedges, the cemetery is located in the parking lot of the Springs Shopping Center. Five graves are located here, those of James, Matilda, Charles, Samuel Burk, and an infant son, all buried in the 1800s. Four graves are marked with obelisks and ledger stones. The fifth marks the grave of an eight-month-old with an infant carved as if asleep on top of the stone.
At one time, the Burks were prosperous and owned a horse farm. When family members decided to sell the land in the early 20th century, they refused to have the cemetery moved. And so today, you can still duck behind the hedges and visit the graves of a 19th century Hoosier farm family.
AT THE MOVIES, Middleburg Heights, OH
18348 Bagley Road
Hickcox Cemetery, also known as Hepburn, was the burial ground for seven of the original settlers of Cuyahoga County in the early 1800s. A farming community, in the 1840s it became known as the Onion Capitol, growing tons of yellow globe, red wetherfields, and yellow flats onions, celery, and other crops that were shipped to the Eastern United States.
It was stipulated in a Hickcox family member’s will that the cemetery should not be disturbed for any reason. A Middleburg preservation group, “Sons, Wives, Ancestors for Middleburgh's Preservation Coalition” (SWAMP), posted twelve “Pioneer Trail” plaques in the cemetery to provide information about the graves and the cemetery site.
In the late 1990s, a developer bought the land to build a multiplex movie theatre. The will request was honored, and today, it lies at the corner of a parking lot for the Regal Movie Theatre in the Regal Middleburg Town Square Plaza.
KINGS ISLAND, Cincinnati, OH
|Dog Street Cemetery at Kings Island
Located on what once was the Dill Farm and R. Eugene King Farm in Deerfield Township, is a small cemetery now called Dog Street. Burials began there in 1803 and continued until 1869, including a Revolutionary War veteran, Peter Monfort in 1823.
In 1970, when 80-acres of property was purchased for the Kings Island Amusement Park, developers began a search for the graveyard and the tombs it contained. Untended since the 1890s, it had disappeared in the undergrowth of myrtle, weeds, and trees. Only two stones remained standing, although officials reported that there may have been close to 80 markers at one time. In 2005, the Warren County Genealogical Society found 69 graves in the cemetery, although only 52 headstones remain.
There are reports of a five-year-old girl who haunts the graveyard, and the north parking lot. The story goes that the child, called “Missouri Jane” Galeener, died in 1846 of cholera and was buried here. Her family then moved on to Illinois. But reports say that Jane has been seen, wearing a blue prairie dress, wandering the cemetery and adjacent parking lot. Perhaps she is still searching for the family that moved on.
A Note of Encouragement
When you’re searching for a cemetery you can’t find, always take a moment to ask the residents near the GPS location. While some of the early cemeteries are no longer cared for, or are considered defunct, it’s worth checking with locals who might have the answer.
Friday, March 10, 2023
|Catacombs of St. Callixtus in Rome
Catacombs have been used for thousands of years. These man-made subterranean passages were constructed to hold vaults or chambers used as religious burial spaces for underground tombs. Sometimes referred to as a necropolis or an underground City of the Dead, catacombs are commonly associated with the Roman Empire.
|Catacombs of Paris
It was during the First Century when Christians created underground tombs as burial sites for the bodies of apostles Peter and Paul. Since it was illegal to bury a body in Rome, catacombs were located outside the city.
Catacombs have been discovered across the world. These underground passages are filled with decorative carvings, inscriptions, statues, and paintings that identify and tell a story about the dead.
|Roman, Parisian, and Egyptian Catacombs
The most famous catacombs are in Rome, where at least forty underground crypts have been rediscovered in recent years. The Christian Catacombs of Callixtus contains the Crypt of Popes from the second to the fourth centuries.
Catacombs of Paris
The Catacombs of Paris are ossuaries (A box, chest, or space that serves as a final resting place for human remains.), which contain the bones of more than six million people. The construction of the underground City of the Dead began in 1786. By the 19th century, renovations were made, and the crypts were open to the public in 1874.
Egypt is home to the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa in Alexandria. The tombs were created from the 2nd to the 4th centuries and are a blend of Roman, Greek, and Egyptian cultural influences. Rediscovered in 1900, the catacombs are thought to belong to a single family, but evidence of other persons buried there is prevalent.
Catacombs do exist in the United States, although
cemeteries were more to our liking with mausoleums and crypts built above ground.
Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, Manhattan, NY
|Catacombs of St Patrick's
Old North Church, Boston, MA
|Catacombs of Old North Church
Franciscan Monastery, Washington, DC
Few people realize that there are catacombs beneath the Franciscan Monastery in Washington DC. Built in the late 1800s by monks, the catacombs are replicas of Roman tombs. Their purpose is to offer Americans a spiritual pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Although only a few bodies are interred here (most are in Rome), religious statues and replicas of Holy Land shrines are on display with in-depth descriptions about the lives of the saints.
|St Innocent and St Benignus
The crypt does contain the remains of two people. The first is Saint Innocent (Saint Innocentius), an eight-year-old child martyr murdered during the Roman oppression of the Second Century. While his head is made of wax and covered with a wig, the child's hands are the actual bones covered with gauze.
The other tomb retains the bones of Saint Benignus, a loyal disciple of Saint Patrick of Ireland. Benignus was known as St. Patrick’s psalm singer. His bones were buried here, but his head remains in Rome.Tours are available for free by visiting MyFranciscan.org.
St. Joseph Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Newark, NJ
|Photo by: Roadside America
The catacombs at Saint Joseph Immaculate Heart of MaryChurch in Newark, New Jersey, were created in 1937 by Reverend Father Mateo Amoros. Assistant pastor Amoros was impressed with the catacombs he viewed in Montreal and decided his church should have one. When the state of New Jersey would not allow human remains to be buried beneath the church, Amoros decided to have wax replicas of certain martyrs created and placed in the vaults below the sanctuary. The martyred figures include St Genaro, who was thrown in a fire for refusing to denounce Christianity; St Ines, who refused to marry a Roman soldier saying she was already “married to God,” and St. Cecelia, who also refused to give up her religion and instead was boiled alive and beheaded. While the vibe is more of a strangely decorated church basement than the Roman catacombs, it has the distinction of being the first wax museum in the United States. There is no charge to view the catacombs, but you must request permission at the rectory.
In the Queen City, St. Francis Seraph Roman Catholic Church in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, built over a Catholic cemetery, and created their catacombs. In 1819, Christ’s Church was built just beyond the city limits, and a graveyard was placed next to the church. In 1822, the church moved to the downtown area, but the cemetery remained. In 1859, St. Francis Seraph Church was built on the site, and the forty-one souls originally buried there were interred in a crypt below the sanctuary. Their tombstones were used to pave the floor. Tours are conducted by American Legacy Tours.
While catacombs never caught on here as they did in Europe, it’s nice to know that a few churches kept the tradition, giving us the opportunity to stroll though the hushed warrens of some interesting American Cities of Death .
Friday, February 3, 2023
There is a new alternative to burial and cremation – human composting. Scientifically referred to as Natural Organic Reduction (NOR), it is the latest sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to a body being embalmed before burial. (The U.S. uses more than 8000,000 gallons of embalming fluid in a year, which after burial seeps out into our ground.)
How It Works
|Preparing for NOR (Recompose)
The process of human composting involves the body being placed in an 8-foot steel cylinder that is filled with wood chips or sawdust, and alfalfa straw. Oxygen is added, and the container is kept between 130 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit to speed up decomposition.
|An Earth Funeral Vessel
Once the decomposition begins, the cylinder is rotated so that the remains continue to break down. The process takes 30 to 40 days
and results in around a cubic yard
of nutrient-rich soil (and bone fragments), just like you get from your backyard compost pile. The cost is around $5,000.
| Return Home Composting
Families may claim the composted soil for burial, or scattering. Some conservation groups will also accept human compost. It is a sustainable alternative in metro areas where traditional burial grounds are filling up.
Now Legal in Six States
Human Composting was first legalized in Washington State in 2019 by a new company called Recompose.
By April 2021, Colorado had also legalized NOR, followed quickly by Oregon. In 2022, California and Vermont joined the group. And in January 2023, New York legalized the process.
Companies That Offer Human Composting
Recompose is the company that started it all. Founded in 2017 by Katrina Spade, it was the first human composting funeral home in the U.S. Recompose offers a way to “recycle” ourselves while creating a sustainable future. The facility also offers tours.
Earth Funeral offers carbon-neutral funerals. Located in Oregon and Washington, their soil transformation takes about 45 days. Families may accept the compost, scatter it and plant a flower or tree, or donate it to the Olympic Peninsula conservation site for land restoration projects.
Herland Forest began as a non-profit natural burial cemetery in Washington State. Located on the edge of the Cascadian wilderness, Herland Forest is committed to helping an individual complete the “circle of life.” A video and slideshow explain natural burial.
Return Home is a full service green funeral home in Seattle,
Washington. Operating the world’s largest NOR facility, families may visit a loved one’s vessel during the 30 to 60 day process. Their 8-acre woodland offers dedicated space for scattering composting remains.
Leaving the Earth a Better Place
Natural and green burials have become popular during the 21st century. Human composting may be the next eco-alternative process, along with flame cremation, and water cremation in the U.S.
Time will tell.