Friday, May 9, 2014

The Tombstone Trail: An Innovative Idea

There are wine trails, bike trails, bourbon trails, food trails, art and culture trails – but have you ever been on a Tombstone Trail?

The nation’s only historic cemetery trail tour can be found in Noble County Indiana along the Grand Army of the Republic Highway (U.S. 6) and State Road 9. 

The trail was founded by John Bry, executive director of the Noble County Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2010. What began as a trail for Noble County now includes DeKalb, Koscisuko, Whitley, and Huntington Counties as well.

Bry wanted to create something that tied together Hoosier history and genealogy, with area cemeteries and included profiles of the famous and infamous of Indiana’s history. Volunteers have researched and pulled together over 80 stories including tales about architects, a Noble prize winner, and soldiers who served in the War of 1812, Civil War, both World Wars, and Vietnam, along with accounts about a Salvation Army donut girl, the last Miami Indian Chief, and Indiana author and naturalist Gene Stratton-Porter.

If you are a Tombstone Tourist, you are aware that cemeteries are rich repositories of history, art, architecture, and stories. This Trail is a creative way to coax others into the graveyard for a chance to explore what is really there and admire the monuments and stories of those who have gone before.

The Tombstone Trail offers self-guided tours of 10 cemeteries over an 85-mile radius. Last year the group published pdfs and books on each cemetery and offered them for sale on their website Those wanting to take a tour should purchase a pdf or book to learn more about the stories of a certain cemetery. Each book contains a map with the graves marked. Once at the cemeteries, QR (quick response) codes are located at the gravesites for more information.

The Tombstone Trail is beginning its fifth season late this summer with guided tours for groups of 10 or more held during the autumn; some tours may be conducted by candlelight! Self-guided tours may be taken year-round. Some of the cemeteries on the guided tour trail may change each year so that each season offers new stories and some old favorite. Proceeds from all tours and books go to historic cemetery conservation. 

Cemetery locations include the Old Kendallville Cemetery, Lake View Cemetery, Rose Hill Cemetery, and Oak Park Cemetery in Noble County; Syracuse Cemetery in Kosciusko County; Blue River Cemetery, Greenhill Cemetery and South Park Cemetery in Whitley County, and Mt. Hope Cemetery and Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Huntington County. For more information about touring the Tombstone Trail, contact the Noble County Visitors Bureau at (877) 202-5761 or visit them on Facebook @

Bry’s idea of a Tombstone Trail is slowly spreading; there are now over 30 cemeteries involved and the trail also includes cemeteries in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

What a great way to introduce people to the cemetery with all its beauty and history: a chance for people to learn about some of our country’s famous, infamous and not-so-famous “permanent” residents of those silent cities of stone.

~ Joy

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