I'm a big kid. (Obviously.) Halloween is my most favorite time of year and having children has made it even easier to enjoy as an adult. Panda made me the happiest momma on earth the day she said "Mom, could we have a Halloween party for my birthday from now on (in October)?". She is a 4th of July baby which makes any celebration planning with her friends VERY excruciating. It seems all her friends take turns going on holiday around that time of year.
Beginning in 2011, she will have her first boy/girl party at Halloween time. Where does the graveyard come into all this? Well, it's actually a long story. One that begins with a simple interest in having activities for Panda's party, such as "ghost stories" into an obsession for knowing more....
This is looking from the hill mid cemetery towards the wild life reserve & empty field behind our property:
Can you spot The Captains truck in this picture? Yeah, we live THAT close. With just 75 ft or so of woods between us, meeting the 2 property lines with a chain link fence:
I have found NOTHING in books or online about this particular cemetery. A line or two mentioning the pioneers of our township have been found in surrounding town history books. Tid bits I would jot down. Then...I found I was in some way, writing a book of my own all about those who had been the FIRST settlers of the land I walk upon, the builders who erected many buildings & homes I pass each & every day, whom have been laid to rest beginning over 200 years ago and have no visitors but township maintenance.
So began the big mission. Not only do I feel a sort of caretaker to this graveyard, I have found myself researching, dedicating way too many hours actually, into finding the stories of those laid to rest next door. So far, I have pieced together & corrected time lines/names mentioned in other books. Intricate family tree lines that would make any ones head dizzy with confusion. Stories of their lives, losses & triumphs falling together with small connections.
Example, Mr. David Cook was on the jury for the first ever murder trial of Portage county Ohio. The accused (not Mr. Cook of course),had beat his wife a few days after giving birth while she lay in bed. She sustained a large gash across her rib cage when the accused hit her with a metal shoe horn. She died w/ in 3 weeks. BUT despite the towns people knowing he was a man of bad character, ill temperament & a bit of a drinker, he was acquitted. The defense was able to put doubt in the minds of those such as Mr. Cook that it is possible she died from child birth bed ridden sickness and not from her injuries she sustained when he beat her in a most vicious fashion.
Grave of a young, 15 year old whom I have yet to identify. So many stones that are disappearing. Crumbling away with the beating of the seasons.
So the plan is also a bit of future purpose. Mostly due to so many cemeteries being disrupted & vandalized by those who have never been taught the respect & appreciation of our ancestors.
This particular graveyard is the final resting place to many of the first pioneers who set their home just around the corner from where we live. Joining just 1 other single man who came in 1803 & was the ONLY resident in these parts until 1805!
As part of her party the kids will carve pumpkins. Then, we will walk over to the graveyard with the pumpkins as I tell them a few not so gory as above stories of it's inhabitants( and I have already found a few that are appropriate for 7th graders).How they are a part of our history & how the last person buried was in 1957, 152 years after the first.
I will also tell them as we ascend the long cement steps up into the graveyard, set 10 ft higher then the road, the old lore that as once you reach the top- close your eyes. Count to 3 and turn around to see who is following you. You may just be surprised if our hosts are feeling a bit mischievous.
Once inside, each kid will draw a name from a bowl. (proper behavior will be discussed). They are to FIND that persons grave and leave their pumpkin in reverence for them. On the grave will be a short paragraph of info on their chosen resident that they are welcome to keep. Then we will make way back to the house for food & games. Each year will be different. Stories of different residents will be shared. Different games & such will be played.
I have already begun a site where I am recording all the info found. I wish for others to be able to find all this great history in one location online- for free. After much deep thought I have decided I will attend a Fall meeting of our township Historical society. Not only will I be visiting them this weekend in search of more information/history, I may just end up being the youngest member, trying to preserve the great farming community I call home.
Not to mention, hopefully get a fund raiser going to preserve/install headstones, of those I call neighbor.
Up next, some Halloween How to's
& simple low or no sew last minute costume ideas!