Looking Back: County’s cemeteries need to be preserved

Brown County has many cemeteries, some large and some with few burial sites. Sometimes there may be only a couple members of a family buried out on their family homestead.

We are very much aware of the conditions of these burial places today, in that some are completely overgrown with trees, bushes and weeds, making them seem to disappear with time.

There is a group of concerned individuals here in Brown County who is very much interested and cares about bringing these burial places to view once again.

The group has been formally organized and their name is the Brown County Cemetery Preservation Society.

The first goal of this society is to visit each burial site and assess the general condition of the burials.

The second goal is to clear away the weeds, overgrown bushes and things that have been discarded.

Then, as finances permit, they would like to do some headstone refurbishing: cleaning and some repair work. The repair work would be gentle in nature, nothing that would do damage to the stones.

Some of the stones were carved by Henry Cross. Henry lived and worked on his farm in Van Buren Township. He taught his son Chester Cross the art of carving stone.

The inscription on Henry’s gravestone tells us he lived between 1822 and 1864. He made his home on a 160-acre farm on Poplar Grove Road just east to the Melott Cemetery. Actually, the Melott Cemetery is located on Henry’s farm. If you paid a visit to the Melott Cemetery you would find several of Henry Cross’ carved headstones.

It is important to understand that Henry Cross was the first artist in Brown County. According to Census records, he was born right here in Indiana, possibly in Van Buren Township in Brown County. Once you see his carvings you can appreciate the work and time involved in each of the headstones he carved.

Henry Cross is remembered in Brown County primarily as the person who, in 1851, carved the very well-known Stone Head road marker that has stood at a crossroads in Van Buren Township since its placement there in that year. It still stands there today at State Road 135 and Bellsville Pike.

Its presence there on that pedestal gave the name of Stone Head to the little community that grew in its vicinity.

The Brown County Cemetery Preservation Society invites you to join them for a presentation on Indiana’s Cemetery Laws, given by Department of Natural Resources Director of Special Initiatives Jeannie Regan Denus, at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25 at the Brown County Public Library.

— Pauline Hoover and Rhonda Dunn, Brown County History Center Archives