Looking Back: Preservation society project to pay respect to pioneers

There is a subject near and dear to our hearts: The final resting places of our ancestors.

Some of the burial sites have become so overgrown with briars and brush that you can no longer find them. I’m not sure even Briar Rabbit could find his way out if he were thrown in.

When our ancestors were buried, there was a rock of some fashion left to mark the spot, just as we carry this tradition on today. Some of the rocks were fieldstones. If we are lucky, we may find a fieldstone with initials carved on it. Or it might say “Baby.” They didn’t have the best of a carving tool, and it took endurance to get that carving on the rock.

This brings me to what I want to share with everyone who reads this article: There is a new cemetery group formed in the fall of 2015. They are made up of Brown County residents. Yes, Brown County taxpayers.

The name of the group is Brown County Cemetery Preservation Society. Their mission is to educate, preserve, maintain and promote awareness of our county’s heritage and the beauty of all our historic cemeteries. They are a group of concerned and interested citizens who have banded together that have a deep love of history and preserving our historical heritage found in our cemeteries. They have members who are interested in all aspects of cemetery preservation, cemetery laws, history of Brown County cemeteries and education of the ordinary citizen.

Their goal is to read and transcribe inscriptions and photograph the headstones in the cemeteries of Brown County.

In 1971, Kenneth and Helen Reeve began transcribing cemetery inscriptions. Their work concluded in 1976 with a cemetery book. There are a small number of burial sites the Reeveses did not record because they either didn’t know about them or could not find them.

Old cemeteries have a grace and beauty already, but we want them to last a lot longer. We want to photograph the different styles of artistic tombstones.

Henry Cross is one of our best examples of a native stone carver that worked and lived in southern Brown County and left a legacy in stone. This is part of our Brown County heritage and we want all our citizens to learn about that heritage and be proud of it.

It is our hope that when one or two of these folks visit your farm, you can walk and talk with them and learn what they are about. They are not there to bring droves of visitors to your property. They are Brown County landowners who respect the land and their neighbors. They are there to gather information from the grave markers and to photograph the cemetery. They can also get the cemetery cleared of brush and debris if you’re interested.

If you have, or think you have, a burial site on your property and would like for someone from the Cemetery Preservation Society to come check it out, you can email them at bccempreservsoc@gmail.com or find them on Facebook at “BC Cemetery Preservation Society.”

If “Henry Cross” sounds familiar, that’s because he carved the Stone Head that stood at the intersection of State Road 135 and New Bellsville Pike for decades. At this writing, the Stone Head has been kidnapped. If you saw something or have any information about Stone Head, you know what to do. Say something to someone who can help get it back.

If you have the Stone Head, please drop it off at your nearest fire department. This is a very important piece of Brown County heritage that folks are trying so desperately to preserve.

Pauline Hoover, Brown County History Center and Archives