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Bus tour to visit interesting cemeteries

Contributing writer

Memorial Day is the perfect time to visit any cemetery, but a special tour with knowledgeable speakers at each site provides insight into the lives of Marion County residents, or in some cases, people only passing through.

Catlin Cemetery has a newly discovered group of graves of perhaps 13 children who died in an unknown epidemic about 1871.

Historian Brian Stucky has long been interested in locating various trail sites, village locations, and graves while utilizing his talent at dowsing. Dowsing refers to the detection of disturbed earth, perhaps in the digging of graves or compacted trail routes.

Stucky said he did not tell anyone for a long time that he was a dowser because he was not sure of it himself and felt he needed more testing.

Several years ago, he was part of a group of people participating in a grave search at Catlin conducted by a person whose specialty is searching for buried ammunitions for the military. The report on the search was rather vague, perhaps due to the snow and extreme cold, but did not confirm or deny the existence of gravesites.

Recently discovered information revealed that indeed about 17 children of Swiss Volhynian immigrants were buried in the area of “Brother Henry Hornberger’s farm.” A special marker will be placed at the site this summer or early fall.

Another source of Catlin cemetery information is Don Stutzman who drew up in the Peabody area and called the Catlin Mennonite Church home. The church building was in place from 1886 to 1961 and old records often called graveyard the Old Mennonite Church cemetery.

Stutzman has been working hard to clear and repair the cemetery and has erected his own headstone for “… when the time comes.” Stutzman will also be on hand during the tour to share memories of the site.

Nearby, the Dunkard cemetery is perhaps the most neglected and obscure location although a newly discovered source of information, Sandra Robison of Lawrence, says she and her sister used to bring mowers and work at the site every Memorial Day. She may attend the tour and share her stories of the Rowland family.

Evan and Becky Yoder have mowed the site in recent years and located “the someone who always left flowers each year.” Evan Yoder reports a difficult type of grass grows there which really needs more frequent mowing and is hard on mowers. Several years ago, cattle got into the cemetery. Stones were broken and overturned.

This cemetery is also called the Church of the Brethren or the German Baptist site.

Gard Cemetery is a real contrast to most sites with a carefully groomed area and a brick entryway, a gate, and markers, which indicate the cemetery was started in 1872 when Fred Gard was asked to provide a burial site for a young child. Many old flower varieties were apparently planted long ago.

Carolyn Gard will tell the history and some features of the land provided by her husband’s family in early day settlement stories of the area.

The Spring Branch Catholic cemetery is located just off Nighthawk north of the Catholic Church site, once located along 150th just east of Nighthawk Rd. The church was taken down sometime after 1961 and was a frequent subject of landscape painters. Spring Branch Cemetery is carefully maintained although some fences have been removed over the years.

Cedar Rest Cemetery is sometimes called the Marion County Home cemetery and is listed at a surprising 8.1 acres, although only about 20 gravesites are marked. Nancy Marr, who currently resides at Cedar Rest, will be on hand to share her knowledge. One tombstone in the cemetery is only called “Negro Boy.”

This cemetery was established to be a part of the once self-sufficient county home for the needy. Not too many years ago, there were fruit trees, barns, and other essentials necessary to support a self-sustaining farm. The late Grace Roberts used to tell of Thanksgiving dinners enjoyed at Cedar Rest with her aunt and uncle who were the caretakers of the home.

“Everyone had a job,” she said, “be it peeling potatoes or washing dishes.”

The Tharp Cemetery is a private family site, which is maintained by Dalene Tharp and family. The family surprised her this Mother’s Day by cleaning up the land and getting the fence tight — not knowing a group hoped to tour the site. Tharp reports the fence will be lowered just for the occasion.

The tall Civil War-style monument represents the Max Tharp family and Dalene Tharp has a detailed history to share. She also relates the burial of several neighbor children who were stillborn or died in infancy and were buried “… in the ditch without markers.”

The tour will include a restroom/refreshment break at a lovely site just north of Cedar Rest on the Marion County Reservoir.

The tour benefits the Peabody Historical Society and support of the buildings in the museum complex at Walnut and Division streets.

Last modified May 16, 2012

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