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Cemeteries are scattered across the landscape

Fri, Jul 18th, 2003
Posted in Features

Afew of the 40 graves in the Quaker cemetery near Highland.

Sitting peacefully off a gravel road north of Highland is a small cemetery. If you have driven by it, you probably only gave it a passing glance. Most people do not know, however, that most of those buried in the 136 year old cemetery were of Quaker faith.

The Friends Church, as it was called, was located in Highland next to the general store. It was purchased by the Shattuck family in the late 1800s. The group was small, but faithfully attended meetings. Highland and Hesper, Iowa shared a minister, and had meetings one to two times per month. After the families started to move on to different areas the church was "laid down" (closed) in 1950, and those remaining members went to Hesper.

Even though the church has ceased to be, the cemetery stands as its most visual reminder. With some 40 graves, it is one of the larger unused cemeteries in the area. Its last burial was in the 1970s. Though some of the stones have fallen or broken, they have either been replaced or stacked up in some effort to preserve the past. The grass is mowed, an American flag flutters in the breeze and flowers bring cheer to some of the stones. The oldest people buried in the cemetery were born in the late 1790s, and early 1800s. Some lived to nearly 90 years old. While a few of the stones writings have been weathered away or are barely legible, the names and dates have been recorded and are held at the Fillmore County Historical Society.

The Quaker cemetery is one example of the many unused or abandoned cemeteries in Fillmore County. Scattered throughout most of the 24 townships, tombstones stretch out next to churches, bask in the morning sun of a rural area or lay hidden under tree cover. Some are lovingly taken care of while others fend for themselves. They all have interesting stories to tell.

Some of the known stories are tragic-others can be quite light hearted. Fatefully, an overwhelming number have faded quietly into the past. Records at the Fillmore County Historical Society and on the Fillmore County Minnesota Genealogical website provide bits of information, most likely all that exists, such as "site of nine burials", "one child buried", "three children buried", etc. There are directions to the cemeteries but whether they are still there and if one will be able to find them is a different matter.

Family Plots

Most of the cemeteries are family plots, privately owned or just single graves. In the City of Rushford Village Township, records state "base of Magelssens Bluff--buffalo hunter-1848". In Canton Township, there is "Elliota--Capt. Elliots Child". A lot of these single plots remained unaccompanied, but other cemeteries added people over time.

In Fillmore Township there is a cemetery named Stringtown Corners Cemetery. The gravestones were stolen but records indicate that three carnival workers had died and were buried there. Others were eventually laid to rest next to them. There was a church and school there also, but was moved south of the original site in 1876.

In York Township the Canfield Cemetery was started after three boys drowned. More burials were added later. In the 1984 Fillmore County History Book Mrs. Howard Dettloff talks about the site.

"There was a cemetery in the southwest corner of the land next to the [community] hall, and several tombstones stood there. These gradually fell down and were demolished, and hauled away, and the land is now plowed up. I remember hearing about two Brown brothers who were drowned in a pond nearby along with another young boy. They were buried there and probably some transients too."

Family cemeteries are very common and are usually the basis of what becomes a community cemetery. Near Canton in Amherst Township sits Wisel Cemetery where lays the Wisel family. On August 6th, 1866 the creek flooded and only one member of the family survived. The Belle Cemetery sits in Carrolton Township. The 1984 Fillmore County History Book explains a little bit about the cemetery.

"The Belle Cemetery, also known as the Root River Cemetery, consists of one acre of land, located two-and-one-half miles north of the Village of Lanesboro in Carrolton Township. The land was donated by Ellen and Franklin Newell January 27, 1880. There are a few markers remaining for the thirty seven graves there. The last one was in 1925."

A few others include Bateman and the Laggin Cemeteries south of Spring Valley. The Byers family has one in Forestville Township as do the Bremseths near Rushford. There is a Baker and an ODell cemetery in Jordon Township. Some graves in the ODell cemetery are etched with the Masonic symbol.

Sodom & Gomarrah

One of the most famous cemeteries in the County is in Forestville State Park, but one of the most infamous is the Sodom Cemetery near Chatfield. There used to be a school there that doubled as a church and shared a reverend with a neighboring area. The local reverends revival services didnt seem to be what the congregation wanted to hear. The meeting attendance dwindled, making the reverend so angry he named the two places after Sodom and Gomorrah. The Gomorrah name was lost but Sodom stuck. The cemetery is said to hold 20 graves but just 10 are remembered, including one who is believed to be the first African American man to reside in the area. Only one stone is still standing.

Throughout the centuries abandoned cemeteries have become valued in many ways. They provide a much needed source of information to genealogists, and also are a lasting way to keep the family remembered. One can only hope that future generations will see the importance of trying to keep the Quaker cemetery, and those like it, from becoming distant memories.

Janette Dragvold can be contacted at news@fillmorecountyjournal.com

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