For my years Dad has talked about taking us, his children, on a tour of the cemeteries were our ancestors are buried. Many years ago his Uncle Ray did the same for him. One day the two of them jumped into the car and started traveling the back road of Dunn County Wisconsin stopping at the cemeteries of family members. Ray would take Dad over to the burial site and show him the headstone and tell him the family story’s of their lives. Dad has wanted to past on those stories to us, his children. So we finally set a date and went on our tour of these cemeteries. Dad thought it was important that we all stayed together. If we traveled by car we would be taking several vehicles and we wouldn’t be able to share stories between stops and ask questions. The first order of business was to find a vehicle big enough to carry 15-25 people who had shown interest. In the end the final number on he tour was 12. What we did was rent a school minibus from the local school bus company. When we told the person in charge what we were doing he said their family was going to be doing the same thing a couple of weeks later.
We had chosen the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend to do our tour and we were all told to be at Dad’s at 9 am. The day was perfect. The skies were clear and a breeze was in the air. The temperature was comfortable so in the cemeteries you weren’t cold and on the bus you weren’t too hot. We were armed with cameras and video cameras to record the details of the tour. We loaded on the bus and off to the first cemetery on our tour. The tour was laid out in a loop and not in chronicle order, so the stops would be jumping from my Dad’s side of the family to my Mom’s side of the family and up and down the genealogical lines. The first stop was at Sherman Cemetery. This is where many of my Dad’s fraternal ancestors are laid to rest. He led us down the hill to the center of the cemetery were his parents and grandparents are buried. In the set of 8 burial sites are also his Uncle Ray and Aunt Florence. There is a seventh person buried there also, my Dad’s sister, Barbara. He told us the story of Barbara and how she only lived for only 2 hours. He continued the story in telling us that his dad and grandpa had built the coffin and his mother had lined the coffin for Barbara. Dad and his brother Bob found a receipt many years later, after their mother died, for the purchase of the headstone. The stone wasn’t bought at the time of the death but years later. He continued his stories of other family members at Sherman Cemetery. We all loaded back on the bus and off to the next cemetery where his great grandparents are buried and told us of their lives. This was a short stop but it made me realize in my family tree software I need to record the GPS coordinates of the burial sites. Dad had thought they were on one side of the cemetery and they were on the other side. The other thing I thought was to take a satellite photo and circle the burial sites for other family members doing research on the family tree. A small cemetery you could find a stone in 15 minutes but a bigger cemetery, hours and still miss the headstone and find yourself walking away disappointed.
The next two cemeteries were of my Mother’s family. We stopped at the site of my Grandma and Grandpa Newman. These people were not my Mother’s biological parents, but her aunt and uncle. My Mom’s mother died the day mom was born and these were the two people who raised my mom and we came to know them as Grandma and Grandpa. My Grandmother is buried at the same cemetery and we walk over to her site and Dad talked about her and how after her death my Grandfather was getting a lot of grief from the family and so he just left my mother behind and he moved on with his life.
We moved on to the 4th cemetery outside the small town of Ridgeland. This was a little cemetery on the edge of a state highway. You could see how the state had moved the road slightly and had given up the roadway rights to keep the cemetery intact. After locating the stones Dad told us of our 3rd grandparents on my mom’s side. When we got back on the bus my one sister said she needed a restroom. As we got into town we stopped at a gas station and some of the family went in. A person ask Dad what we were doing. Dad told them about the tour and had mentioned that Mom was raised in Ridgeland. The person responded by telling Dad who owned the place were Mom was raised. We stopped by the landlords home and ask permission to visit the home and the lady said yes. We headed out of town to the home were Mom was raised. Dad told us the structure was the same as it was 75 years ago with updates to the siding and windows.
We headed back to Dad’s home for lunch and said goodbye to the bus. After lunch we traveled in several cars to the final three cemeteries. The first one was Teegarden Cemetery. This is where my Mom is buried and my Dad’s grandparents on his mother’s side. There is also extended family buried at Teegarden. Dad talked of those people and their lives. Dad also told us when he was a kid, him and his family mowed the cemetery for several years. The next cemetery we stopped at is next to my home. One of my 3rd grandfather’s, George Irvine, is at rest in that cemetery. Dad talked about him and how the nearby town of Irvington was named after him. He told of his travels from Iowa to help a local lumberman perfect his sawmill. He was offered a partnership in the sawmill but he declined and opened his own sawmill. George also received land from the government under a land patent in the late 1800’s. We wrapped up our stop and down the road to the final cemetery.
The last cemetery is the resting spot another set of my 3rd great grandparents and many of their children. Nathanial was a man who started new homesteads. One of his old homesteads is in Eau Claire and is on a busy intersection on the interstate. Another homestead is in Dunn county just a few miles south of my home. One time when I was with Dad he pointed to a farm he thought was Nathanial’s farm. As I did research I found out my Dad was wrong. The land that was granted to Nathanial was right next to the county road that I travel and his wife was granted the next 80 acre parcel. I found this information on the BLM website. We headed back to Dad’s and us children headed back to our home’s.
This was a good day. It left my with a hands on walking tour of my ancestors and also more questions of my family. I will continue the research on my ancestors and their family members. If you ever have a chance to explore your ancestors, do it!
The group at the home where Mom was raised.