Sunday, March 1, 2009

No Names, Just Numbers

The first edition of the Graveyard Rabbits Carnival asks us to share our "exceptional finds."

A few weeks ago I was at our local genealogical society meeting.  Now, I'm not from around these neck of the woods, so what I learned at the meeting was quite interesting.

I thought I had found all of the cemeteries in the Bloomington-Normal area.  But alas, I had not.  At that meeting the "poor farm cemetery" was mentioned.  I had not heard of this and thought perhaps it went by another name.  I did some digging and found an article written in XX in the local paper.  Turns out it's also referred to as Potter's Field.  More digging on the Internet shows that it's also called the County Farm Cemetery.  A look at my list of B-N cemeteries revealed that I did not have this cemetery among the ones I had previously found.  In fact, I checked my Google map to see if I had it under yet another name.  Nope, no flag in that spot...not even close.

The cemetery is part of the county farm's land.  Those who are buried here were either residents of the poor farm or those who were unidentified or unclaimed.  The first burial dates back to 1860, with the last in September 1930.  Of the 500 or so burials, only 165 are marked.  The markers are simple stones bearing only a number.

"If the concrete slabs knew the stories of the men at whose heads they stand guard and could tell them they would find hundreds of ready listeners, for many tragedies were sealed forever when their heroes died."

-- "Numbers Take Names' Place," Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.), 21 September 1930, sec. D, p. 1.

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-- "Numbers Take Names' Place," Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.), 21 September 1930, sec. D, p. 1.

According to the information on Find A Grave, this cemetery is "landlocked and not accessible."  However, an article in the Pantagraph a few weeks ago states there is no road and visitors must reach the cemetery on foot.  Looks like something I need to investigate further! B-N Signature

5 comments:

Brian

I always found those small, old cemeteries the most interesting. Full of history and mystery.

lindalee

Julie, there is a potter's field cemetery in Morgantown, WV that I have wanted to visit during one of my trips there, but have not. The idea of having numbers on the stones is interesting. I imagine in many potter's fields, there is nothing. Thank you for sharing this blog.

Anonymous

Julie: there are files in the McLean County Museum on the Poor Farm Cem. Several people have attempted to trace and record the burials, including myself. I have been to the cemetery and the land around it is owned by Jim Shirk and farmed by tenants. There is legal right of way to get onto the property but walking through the field is the easiest. My project became so large that I chose to abandon it but anyone who wants the paperwork is welcome to it. The County Administrator also has a box of materials on the burials. I would love to see a book done on the burials along with any identification available for each person and an obituary and d/c. Nancy Miller, Bloomington, IL

Julie Cahill Tarr

Sounds like a great project, Nancy. I'll have to ask around and see if anyone is interested in helping out.

I was out there about a year ago...my friend knows the owners and got permission to cut through the field. It is terribly overgrown...would be nice to see it cleaned up.

Anonymous

Curious if anyone has the GPS coordinates of this cemetery. I love taking pics of old headstones and then trying to figure out what might have happened to the person. This cemetery would be interesting to see. Especially grave 165. Research says it was an abandon newborn.

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