Thursday, July 28, 2011


There's something about leaving a legacy that has really intrigued me. Not simply a legacy of monetary value. Or things we acquire. But also a legacy of integrity. Hard work. Responsibility. Respect. Honesty. Those character traits we want so badly for our children to possess as an adult. Those are the things I yearn for my kids to learn. Those are the things I want to leave as a legacy to my children. The rest is just fluff.

Three years ago when we came to look at this property with the hopes of finding our dream country home we had no idea we would be building a legacy here. Nor that there would already be such history to our home. I can distinctly remember getting the tour of the property and the home-owner pointing to the back corner of the paddock to two white stones emerging from the soil. We took a stroll back there and there they were. Two gravestones from the 1800's. Now, I'm not one to believe in ghosts and hauntings, but I have to admit, I was noticeably freaked out at the thought of looking across my yard each day to a cemetery. I also remember him saying, "People are either freaked out by it, or they think it's cool." I can tell you that my husband and I were divided on that issue for quite some time. Well, despite the dead people buried on the acreage we pursued the purchase and here we are today. And today Jason and I both think it's pretty neat to have those graves back there. But only because they're from the time of the Civil War. The time of Abraham Lincoln as President. Can you imagine?? Our house has stood here that long... through so much ... history!

Last night we took a walk back there again, and I took the opportunity to document the gravestones. Sadly, when they were erected, they were quite tall and have broken many years ago. They now lay in the grass behind broken slabs of marble where they once stood. The one was actually broken a few places and tonight we decided to put the puzzle together, so Jason and Zoey moved some of the pieces so it made more sense. There's still a piece missing, and we've tried looking for it beneath the sod, but with no luck.

Zoey uses a pitchfork to look for more pieces of the stones that are missing.

There is also a third piece of history that has been a big question mark to us... the third, smaller, stone simply labeled "B.G.". It too looks to have broken off of a taller marble slab but we cannot find where it originally was placed. We happened upon the stone itself by accident while poking in the ground with a pitchfork. Years of neglect led to it being completely encompassed with grass and invisible.

Jason was teaching Zoey about dirt here. She was worried that he would dig up the people so he explained that after this much time, they would just be dirt. Always a teachable moment.

Over the past 3 years of living here, we've had the opportunity to meet several people who also have history here. Either they've lived here personally, or they are relatives of those who have. One lady was actually doing quite the genealogical research when she came to us. With the research she'd done and the information we were able to give her, we were able to piece together some pieces of the puzzle. She was even kind enough to share photos of our place from back in the time of it's original inhabitants. And while the home doesn't look all that much different today, we lament that the original barn is long since gone and replaced with a pole building.

Some day, this house will look even less like it did in pioneer days. But we're doing everything we can to preserve the memories and history that this old house holds.


Winneconne Book Fair Coordinator said...

Michelle.... I think it is wonderful that you are taking such great care of your little cemetery on your land. As a person who does a lot of genealogy, I think it is great that you take such great care and offer such respect to this family.

Regarding the little stone you found: sometimes people would put corner stones around the area that was their family plot. If it seems like this stone could be in a corner position compared to the actual headstones, you might try digging around in the opposing 4 corners to see if you can find 3 more. Or, it could possibly be a foot-stone. There may have been a headstone in that area that a previous owner moved or that may be hidden in the ground. Try looking in what would seem to be the distance from head to foot of a coffin.

My husband's ancestors are buried in a family cemetery in Gibson township, Manitowoc County and someone does an awesome job of maintaining that property. It is fantastic to go there and just reflect on your family history knowing that someone cares enough to keep the area nice and respected.

Winneconne Book Fair Coordinator said...

Winneconne Book Fair Coordinator.... funny... that is my blog spot when it is book fair time... did not realize it would pull that title in here. It's me... Jill Zander :)

Terry said...

I'd bet my life that the BG is 3x Great Grandpa Benjamin Gilberts stone, just sad you have been unable to locate the remainder, but I know the graves were not as well maintained as they are now over the years and they do go under over time
I hope you and your family do realize how grateful I am that you have taken the care and interest that you have.
I could not have asked for a better family to live on the farm, I am very appreciative of the hospitality you have shown, and you know where to reach me if you happen to find anymore family hanging around!

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