"There are two things we should give our children: one is roots and the other is wings." -- Hodding S. Carter (Borrowed from the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher.)Armed with just a few print-outs from Find-A-Grave, some Google satellite maps, a plat map from the county tourism office and my trusty camera, I headed out for two days of genealogical bliss.
It is my very good fortune, genealogically speaking, to have many Greats buried in the same quarter-section of Fayette County, Illinois. All had come from Tennessee by the mid-1800s and they apparently liked what they saw because three and more generations stayed put, right there.
I headed out mid-day on one of those kinds of days only early Fall can deliver. Temps were in the upper 60s, the skies were mostly blue and there were just a few little zephyrs to mess up my hair.
It wasn't but ten minutes or so after leaving the tiny village of Ramsey that the roads I needed to find looked like this. And they were, indeed, the right roads ...
C'mon over the hill with me and see what I saw...
Little Hickory Church Cemetery was first on my list. Having been there in 1995 I vaguely remembered the contours of the place. There was only a small clearing hidden behind the orange and yellow-painted trees and it had to be the place I wanted to be.
The marker for my Great-Grandparents, Ashley and Nancy Elizabeth Davis Halford. Ashley is not buried here as he was cremated. His ashes were spread from a little single engine plane over these hills and fields he loved so much.
The mostly illegible - in this photo, anyway - marker of Ashley and Lizzie's youngest child, Vera Lynn, who died not in the house fire that led to her mother's mental breakdown because she believed Vera had died in it, but in 1926 as a young woman of twenty years. By that time Lizzie had been institutionalized for what turned out to be the rest of her life.
The tears really flowed upon seeing this. I didn't remember it from the last visit. What to say? Ashley, I am very sure, poured this concrete marker himself. This was their first child and died two days after his birth. My Grandpa Roy was born 13 months later. I suspect that either there wasn't enough money for a proper marker or that Ashley - or A.R. as he was commonly known - was so devastated by the loss that this was all he could do. And why it says only "Enfant son of A.R. Halford" without mention of Lizzie, I simply cannot fathom. Maybe her name was there in the beginning.
Another Great. James Thomas Hicks was my 4th Great-Grandfather. He was Nancy's Great-Grandfather. She certainly would have known him as she was seven years old when he died. His wife was Catherine "Caty" Harris, daughter of Wooten and Frances Adams Harris about whom I've written in the past. Try as I did, I couldn't find Caty's marker although I know that it is there.
... but the way to it was mostly concealed except to true seekers like us. I was very thankful - as I often am - that I had grown up in farming country or I would never have attempted to negotiate this path in a car. As it was I had to drive on the edges of the cornfield, weeds and cornstalks brushing against my car's undercarriage, so as to get around a fairly big ditch about midway. The burying ground is way up at the top center of the photo where the greenway ends.
My two times 4th Great Grandmother - once on my paternal grandfather's side and once on my paternal grandmother's side, the elusive Sarah Wallace Hammond (nee Riley) was the first to be buried on this plot of ground. Her son-in-law Bradley Halford asked her where on the farm she wanted to be laid to rest and this is where she chose. Sarah's daughter Barbara Riley Casey and husband Wilson Casey - my 3rd Greats - also are buried here. Their stones are apparently so worn that the inscriptions cannot be read but I have since found their location so... next time.
I must somehow see to it that this place can be better maintained. Brand new sign but weeds practically overtaking the graveyard?
Next up was the Harris Cemetery and it was here that I was searching for the graves of Wooten and Francis Adams Harris. Do you remember my story about them? I feel a very strong tie to these, my 5th Great Grandparents, in large part because I wrote that diary.
I walked all over the place peering through squinty eyes at all 134 markers. No Wooten Harris. I knew he was there because I had seen a picture of his marker and knew it was flat. I wisely traded logic for instinct again and let it guide me to the exact spot! It was nearly covered with grass and weeds but I saw a glint of something and a glimpse of an "oten". I got to work pulling and tugging and finally laid eyes on this wonderful treasure in bronze.
Try as I did, I couldn't find a legible marker for Wooten's wife Frances Adams Harris. That is one of many reasons why there will be a next time.
TO BE CONTINUED
I hope you enjoyed a little country flavor on this day. Part II will be coming on December 7th