Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Old cemeteries and schoolhouses

I’ve fielded a couple of cemetery calls at the township recently.  One was a call to the wrong cemetery, so I redirected it, and the other call was to ask permission to tour our cemetery.  I’m only the person who answers the phone, so I directed that call to a cemetery trustee, but, be still my heart.  They asked permission.  Unlike young hooligans who think a township cemetery is a fine place to push over old headstones and burn frogs alive.  I tell myself the universe answers that kind of disrespect with swift and sure vengeance we just don’t know about.  Their cup won’t be on the bus, times infinity.

A publically dedicated cemetery is an important piece of becoming a community.  In the beginning there were family plots on farms, but as populations grew and fledgling governments formed and land changed hands, there might be no one left to maintain family plots, or even know who rested there.   Communities came together, formed governments under the laws of their state or territory, made arrangements to take care of the poor, the schooling of children, the burial places of their dead, the grazing lands of their cows and sheep. The symbols of these achievements, the old cemeteries with barely legible markers, the old school houses, the town square or village green I see as markers to the future.     Respect for the past and present are paving stones for the future.

When I visit Ann in Wisconsin, I have a view of two old symbols.  A township cemetery and a one room schoolhouse, directly across.  The cemetery is always neatly mowed and trimmed, just like the cemeteries cared for in my township.  I talked to the mowers one day and learned that cemetery had ceased being used when a larger one was built in a nearby city. The township continues to mow it, but is not responsible for further care.  Witness to this is the long row of headstones separated from their foundation, but stacked in a neat line against the trees.  It’s not important the stones and the bases are separated; it’s important the markers are still displayed and trimmed about.  The fellow told me they’re pretty sure each fall which markers will fall to the next winter or the next storm.

On the other side of the drive is an old, brick one room school house.  Ann is close to her goal of beginning restoration of the school house this summer and turning it into a one room home.  I suppose there will be a bathroom with a door.  It’s probably eight or nine hundred square feet and has potential oozing from every brick.  I suggested a bedroom loft at the back, which would give over the entire first floor to living.  I think it will make a great little home for a young couple starting out.


  1. I would love to live in a one room school house, I went to one for 7 out of 8 grades.

  2. Fascinating - I love old cemeteries. It's good to know it is still given the respect and care it merits.

  3. My husby and I have explored cemeteries the world over. We love them. What stories they tell! And I love that old school house! What an opportunity! Here, in Alberta, if anything starts to creep towards the fifty-year-old mark, it is torn down to make way for the 'new and spectacular'. I've long passed that mark. My days are numbered . . .

  4. That one-room schoolhouse should be preserved as a museum. There won't be any left pretty soon.