Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Four Seats, No Waiting

Today was so full of different layers that tonight's blog requires chapters.

Chapter 1, Four Seats No Waiting
We had one last cemetery to visit this morning before we left Moultrie County, so we headed to the small town of Gays, which by the way was named by taking the first letters of the names of four leading citizens. Gays has an unusual tourist attraction and there are signs on the highway to grab your attention and pull you downtown for a visit. Gays has a two-story outhouse.

This structure naturally generates several questions as you walk around it. Most of them are answered on the nearby display board. First of all, it truly is a two story outhouse, with two holes on each level, one for the ladies and one for the gentlemen (different shaped holes to accommodate the different physical attributes). It was originally attached to a two story building that housed a store on the first level and apartments on the second. The building was torn down, but the outhouse was saved and it now sits in the middle of a small municipal park.

According to the articles displayed, the functionality of the facilities is accomplished by a false wall in the lower level and an offset of the seats above from those below. According to one lady who was interviewed you could indeed serve four, if for some reason you wanted to do so.

Chapter 2, As Far as the Eye Can See

Once we finished our cemetery business in Gays, we turned south and made a run for the town of Vincennes, Indiana. Vincennes sits right on the border between Indiana and Illinois and the Wabash River marks the state line. To get there, we drove through miles and miles of flat prairie land. When the map shows the next town to be 6 miles away, you can look straight down the road and see its water tower and rooftops clearly the entire way. Nothing breaks up the landscape except for the barns and silos that sit beside every house you pass. I'm not one who normally uses cruise control, but it has been a necessity on this trip. The speed limit is 55 mph and my foot wants to push the speed up to 70 on those long straightaways.

Chapter 3, You Can't Get There From Here

When we finally got to Vicennes, we ended up taking a tour of the city. Which was not our intention, but the State Highway Department doesn't seem to feel the need to let anyone know where State Highway 61 is hiding. Unfortunately, that is the road you need to take to get to Petersburg, so we finally gave up looking for it on our own and stopped at the Visitors' Center to ask for help. Turns out you can't get there from Vincennes.

Just kidding. Sort of. It is not an easy task to get to Petersburg, county seat of Pike County where my Mason family lived for many generations. We managed to find a hotel that sits just off Highway 61 and then started off for the nether regends of Indiana. Petersburg, our first stop in Pike County, was about a 30 minute drive through beautiful rolling hills. Spring had not quite arrived in northern Indiana, but in this part the trees are in full bloom, the leaves are bright green, the grass is lush, each farm has a beautiful emerald green pond, and huge tractors are beginning to inch down the narrow roads, slowing traffic for miles. Every so often, you pass a field that is purple with the blooms of what we assume is clover. This has been some of the prettiest country we've seen on this trip.

We spent about 45 minutes at the Petersburg Public Library, primarily to get some better directions to the two cemeteries I wanted to visit. When they ran us off in order to close for the day, we decided that we would make an effort to finish up our cemetery work before going back to Vincennes for the night. Coe, the little community where we were headed, was another 10 miles or so south. We drove through even more verdant farmland, the road curving back and forth and up and down, before arriving at Blackfoot Cemetery.

I have Mason kinfolk buried all over Pike County, but Blackfoot Cemetery was my primary reason for coming to this area. My gg-grandfather John Mason is buried here, along with 3 of his children who died in infancy. My ggg-grandparents William and Huldah Mason are buried here, with several of their sons and a small army of their grandchildren. In all, I believe I counted about 90 graves containing the remains of people who share my DNA. It took us a little over an hour to get all the photos and I had to return several times to John's grave to etch the details forever in my mind.

Finishing up at Blackfoot, we drove some back roads to the Davis Cemetery in order to get photos of the family graves of Nancy Mason Davis, my ggg-grandaunt. This cemetery sits up on top of a hill. It's quite a climb up there, but what a view from the top. This picture doesn't do it justice at all. Believe me, it's gorgeous country.

Chapter 4, Last But Not Least

Our genealogy work is done for this trip. With one day left on our schedule, we are planning to get up in the morning and head toward the Amish communities in Daviess County, just up the road a little ways, and do some shopping on the way back to Indianapolis. It's been a long week, but each day has been packed with the sights, sounds and smells of the country where our ancestors lived. We have a little better feeling for what they left to migrate to Texas.

As I promised last night, I close with a picture of a barn that is just a field or two over from Niccum Cemetery. I am assuming that the barn has been sitting there for long enough to have been a sight taken for granted by my ancestors. Perhaps it even belonged to my ancestors. It is defying the march of time and continues to stand, even though it is a skeleton of its former self.


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