Sunday, April 09, 2006

Luck or Spirit Intervention?

We are continually amazed at how we are able to find our way to heretofore unvisited country cemeteries. It happened to us in Arkansas two years ago and it is happening in Indiana and Illinois on this trip. We begin to get the feeling that we have spirit guides at work, leading us where we need to go.

We started off bright and early this morning, another chilly morning. We had initially planned to survey the Niccum Cemetery first, but we decided to reverse the order of our day and hit the smaller cemeteries first, leaving Niccum to last.

We headed out in search of the Hughes Cemetery, with a very short, no frills description of its location. We were just about to reach our next turn when a lovely cemetery suddenly appeared on our left. We couldn't read the sign, but on impulse I decided to drive through it and see if anything looked familiar. The impulse paid off, because it turned out to be the McKendree cemetery, the 3rd cemetery on our list of places to go today. We spent an hour or so there, snapping photos and listening to the birds twittering in the bushes and trees. From the top of the hill, I took this photo.

Leaving McKendree, we again tried to interpret the directions to Hughes. They involved instructions to turn on roads that were no longer going by the names given but instead wore signs of unhelpful numbers. Instead of stopping and asking for help, we just kept moseying along in the general direction, looking for a "brick house on top of a hill". We thought we had it one time, only to realize that the next instruction "take the lane turning to the left after the house" didn't fit. Jokingly, I said "Frances, we need a nudge!", speaking to my ggg-grandmother whose grave is in Hughes Cemetery. Just afterwards, we spotted another brick house on the top of a hill and a lane just past it to the left. There was no sign of a cemetery, and a series of gates stretched ahead of us. We pondered the repercussions of being caught trespassing and decided to follow our instincts and go on through. We approached the second gate and as Lana prepared to get out to open it, we glanced to the left and there was the cemetery, tucked away in a pasture. I truly don't know how we happened to drive right to it with the directions we had been given. Unless we had some friendly nudges from another dimension.

I had about 50 pictures to take at Hughes, including the graves of two sets of ggg-grandparents, John and Frances Dunavan and David and Dorothy Beauchamp. It was peaceful and quiet in that secluded setting and we only jumped once, when a rabbit took off suddenly as we approaced a grave at the edge of the cemetery. The only other visitors there were a robin couple, who flitted around and kept an eye on us as we worked.

I had another errand before we left the area, which was to see the town where my grandfather was born. According to the history books I have been looking at recently, Perrysville was once a booming little burg that was giving Chicago some competition. There is nothing left at Perrysville but some abandoned buildings and a small cluster of homes. Oddly, I felt right at home, so I guess some genetic memory was seeping in from my great-grandparents Tilman and Matilda Wilcoxen, who moved from Perrysville to Glen Flora, Texas, when my grandfather was a child.

Just before we reached the Perrysville sign, we saw the gate to another cemetery. The gate was on the main road, but the cemetery sat well off the road on the top of a hill. We took a few minutes to drive slowly through, looking for any familiar family names. We commented on what a beautiful view there was from the top of the hill and came to the realization that the beautiful cemetery probably was placed there because it was land that was unsuitable for farming. Level fields spread out in every direction at the base of the hill. The undesirable land has become the most beautiful spot around. If you look carefully at the photo, you can probably see the graves on the distant hill.

We finally got to Niccum, after taking a small tour of Gessie, another apot in the road where my ggg-grandparents Wilcoxen lived and are buried in unmarked graves on the land that was their farm. Niccum Cemetery sits in the middle of a vast cornfield. For some reason, it has been pretty much ignored by the local historians. Either they are buying into the haunted reputation or consider it too remote to bother with. After some disccusion, we decided that we would recitfy that sad state of affairs and take a picture of every headstone.

I'm not sure I would do it again. And it fact, we aren't quite done. I ran the batteries down in my camera, plus filling up a 1GB memory card, and then proceeded to run the batteries down in Lana's camera. We still have about 2 1/2 rows of stones to photograph in the morning before we leave town. But in a few weeks's time, I hope to have a documentation of Niccum Cemetery online at FindaGrave. I feel like it's my duty, in a way. After all, my ggg-grandparents Anderson and Elizabeth Dunavan donated that land for the use of a cemetery.

In addition to Anderson and Elizabeth, my gg-grandparents Parker and Lucy Wilcoxen are also buried at Niccum. And numerous cousins. My poor knees will probably not be on speaking terms with me tomorrow. I abused them royally today, bending, stretching, kneeling and rising in an effort to get good angles for all the stones.

We are now resting after a big meal at Big Boy's. I've heard of Big Boy's, but until now have not had the pleasure of eating there. We plan to partake of the hot tub later on in an effort to cajole our knees and backs into cooperating with us tomorrow as we head to Moultrie and Shelby counties to work on Lana's family for a change.

And I'll bet we drive right up to the cemetery, regardless of how bad the directions are.


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