On to the Cemeteries
I was very intrigued with this little scrap of information, and asked folks at the museum if they knew of this cemetery. I was given some directions; but they didn't mean much to me at that point.
I left the museum when it closed at 4:00 PM, and deliberated whether to head straight home or try to see something more.
Warsaw is about a 45-60 min. drive from Elkhart, where my sister lives and where dinner was to be served at 6:30. I decided I could drive to Palestine and maybe even Mentone for a quick look at the active cemeteries there.
I got to Palestine swiftly; and made a fast Reconnoiter of the cemetery, photographing the stones of those relatives I could find. "New" Palestine Cemetery is a small active cemetery on the grounds of a cute rural church. I only had a few grave locations with me, and the cemetery was larger than I expected. I decided I was going to have to return to the historical library and copy more of the grave location information.
As I was preparing to leave, it occurred to me that I was probably very close to the "Old Palestine Cemetery". I consulted the reference document from the Kosciusko Co. Historical Museum and my maps. I drove round and round; but could not find County Rd.300 S. I finally realized that the roads had been named and that Shilling Rd. must be the correct road, and that the old abandoned cemetery should be near the junction of Shilling Rd. with I25.
I turned west on Shilling. Immediately there was an area on the right (north) side of the road where there was a drop off and barren sandy terrain that suggested the possible existence of a former gravel pit. However this was also the origin of a nice driveway leading to a new, modern, and very nice house. After some debate, I pulled down into the driveway to see if anyone was around that I might question concerning the whereabouts of the old cemetery.
There, riding upon a "Bobcat" mini-earthmover was the gentleman who owned the new home. He shut down the engine on his small but mighty steed and asked if he could help. I asked if he was aware of an abandoned cemetery nearby. To which he replied that there was indeed a small cemetery in the woods above his pond; but that no one had abandoned it. In fact he hadn't seen anyone leaving it in the 2 years he'd been living there.
Shaun Bruner is the name of the pleasant and helpful new owner of this land. He is a contractor, and had built the new house and was busy upgrading and beautifying the whole surrounding area.
I explained what I was looking for, and he was very familiar with the cemetery. Several other people had inquired about it in the preceding 2 years. He had plans to do what he could to reclaim it from overgrowth to some extent, and had explored options with the county and local officials for help in that endeavor. He went in the house, and returned with his own copy of the descriptive from the library. He was more than eager to help me explore the cemetery. I decided to ignore the fact that I'd be late for dinner, and take advantage of his availability. We proceeded past his pond, which had been the bottom of the old gravel pit; and climbed a deer path up a small embankment into the woods.
There, I found myself immersed in another world. The summer evening light ( by now it was about 6:00 PM ) was sparkling into a dense green world of foliage. There was a thick carpet of Periwinkle, Myrtle, and other ground covers providing a fairly easily navigable woodland floor, and the dense canopy of northern hardwoods to shade the area. We were on the top of a small elevated plateau. I imagine the land had been chosen as a cemetery location partially due to it's slight elevation. As we wandered in search of ancient graves, and the sun began to sink lower; I had strange reminiscences of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow".
It was somewhat difficult to visualize the "rows" in which the old graves were arranged. Also what rows we were able to identify were much less than straight and orderly. There were several large shallow depressions that were obviously the sites from which bodies had been disinterred to be moved to some other burial site. Many stones were fallen over, and many were so weathered as to be unreadable. Still, with 80 or so gravesites sticking up from the forest floor, it was both an impressive and artistically macabre spectacle.
There was one area about 12 X 12 feet square that was surrounded by an old wrought iron spiked fence. Mr. Bruner told me that only 3 sides to the enclosure were present when he first visited the cemetery 2-3 years previously; but he had found the matching fourth side in or near his pond several months previously and put it back into it's rightful place. Mr. Bruner said his ideal would be to restore the cemetery to the greater extent but not at the expense of destroying the natural forest surroundings or the more manageable ground covers. He'd like to retain the ambiance of a "retired" woodland cemetery, not have the county just level and mow it . He is exploring funds and agencies that might assist him in these endeavors. I certainly agree that it would be a shame for other relatives and friends of the deceased to miss the natural beauty of this place. I agree that judicious and careful landscaping, gravesite restoration and improved access for the more physically challenged would ideally be all that should be done.
We searched for an hour and a half at least; but I did not find the relatives I was looking for, John Millbern and Minerva Blue. We suspected that they might be beneath an Oak tree that had fallen within the previous year; and beneath which it was impossible to grope through the heavy tangled foliage to visualize what might lay beneath. I hope to return in the winter months when the greenery is gone and explore in a less rushed and more professional manner. Mr. Brunner was most helpful and more than eager to spend as much time as I wanted helping me in the search. The main limiting factors were the waning light and my need to appease my starving relatives still waiting for my return.
We finally decided to cease for the evening. Mr. Bruner was kind enough to let me use his phone, and I phoned my relatives to tell them I would be late. It turned out that didn't bother them in the slightest because they also were running behind schedule.
As I drove off my mind was filled with pleasant thoughts and cobwebby daydreams of this little cemetery. I vowed to resurrect it from obscurity in the one way I know how...by creating a web page about it. I hope now others will be able to locate it more easily, and that those who cant visit directly can use this site for it's information and images.
The following satellite image of the area, along with the above and previous maps, should make it very difficult not to know exactly where "Old Palestine Cemetery" of Palestine, Indiana is located.
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