I've been distracted from my cemeteries and my blog by the seemingly endless process of moving. I can't say I have been completely distracted from my cemeteries, I don't know if that situation could ever truly exist. In the middle of packing and unpacking and dragging my belongings from one place to another, I am still talking about cemeteries, answering emails, dreaming of stones, even managing to take some photos in this unrelenting heat. In my new office, I am working on my wall of photos of my favorite authors and their headstones, as well as graves that are personally important to me. And if this heat will ever let up, I will manage to squeeze some actual cemetery time into my schedule. Autumn can't seem to come fast enough!
In the midst of this messy move, I found myself thinking about the process of moving graves during the building of the dams here in Missouri and making the lakes. Don't get me wrong, I grew up with the lake, every summer was spent getting brown as a berry and spending most days in the water. I had a great childhood when it came to summer vacation; swimming, fishing, hunting arrowheads, anything that involved the lakes. It never occurred to me as a child that anything came before the lake. It never crossed my mind that there were farms and homes and old family cemeteries deep under the surface. When I initially started researching local history, it seemed that "all the cemeteries and graves were relocated in an orderly fashion" and that was all that there was to the story.
Now here is how it works in the real world kids: when we were swimming one day on Truman Lake, I was horrified to find the remains of a small cemetery not far off shore, with the bases of headstones still easily visible when the water is low, late in summer. I had intended to post some photos with this blog post, but I need to go back down to the lake and see how low the water is at this point. With the heat wave, I'm sure the stones are visible. It truly broke my heart to see such an obvious contradiction of what I had always heard, that the stones were ALL moved.
Another day I was in the library, reading old papers and trying to track down clues to old cemetery locations. I stumbled across an article about citizens being outraged with the procedure for moving graves. It seems that when the Corps of Engineers were in the process, in the case of some of the oldest graves, they simply dug down a few feet and removed a "coffee can" full of dirt, then called that the remains. They stated that with old graves, there wasn't enough left of the coffin and/or bodies to even bother trying to recover it all. Imagine the distress of the family members watching this process! I will certainly give them kudos for documenting the cemeteries that they did move. They took extensive notes on headstone locations and where they were removed to, numbering and labelling the stones and/or remains. In some cases, these records are all that remain of the moved graves, as there was only a fieldstone to begin with and the locals and families made every effort to identify the unmarked graves at that time. I have used these records time and again.
I guess the message here is that moving bites, no matter what you are moving. LOL And if you are looking for ancestors that settled many parts of this state early on, and the area is now a lake, best of luck with your search. You never know what you will find, and you never really know what is under that headstone too. Could be only a coffee can full of dirt....