I started making my crosses over 20 years ago. I lost most of my childhood family and I needed to process my grief. These crosses came to me one night while I was lying in bed. It wasn’t until ten years later that my daughters would convince me that others would also like my crosses. And the rest as they say is history, no it’s my life.
My youngest brother was born on Thanksgiving Day in 1962. My mother would make him a pumpkin pie every year for his birthday. She said it was his favorite but I think it was her way of paying him back for the Thanksgiving she missed in 1962. My brother would celebrate his first birthday with pumpkin pie of course but it was not a happy celebration as that was the day that President Kennedy was shot and died of his injuries.
My brother would die on New Years Eve of 1999, yet another holiday that would not be celebrated for years following his death. I always like to make something special for his grave celebrating his life, his birthday. His favorite color was orange and so it is very easy to decorate his grave for Fall. This year I decided to break from this tradition and decorate his grave with a bright green and yellow wreath I made. The wreath is thick enough and just heavy enough to be held by his vase alone. Very cheerful, he was a very cheerful kid.
I follow a YouTube Chanel called Sidestep Adventures. The host takes you through the past of Alabama and let me tell you it has a lot of past to view. I’m a bit of a history buff and I find his episodes on old cemeteries fascinating. Of course Kansas doesn’t have as many historical cemeteries, slave cemeteries, plantation cemeteries as Georgia and Alabama but we do have a few hidden gems. The difference being that our Kansas cemeteries are not hidden beneath bushes, wisteria, and huge oak trees. Kansas cemeteries are of the plains. The plains of Kansas were very harsh to the settlers of the 1800s, lots of sun, wind, and dust, and not much more. I have no doubt that many of the small farm cemeteries are long gone, plowed over and forgotten. The ones that do remain are quaint and quietly taken care of. The host of SidestepAdventures would tell you the cemeteries that remain almost own themselves. In other words, if a cemetery has been photographed and reported to the county that land can’t be sold or built on, so they just work around them. I will have to check out Kansas law on cemeteries before my next post.
Here is my first attempt at showing small Kansas cemeteries on the prairie.
#1 RUBY Cemetery. Although this cemetery is close to Clearwater KS ( population 2500) and Wichita KS (population 400,000.) You can see by my pictures it is a prairie cemetery of years ago.
March, April, and May are busy months for me as are the holidays. My customers are loyal and kind. All of my family are buried in small country cemeteries or Catholic cemeteries. I realize that some of the larger cooperate cemeteries have strict rules on what you can or can’t place on graves. There are cemeteries that have timelines stating when how long grave decorations can remain on a grave. Here are some pictures of my husbands family graves this Memorial holiday.
I’ve seen this picture online at a couple of different sites but never with a title or location. I find the picture haunting and beautiful. When first seeing it on Pinterest the first thought I had was that looks like a stairway to heaven. Yes , I am a Led Zepplin fan.
What thoughts do you have when you see this picture?
Every year we drive up to Minnesota to see our youngest daughter and her partner. It’s such a long drive from Kansas (12 hours) that unless we have planed ahead we simply just drive, and that’s a lot of highway.
When we do pull off the highway, and as long as it doesn’t take us too far off the path, I try to locate local cemeteries. The small city of Cameron, Missouri has a population of around 10,000. Give or take a few thousand. This small size city has the daunting task of taking care of 5 cemeteries. All five are large cemeteries and all five belong to the city of Cameron. The cemeteries are: McDaniel 600+, Packard 2000+, Graceland Memorial 1000+, Graceland 2000+, Evergreen 1500+, the numbers represent approximately how many are buried at each cemetery. Cameron had a historical board as well as a cemetery board and with that many cemeteries to maintain its easy to understand why they have the boards. I’m in awe of how such a small city manages to maintain so much cemetery acreage.
Now the title may fool you into believing that I just might be writing about something other than cemeteries but I’m not. I’ve been visiting cemeteries for most of my life. It started when I was around 10 my mother would let me come along on Memorial Day as she decorated graves. Her only rules were ; you can’t talk, and you can’t ask a lot of questions. My mother knew me well. I took the job over at 19 when my oldest brother died and have been visiting the resting places of my nuclear family for the last 35 years. I do have a few questions that still wonder from time to time….
Where are all the graves from the west migration in America (1865-1900) . I’m a child of the 70s and so I watched a lot of westerns in my youth and it seems to me that they buried people just about anywhere and marked with a makeshift wood cross.
I’ve learned that there are many unmarked graves of Americans and cemeteries that were sold with property were often destroyed. Many small towns that no longer exist had small town cemeteries that no longer exist. The answer , like most things in life, is not clear. It depends on how far west, how close to a town, and if the town had an undertaker, or a church cemetery. It was the Wild West and many parts of eastern civilized American life took time to reach the bold frontier. Indigenous people have been buried in American soil for thousands of years and they are the history of this nation as are the burial sites they once preserved. I do know one thing, my mother would be frustrated with me if she knew I was still pondering the same questions.
While visiting my youngest child before COVID we went to some favorite spots , one of them being Gooseberry Falls in Duluth MN. The falls are beautiful as are the trees, streams, and foliage. This time when we went to the falls we saw something we had never seen before- Cairns. What are those? Cairns are small piles of rocks. I decided to look up there meaning, if any. The word “cairn” is a pile of rocks placed on top of one another. This is a deep rooted Scottish hillside tradition that signifies respect. That would explain the word for a small pile of rocks pronounced kern which is a Scottish Gaelic word. This tradition of piling rocks some say goes back much further than that. Some archeologists believe cairns were used as landmarks in the prehistoric era. Cairns are also used to mark trails or routes.
Another use is by Buddhist to symbolize wishes for family, respect for a passing loved one. In Hawaii they are called ahu and the Native Americans call these piles of rock wa-wa-an-quas-sick ( place of many good stones ). Cairns can also be memorials. A pile of rocks placed upon a burial site. Actor Dennis Hopper is buried under a cairn in a Native American burial site in Taos, NM. I learn something new every time I travel outside my own little world, and I enjoy seeing and learning new things.
Like every state in the union Kansas has many small Cemeteries. Mount Zion is one such cemetery. This quiet little piece of green earth is along highway 160 and almost appears as a highway rest stop. Some of the earliest buried there are from the 1800’s with the latest burial in 2020. Mount Zion was once referred to as the Kellogg Cemetery. I can only assume that the cemetery sits on land that was once owned by the Kellogg family. There are four Kellogg family members laid to rest there in the late 1800s and early 1900s. When you visit this cemetery of roughly 200 souls on Find A Grave you will notice two things; one the family names are repetitive and very few died of old age. The Hubbard family have 7 children all under the age of 17 buried there, all with different dates and years of death. The Hubbard parents and extended family are not laid to rest there, which makes one wonder if they had too much of the Kansas prairie and left for a better life and less painful memories.