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MyEye

Cornfields and Buried Bodies

Posted on 2010.10.18 at 14:19
Current Mood: curiouscurious
Current Music: Daisy a Day - Jud Strunk
We’re less than two weeks from Halloween as I write this, so maybe it’s appropriate for me to relate this tale from the weekend past. We didn’t know what it was when we first saw it…

Far west of Chicago, far away from any echo of big city bustle, sits the village of Sublette (population 500). CC’s cottage is near there and I have a car, so this weekend found us driving around that part of the state, looking for equal parts fun and bucolic leisure.

Sunday afternoon, the sun was getting low in the sky as we found ourselves exploring back roads that etched a dusty grid among countless acres of cornfields. The fields are mostly empty now, save a few that still harbor barren brown stalks that must come down soon. If we had come this way a month or two ago, all those sturdy green stalks would have concealed their secret, but now, if one looked in the right direction at the right time, it was plain to see.

“Is that a cemetery?” CC suddenly blurted it out as we were winding our way in a general homeward direction. We rounded a bend and tried to get another look. “No…” she said uncertainly, quickly followed by “Yes! It is a cemetery.” I stopped in the middle of the road, which wasn’t as risky a move as it might sound to you city folk, as there didn’t appear to be another car near us for miles. There, a good quarter mile or more from the road, sat a tiny cemetery in the middle of a vast cornfield! From that vantage point, we could see a dozen or more bleached white headstones reflecting the low sunlight right into our eyes. Various large old trees were there as well, and in the middle of it all sat a small white building that looked as if it might be a chapel. But how in the world was one to get there aside from trespassing across some farmer’s field?

I drove slowly down the road and soon found a little-used narrow lane that was apparently the access path to the graveyard. If the fields had still been overflowing with corn, I might well have missed it. As we were on no one’s schedule but our own, I felt obliged to turn onto it.

At the end of the path was a simple, sturdy sign reading “St. Michael Cemetery Sandy Hill, Est. 1840.” We parked the car and got out and began exploring.

As you can see from this photo, I’m not kidding – it’s a cemetery in the middle of a cornfield.

Many of the older markers are too worn to be easily read, but this one has fared unusually well considering that it is one of the oldest markers there.

One of the bigger surprises for us was in noticing that not all of the graves there are terribly old. One, in fact, lists a date of death from 2009. That particular gravesite has been visited recently, as it was adorned with flowers and brightly colored teddy bears. In addition, someone is obviously keeping the grass cut. Still, the facility doesn’t appear to be terribly well funded, as there are gravestones lying in pieces here and there that a richer facility would probably do something about.

The small white building in the middle of the cemetery turned out to be unlocked, so we gingerly pushed open the door and peered in. It was indeed a chapel. It contained a couple rows of pews. There was nothing overtly religious about the décor (meager as it was), aside from a small gold-painted relief carving of a chalice in the woodwork at the front, and a bit of wooden fretwork that was arguably Eastern Orthodox in its aesthetics. The building could comfortably accommodate no more than perhaps a couple dozen people.

A bit of digging around on the internet unearthed this link to more info about the place:
http://genealogytrails.com/ill/lee/leechurchstmichael.html

For the sake of the coming Halloween Night, I wish I could report of weird apparitions… a sudden chill in the air… or the soft laugh of a little girl weirdly lilting in the breeze, but no. Then again, we may pass that way again one day… and find no evidence that a cemetery was ever there… or perhaps we will find ourselves standing there one day, reading the grave markers… only to find our own names!

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