My Solution to Lost Cemeteries

Ambrose Boulden Day2
Daddy Day’s monument shows the ravages of time and climate.

After the September TSGS meeting about cemetery research, I started thinking about my own experience with cemeteries. Among my earliest memories I can recall riding my tricycle on the walk in front of our house (not a sidewalk, eating Dreamsicles on hot summer days, and listening to my parents argue over where they were going to be buried. I think I’ve always known about mortality from an early age, going back to pre-memory times when I served as a flower girl at my great-uncle Noah’s funeral. I really don’t remember him or that occasion.

My parents rarely had disagreements, as far as I know, and they never got loud or violent. But my dad insisted on being buried at the “city”* cemetery, and my mom preferred to be with her folks at the cemetery behind the country church down the road from where she grew up. When my grandfather Newton died in 1960, by which time the memory-keeper in my brain was working in full force, my dad ended the argument once and for all. When he and his brothers and sisters bought plots for his parents, he went ahead and bought reserved spaces for four—for him, Mom, my sister, and me. The topic of where to be buried never again came up.

So Dad and Mom are at eternal rest now, and I will assuredly join them when my time comes. But now there’s the matter of the fourth plot. My sister will be buried next to her husband in Evansville. After the passage of a lot of years, my prospects of getting a husband or a life partner or what-have-you grow dimmer each passing year. Even pets are no longer an option.

I once thought of saving money to put a monument on the vacant plot to commemorate my Newton ancestors who are buried in unknown graves presumably in Webster County. The thought also occurred that maybe I should have my great-grandfather Robert—who shares my dad’s name—dug up from where he’s at, in an almost-abandoned cemetery on the other side of the county, and move him to Slaughters. It’s not an original thought. According to my dad, there was talk of moving him to Slaughters many years before, at the time his widow’s second husband died. My grandfather’s Irish got up but good when “Daddy Day,” as the kids and grandkids called him, got a nice big, professionally-done tombstone and poor Grandpa Bob had only a sandstone rock that faintly resembled what was unmistakably a shape but no one could figure out what the shape was.

Pap—my Grandpa Sam—was alleviated when his brother-in-law Huston made a concrete tombstone and inscribed it with R.M.N. (I’ve never been able to find out what his middle name was—Monroe? He had a son, James Monroe, called Monroe.) While Huston was mixing the concrete he decided to give Monroe and another of my grandfather’s brothers who died too soon, Charles B., a concrete marker.

It’s been at least 20 years since I’ve visited what’s known as the Springfield-Day Cemetery where my great-grandfather and his two middle sons are buried, but at that time the concrete markers were in far better shape than the professional tombstone that marked Daddy Day’s resting place in Slaughters. His and Mama Day’s stones are rusting and showing signs of deterioration.

I suppose I will leave R.M.N. where he is. I know where his father, William Newton, is buried—not far from the Springfield-Day Cemetery, in what’s called the Day Cemetery. I can only assume that William’s father, James, and James’ father, Robert (my Revolutionary War ancestor) are buried in the area, on what used to be Newton property, but where, I have no idea. Their names don’t show up on any cemetery lists of other family or church cemeteries in the county. Possibly wooden crosses marked their graves and through time and weather have fallen and rotted away. Possibly some farmer, unknowingly, plowed over their final resting places.

That’s why, if I had the means (translate: money) I would erect that tombstone on the site next to where I’ll be, inscribed with the following:

In Memory of Those buried somewhere in Webster County:

Robert M. Newton, father of Samuel, grandfather of Robert, 1860-1892
William Newton, father of Robert M., 1826-1893 & wife Sarah 18 ?- 189?
James Newton, father of William, ca 1790-1848, & wives (1) Susiah (2) Experience
Robert Newton, Soldier in the American Revolution, 1747-1835, & wife Elizabeth

Thru their work in the soil, their service for the country, & thru generations that carry their DNA if not their names, may their spirit carry on in their love of God, family, and country. May their names not be forgotten.

*To call Slaughters, Kentucky, a city, even in its heyday as Slaughtersville, would be a major stretch.

 

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