Posts Tagged ‘germany’


While I was visiting my family for Christmas, I drove by the church I attended as a child. I had always remembered that someone told me the area where we had our summer picnics and socials was actually a graveyard.

Even now, the area I grew up in is fairly rural, although the rolling fields are slowly being divvied up into housing lots and sold. My father’s property has a chicken farm on the south boundary and a dairy farm to the west. Our township had a fire department but no police force, and our water came from a well. I attended school with kids who had already been up feeding the chickens or milking the cows before they got on the bus. Between my house and my elementary school, the bus sped past working farms, pastures, and at least one roadside produce stand. Those of us who weren’t children of farmers had parents who traded a short commute and convenience for wide open spaces, fresh air, and nights where the only light was the twinkling of stars in the blue-black sky.

When I was about five or six, my mother began attending church a few miles down the road in Allen, called Churchtown by locals. Allen is one of those places that just barely qualifies as a village, by virtue of a higher concentration of residences clustered around an intersection and two churches. It doesn’t have a separate zip code or post office, and I am hard pressed to think of any existing businesses in town. The church we attended was the Mount Zion Lutheran Church, that occupies the northeast quadrant of the intersection. Mount Zion draws its congregation from the cluster of homes and the surrounding farmland, where many of the residents still bear the surnames of the predominantly German immigrants from whom they and the church descended – names like Leib, Gutshall, Hopple, and Weise. One of my clearest impressions of the church, which we stopped attending by the time I was 16, was that we were outsiders – about 3/4s of the people there were related.


So when I drove by the church lawn with the granite marker with my older eyes, I immediately saw the GAR stars, Spanish-American War cross, and Revolutionary War circular markers at the base. One side of the marker states that it is “in memory of the dead interred here” and informs that the first burial was in 1788 and the last in 1870. The other three sides have plaques with an alphabetical listing of all known burials in the churchyard.


Now I don’t know if the marker is in the exact spot where the original cemetery on the property was. The single marker actually leads me to believe that  either it is not or that the original cemetery fell into significant disrepair.  If I can ever find out more specifics, I will post an update.


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If you look at the vast majority of tombstones, there isn’t much information there. So anything that is on there must be important. Particularly in older graveyards, there is a significant emphasis on place – place of birth, place of residence, or place of death.

In Erie Street Cemetery, we are provided almost a map of movement westward with the grave of Esther Clampett, formerly of New Jersey and then Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

To the Memory of Esther

The Kepplers were immigrants from Germany and France.


Immigrant John Cubben was born on the Isle of Man.


Does place hold the same significance for us now, in a world where I could visit the places listed on all three of these markers in a matter of days with an ambitious flight itinerary and money for the tickets?

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