Sunday, September 2, 2012

Genealogy Road Trip | Finding the Miller-Martin Cemetery

My sister Courtney joined me for a three-day genealogy road trip in June 2012. I am writing a series of posts that shared the stories and sights of our adventure. This is Part 8.
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For years I've been hearing about an old family cemetery in rural Ohio where my fourth great grandparents John Miller and Rebecca Martin are laid to rest. From what I know, the cemetery was lost to time, and a forest, until a distant cousin of mine learned of it and set about cleaning it up. She worked with the township to get a crew in there to trim trees and fence the plots. We even took up a collection to add legible headstones during our family reunion.

I had contacted her a few days before the trip to see if she could give me directions to what our family called the Miller-Martin Cemetery. This stop was a late addition to our itinerary and what little information I could find about it online, didn't give any concrete directions or a specific location. My cousin was excited that we would be making a stop as she hadn't been able to see it for several years and wanted to know what condition it was in today. As the location of the cemetery is only accessible by foot and is hidden on maps due to the tree canopy, she printed off a Yahoo map, drew the path we would need to take, scanned it in, and emailed it my way. (She's pretty amazing, right?)

Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
Using only her hand-drawn map (remember my trusty iPhone navigation was down thanks to a lack of cell service - lesson learned), we did our best to navigate to the farm we thought was housed the cemetery. As we approached what appeared to be the right farm based on the map, I noticed a rough looking "bridge" on the left side of the road and it matched the description my cousin had given me. Unfortunately, we were driving a bit too fast to stop, so we went up the road a bit and turned around.

When we returned we cautiously drove across the bridge. Courtney was driving, which gave me the opportunity to really take in the scene around us. The bridge wasn't meant for fancy cars and high traffic, it was built to get farm equipment across the creek. The creek was unlike anything I had seen before. It had the most amazing lush green covering of hydro plants that make it look like something out of a movie.

Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
The farm itself had seen better days and look like those of the tinkering retired farmers back home. In an odd way, it was very calming to me and it was a place I could see several of my relatives living in. Courtney parked the Rav next to a shed and I got out and walked across the yard to see if anyone was home.

As I approached the house via an old stepping stone walkway, and knocked on the door. After about a minute of waiting with no response, I felt my heart break a little bit. Planning this additional stop was so last minute that I didn't have time to contact anyone ahead of time. All of my eggs were in the "someone will be home" basket. I knocked  again, and the disappointed continued when no one came to the door. I knocked a third time, hoping that it would be the charm, but had no such luck.

I wasn't sure what to do next. I didn't want to trespass, especially as we would need to be on his land for at least an hour or two from the hike up to the cemetery that my cousin had told me about. Did we just write a note and pin it to his door or leave it on our car telling him why we were there and where we had went? Did we wait it out and see if he would come home soon? Did we leave and try again in a few hours or wait another day? Our schedule was tight and I didn't want to leave without paying our respects to our great-grandparents after coming all this way.

I got back to car and explained the situation to Courtney. She too didn't want to leave, but also didn't want to trespass. After a minute, it was decided that we would visit the neighboring farms to see if they knew where Mr. Burkhart was and if they knew the protocol for visiting the cemetery. Knowing there was a farm about a half-mile down the road, we returned to the stop where we had made our u-turn.

I was met my a young child playing on the porch and asked if his parents were home. He pointed at he door and returned to playing. I knocked on the door and a few seconds later, a nice man came to the door to greet me. I explained who I was and that I was trying to access the Miller-Martin Cemetery. Once I told him that I had stopped by Mr. Burkhart's farm, he explained to me that his relative was Mr. Burkhart and that the old man was hard of hearing and most likely didn't hear me knocking.

The next thing I knew, he was on the phone calling to see if Mr. Burkart was home. After a minute or two, the call ended and I was told that Mr. Burkhart would be expecting us. I was giddy as I returned to the Rav and filled Courtney in on the last few minutes. We pulled back onto the two-lane road and make our way back down to Mr. Burkart's farm.

We parked the Rav and I once again walked up to the porch and knocked again. Even though I knew he was home, there was still no answer. Knowing now that his hearing wasn't the best, I opened the outside door and walked across the mall mudd-room and knocked loudly on the second door. About 30 seconds later an old man greeted me at the door with a smile on his face and an apology on his lips. He was so sweet.

Mr. Burkhart walked outside with me where we met up with my sister, Courtney. We talked for a bit and shared with him where were were from, where we were living, who our ancestors were, and most importantly, why were were standing in his yard. He told us that every year a couple people stop by looking for the cemetery and he seemed proud that people hadn't forgotten it.

With the sun high in the sky, he seemed a bit concerned for our safety, as accessing the cemetery required walking across a horse pasture, crossing a creek, and then trekking up a steep horse trail to the top of the hill. He quizzed us a bit more and than asked if either of us knew how to drive a four-wheeler. Courtney piped up and said that she did.

The next thing I knew, Courtney was getting a lesson on how to handle his temperamental "Big Boy Polaris". I went to the car to change my shoes into something more sturdy, and grabbed the camera, map, and bottles of water. This trip had just got a whole lot more interesting.

2 comments:

  1. Random four wheeler driving... now *that* is an adventure.

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  2. Amazing times:) I will never forget the bad boy Polaris and our adventures!

    ReplyDelete