Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Jacob and Rebecca (Martin) Miller

Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
Jacob and Rebecca (Martin) Miller
Married 7 Oct 1809

Jacob Miller 1786 - 1869
Rebecca Martin 1788 - 1853

Laid to rest at the McVay Cemetery in Marr, Ohio.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Genealogy Road Trip | McVay 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 9.
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Once Courtney was comfortable with the temperamental four-wheeler, we were ready to set off. We had shared the copy of the map my cousin had provided that showed the path she had taken to find the cemetery with Mr. Burkhart and he told us that it would be easier if we cut through the pasture and then followed the horse path that went to the top of the hill and to the McVay Cemetery (as he called it).

We took his advice and Courtney drove us across the pasture through the tall grass that was swaying to the wind. It was a peaceful ride and all too soon we were slowing down so that we could dip down into the nearly dry creek bed. After navigating through the creek, we started to climb higher and higher up the trail.

Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
The higher we climbed, the steeper it got. So steep in fact, that I was caught off guard while enjoying the view and as a result started slipping off the back of the four wheeler. Acting quickly, I gripped the tie-down rack with all my strength and Courtney gunned it. Thankfully, our actions worked and I refused to release the rack even after the trail started to level into a more gentle slope. Even after nearly falling off, I was still thankful for the four wheeler, as it would have take much longer to make the journey on foot.

After we crested the hill, it felt like we were in a different world. The forest surrounding us opened up to a mystical space that was surrounded by a sun-soaked canopy of trees. Courtney parked the four wheeler along the fence line and disembarked. My eyes first settled on the larger stones at the back of the cemetery before quickly drifting towards the shards of stones that lay at my feet. Everywhere I looked, there were broken and illegible headstones. Some were in the open and easily visible, while others were tucked next to saplings or laying broken in the uneven terrain. It took my breath away and broke my heart.

Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
I had so many questions swirling in my mind as I carefully walked to through the broken down remnants. Who let it get into this state of disrepair? What happened to the descendants of those laid to rest on this hilltop? Why wasn't something done to clean it up before my cousin made it her mission?  I took pictures of several of these stones and have included them below.

Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
Once the initial shock of the condition of the stones wore off, I started making my way towards the back of the cemetery towards the stones that were still standing. The closer I got to the back of the cemetery, the better the condition of the stones. Even with that in mind, some of them were still in really bad shape and were slowly being eaten away by mother nature.

Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
It probably took a good 10-15 minutes for me to snap out of the the instant sadness the condition of these stones put me in. So long that, Courtney had already located the stones of our fourth great-grandparents and had moved on to other members of the extended family. It was easy to find there resting place as their new stone was easily identifiable, even at a distance.

Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
The new stone looked like exactly like the one I had seen in photographs at our family reunions. The only difference was that instead of the two slabs of illegible stone I had viewed in the photos, I was able to see the engravings on the stones in person. Sadly, due to the state they were in, I was not able to ready anything on Jacob's original stone and I was really only able to read Rebecca's name and a few partial bits of dates and words on her original stone.

Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
Click on photo above to view a larger image size.
Even with the limited details on their original stones, I was happy I had made the trek. I know many of my maternal family members would love to see them in person and I am one of the lucky ones who has.

As we walked back to the four wheeler, I couldn't help but think that the majority of the headstones around us were lost as they had no visible identifying markers and would most likely remain unidentified moving forward. I am so thankful that my cousin took the time to not only find, but took the time to coordinate the initial clean-up of this cemetery. If it weren't for her efforts years ago, the location of our ancestors stones might have also been lost to time and mother nature.

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Note: To make the path we took even more clear, I've created a map (shown below) to help others searching for the cemetery. Please make sure to leave time to stop in and see Mr. Burkhart on your way.  If you click on the image below, you will be able to see a larger version and can print it from there if desired.

Click image above to view/print a copy of the route to the cemetery.

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.