The Little Old Local Cemetery

It’s the time of year when people turn to ghost stories and hauntings and graveyards and all that. There is a small – about ¾ of an acre – graveyard not too far from where I live. It’s old, too. And run down, of course. Perhaps there are some stories about it?

At the very least, a little exploration ought to result in a blog post…

Officially, it’s the “Barker – Quaker Cemetery”. The smaller part is (was?) the family burial grounds for the Barker family; the larger portion is the old local Quaker burial grounds. The Barker section is dominated by a small mausoleum. Needless to say, since the last burial was back in the 1890s, the place is quite run down. Tombstones are crooked, worn, and broken. Some are little more than lumps in the grass. A recent Eagle Scout project tidied the place up a bit, and installed a historical marker. Supposedly, a “phase two” will completely renovate the place; restoring the mausoleum and repairing the gravestones.

The mausoleum could use some fixing up:

The Donaldson Mausoleum, according to the notes I found online.

There some local lore that the mausoleum was a secret tunnel exit for the “Underground Railroad”. There were plenty of abolitionists in the area; even one living right across the street from the cemetery. Unfortunately, despite rumors to the contrary, there’s no real evidence of a tunnel under the street.

Personally, I’m a bit skeptical about any “reports” of tunnels to help slaves escape. It takes a heck of a lot of effort to dig and maintain a tunnel, and you’ve got to conceal both ends. Seems to me it would be a lot easier just to have a secret hidey-hole (in a basement or attic), and just hide any escapee while the slave patrol passed. If their dogs tracked them to your home, it wouldn’t make much difference if they were hiding in a secret closet or escaping by a tunnel, would it? And in this particular case, shouldn’t it be easy to find out when the mausoleum was built? If after 1860, then…..

There’s one other time in history that I can think of where a national resistance network worked to help thousands of people flee the country – World War II, in France. While it’s obvious that the Resistance didn’t have to worry about the skin color of their charges, they did have to deal with a much larger police and military force – with much better communications – ready to round up the escapees, along with those who aided them. And in all my reading, I’ve not come across any instances of tunnels being used to shuffle escapees. I wonder if it’s the term “Underground” that has people automatically think of “tunnels”….

Anyway, the cemetery is wedged between a restaurant and a parking lot on one side, and the backyards of homes on the other. Though it would be more proper to say those things were built up around it.

The gravestones exhibit varying degrees of wear. Any amateur geologists can have fun studying them; it’s a fairly common bit of easy science to study the weathering of gravestones. The type of stone is easy to determine, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of when it was set in place (at least to the year). They generally aren’t moved; nor are they usually subject to human-caused damage.

One of the best preserved stones.

Most of the gravestones are in clusters; I suspect those are all members of the same family. The inscriptions are too worn to really be certain. Some of them have nothing more than initials, anyway.

A family grouping?

Who was “N. T.”, and what did they do to only get a pair of initials? And get stuck all the way in the back?

It’s a nice quite place on a main road. Perfect for a little quiet contemplation.

Almost a park!

The tree must have been impressive when it was alive.

Nothing to suggest it’s haunted, though.

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