Healing Stuart

Discovering & Restoring Stuart Cemetery, Four Mile Township, Polk County, IA

Stuart’s Scabs, Wounds and Scars

Upon returning home from my first visit I reviewed the photos I downloaded from my camera.

One of them contained a shot of an unusual, hybrid headstone. Apparently the original limestone monument had been placed with a  marble one. It was set on what looked to be the limestone base of the original stone. The cap of the original stone placed on the ground to the right of the new monument. In my genealogical wonderings through many cemeteries I had not seen anything like this. 

 I returned the next day determined to walk the cemetery until I found the graves on my request list.

 In the older rows of the north section, I found many a “bone of gravestones past;” the bases of an upright limestone headstones that had broken off.

I found two headstones that had broken off their bases and were stacked against the side of a monument. There were so many bases of broken stones it would take research to find out where these stones originally stood.

 Further back I found another stone lying flat on the ground. It was broken into three pieces that had been arranged in the original order.

Near the back of the north section I found a family monument that had been vandalized. One of the sections on the back was gone. I wasn’t sure if this had happened overnight or prior to my first visit. I made a note to call the caretaker to ensure he knew about the theft.

 It became clear this quite little cemetery had few visitors except the caretaker. I had taken a number of pictures of headstones from my list and it was nearly time to leave.  I took down the contact information for the caretaker as well as the FourMileTownship recorder, walked back to my truck and headed home.

 I called the caretaker about the monument with the missing section. I also had questions about one of the family plots. He thanked me for my concern about the monument and told me it had been missing when he started as caretaker about four years ago. Regarding my question about the family plot, he said he couldn’t help me because there was no plat book for the cemetery. It had been lost some time in the past. His main duty is to cut the grass, but he also performs openings and closings for interments. Stuart is still an active cemetery.

 As I hung up the phone, I wondered what I would find as I spent time in the south section. How would the graves with no markers be identified? Could I ever identify which bases belonged to the two stones leaning against the monument? I was beginning to feel sorry for this little forgotten cemetery. I also thought about those searching for their ancestors buried there. Where any of the people on my photo request list buried under the broken bases I saw? Even though I had several appointments the next day I know I had to get back to Stuart.

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