Cemeteries are a common sight, just about every town has one. Major population centers have many more than one. Anywhere people live is going to need a place to put their dead. The graveyards you see are usually well maintained, or at least give the impression of being taken care of.
There are others out there though, forgotten graveyards, lost cemeteries and abandoned memorials. These are everywhere and sometimes you don't know your walking through one. Gravestones wear away, wooden markers rot and sometimes graves were never marked at all.
The ones you can tell are a resting place have a very creepy felling. The ones I have walked through were silent, as if the woods around me were holding its breath. And though there may be no one with you, the feeling of being watched is ever present.
A word of advice, a lot of these places are on private property, get permission before exploring. Also, remember to practice proper etiquette while walking among the graves. It may not be anyone you know, but it's always a good idea to show respect in these places.
My First Abandoned Graveyard
The first forgotten graveyard I ever walked through was in Georgia. I was a teenager and a friend of mine had found this place while walking through the woods. As is often the case when teenagers find something a bit creepy or possibly forbidden, my friends and I went to see it.
After a 30 minute trek through the woods, which was think with overgrowth, we came to a clearing. Old headstones were scattered about. There was no vandalism apparent, the only damage is what comes with age. There newest headstones were from the mid 1800, the oldest we could read came from the 1700s.
Many of the graves pulled at the heartstrings, there were graves for individuals much to young to die, little ones who never made it to their 10th year. Others spoke of a like lived to old age with family and loved ones. Some didn't even have a name or a place where the name had once been but wore away, just the date of death.
We were all very quiet while we wondered through the old burial place, careful not to step on any graves. We had all faced the death of a loved one, but I think seeing the ages of some of the deceased was the first time we truly realized the very young can be lost too. Needless to say, we were all a bit subdued on the return home.
Do you like visiting cemeteries?
A Teacher I Once Had
A high school English teacher used to tell us stories about picnics in old graveyards. They weren't abandoned of forgotten, but no longer had room for new people. Her grandmother would visit cemeteries all over the world and when she came to visit they would go on "mini vacations" to local places. Once she grew up she continued to go to graveyards, though many of the ones she went to were the forgotten. She was a bit weird, but we all figure anyone who grew up having picnics among the dead was bound to have a few quirks.
I was born in a small town in TX, my family has roots there going back 6 generations. A small unincorporated community located a few miles away, only a handful of people live there, has an old cemetery. In it I can find relatives from the 1800s. It is an odd feeling to walk through a place and see many people with whom you share ancestry. Knowing that I am the living reminder of all the people who once were and who all lived and died in a very small piece of the world. A piece that is quickly becoming forgotten. I am planning on going back there soon and hope to see it in better condition. There is a cemetery in the town I was born and there I can find some grand parents and great grand parents, but that place is well maintained and still in use.
When I walk through these places I often wonder who these people were, what their lives were like and if they were happy. I will never really know the answers to those questions. Now they are nothing more than names, with few clues about them. Sometimes public records can be found, but those only contain facts such as birth, marriage, children they may have had and death. The further back you go, the less information is there. All I can do is try to remember the names, and build their stories myself. The most tragic though, is the graves of children. I can only hope that they were happy before their untimely deaths.
Some groups and individuals have taken it upon themselves to restore and maintain forgotten graveyards. They see it as a way to remember and respect the dead, as well as a way to come closer to their own roots. Historical societies and archeological groups are the ones to contact if you know of or want to participate in restoration of an old cemetery that needs to be taken care of. Each state has it's own groups for restoring these sites, a search in your area will point you in the right direction.
Forgotten graveyards can be a sad and lonely place, but there is a bit of comfort to be found in them, you just have to look for it. We will all one day pass away, and many people will choose to be buried. Will the place you have chosen for your final rest be forgotten like so many others or will it stand for centuries. No none can really tell what will last, we can only hope. Maybe the people in these cemeteries didn't think there places would be forgotten, or perhaps they did. Understanding that nothing is permanent, and we will all one day fade away.
© 2014 Katrina