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Help needed to fix neglected, overgrown cemetery

A small cemetery known as Freeland’s Cemetery near Hampton, Illinois is on land owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and has seen better days.

Twenty-seven people are buried in the cemetery, including a Civil War soldier.

Hidden in the trees, under barbed wire, behind overgrown plants, are mossed-over details about the people buried there.

“I don’t know what to tell you about this place, it definitely needs some attention,” said Orin Rockhold, an administrator at the Rock Island County Historical Society.

Rockhold fixes cemeteries in similar condition in his spare time.

“You can find these everywhere. You’re afraid to look, cause you’re just going to find another one,” he said.

The headstones are as scattered as when and how the people died.

“It’s a shame just to desecrate it, just doesn’t seem right,” said Rockhold.

Some of the details on the markers are easier to read than others. There’s a four-year-old who died in 1851. A flagged headstone marks John T. Howard, a Civil War Soldier who died September 22, 1863.

The cemeteries Rockhold has fixed have been county- or township-owned.  This one is on land owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

“I see a cemetery that needs some care, yes,” said Chris Young, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

“We have a very small staff. We have biologists that have multiple county territories, the biologist who oversees that site is actually at a different state park, so we really don’t have enough people to do that,” said Young.

“They better find staff is what they better do, what they need to do,” said Don VanAcker, an Air Force veteran who served from 1958 to 1962.

“There’s a union soldier there, that is buried there, and it’s not taken care of,” said VanAcker. “I hope either they clean it up, what they should do and maintain it, or dig everybody up and put them in a proper place to be buried.”

According to Young, an archaeologist surveyed the cemetery in 2010 and found tablets broken in half, a broken base, a partially buried marker.

“A few years ago, our nature preserves field rep went out and helped clear some trees, did some initial tree clearing work,” said Young.

“As far as the cemetery, we would love to have some help,” said Young, “We have a lot of different things that fall under our mission and we try and do a lot, but a lot of times we need a little bit of help.”

Young says that help could come from volunteers.

“What we usually do, in those cases is we try and find some people in the community who are interested in local history, interested in old cemeteries and have a passion for taking care of these places and we partner with them,” he said.

“I think once it’s cleaned up, it’s not going to be too hard for it to be maintained,” said Rockhold.

Volunteers have to meet certain requirements before they can get a permit to begin work on a cemetery.

A Basic Cemetery Preservation​ Workshop is scheduled for Saturday, June 7, 2014, in Princeton, Bureau County. The class will have a morning lecture at the Bureau County Metro Center and an afternoon workshop in Oakland Cemetery.

The class is limited to 12 people. To register, click here.

Names of people buried at Cox Freeland Cemetery

  • Joseph Cox, born Nov. 1, 1783, death June 12, 1848
  • Mary (Polly) Rue Cox, born Sept. 2, 1785, death Dec. 28, 1858
  • Theodore N. Cox, born July 2, 1837, death Aug. 31, 1840
  • William Sanford Cox, born Oct. 4, 1842, death Aug. 7, 1848
  • Felix Freeland, born Nov. 5, 1805, death June 1, 1898
  • Helena Freeland, born Nov. 2, 1849, death Nov. 28, 1850
  • Luke Freeland, born Nov. 15, 1781, death Jan. 1, 1856
  • Ruth (Thompson) Freeland, born 1781, death Sept. 3, 1882
  • Daniel S. Howard, death May 11, 1860
  • Daniel W. Howard, death Jan. 20, 1861
  • John T. Howard, death Sept. 22, 1863
  • Juliaett Howard, death July 3, 1839
  • Thankful Howard, death April 19, 1844
  • Thankful Howard, death July 8, 1842
  • Amanda M. McMurphy, death Feb. 8, 1857
  • George R. McMurphy, death April 22, 1866
  • Lucy Ann McMurphy, death Sept. 1, 1862
  • William McMurphy, death Oct. 19, 1854
  • Matthew Miller, death Sept. 25, 1865
  • Merrick Nelson, death Aug. 25, 1872
  • Albert Rowe, death April 3, 1854
  • Cyrus P. Rowe, death Apr. 24, 1854
  • Delilah Shurtleff, death May 30, 1874
  • Della E. Shurtleff, death Dec. 24, 1881
  • Emaline (Williamson) Shurtleff, death April 1, 1848
  • Delilah (Hodgin) Williamson, death Aug. 19, 1868
  • Moses Williamson, death Mar. 12, 1840
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