WATERBURY, Neb. — Four years ago, Cindy Krusemark set out to right what she thought was a shame in her rural neighborhood.
The Old Log Church Cemetery near her home had become overgrown with trees, bushes, grass and weeds since the last burial there in 1934, the Sioux City Journal (http://bit.ly/2cLQXzD ) reported. You couldn’t see the gravestones from the gravel road passing by. Many people didn’t even know a cemetery was there.
After four years of hard work, cutting down hundreds of trees, clearing brush and pulling most of it by hand down the hillside so as not to disturb gravestones both seen and unseen, Krusemark can now walk into the cemetery and see from one end to the other. This summer, a major milestone was achieved when the cemetery was finally cleared to its western fence line.
“You can walk up to it and get an idea what it once looked like,” she said. “I can’t believe we did it. I was hoping it wasn’t going to take us four years to do it.”
It’s a classic story of someone correcting something that just wasn’t right.
Krusemark said four years ago that those buried in this rural Dakota County cemetery located a mile and a half from her home deserved the respect of having their final resting spot maintained rather than forgotten. Though not related to anyone buried here and with no known descendants in the area, Krusemark, with lots of help from her family, neighbors and many other volunteers have spent countless hours turning this 3.5-acre plot into something that now resembles a cemetery.
“These people deserve it to look nice,” Krusemark said. “We’re going to find relatives someday, and it needs to look nice when they come to visit.”
The Krusemark family spent 26 hours during Labor Day weekend grinding more than 600 tree stumps. To give someone an idea just how overgrown the cemetery was, that means more than 600 trees have been cut down and cleared out since the first cleanup in August 2012. That doesn’t include all the brush that was chopped out and can now be controlled with regular mowing.
“After pulling out everything by hand, we’ve discovered most of the stones, I think,” Krusemark said.
But she says that with a bit of uncertainty. Workers recently uncovered a base and gravestone that had been hidden for who knows how many years beneath the dirt and weeds.
There are 44 gravestones, but it’s believed that there may be 100 or so people buried in the cemetery, which actually consists of two plots that were deeded in 1875 and 1884. It’s likely that many graves were once marked with wooden markers that have since rotted away. It’s not out of the question that more markers will be uncovered buried just beneath the surface.
“There are lots of mysteries out here,” Krusemark said.
She continues to search for burial records from the three churches — Elk Valley or Elk Creek Church, Old Oak or Old Log Church and Springbank Church — that were once located near here and affiliated with the cemetery. This fall, an expert is going to visit the cemetery and use witching rods to locate unmarked graves. Once found, those graves will be marked.
In the meantime, work will continue to get the weeds under control. Two piles of dead trees must be burned. A surveyor will plant permanent pins to mark the cemetery boundaries. Benches will be made from fallen tree trunks.
Also on the to-do list is repairing the gravestones. All but one of the 44 stones need some attention.
Yes, it’s hard work, but you can tell from the long list of future projects Krusemark rattles off that it’s become a labor of love.
“We’re by no means done,” she said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever get done.”
Maybe Krusemark won’t ever finish all that she’d like to see accomplished here.
That’s OK. More important is that she got the job started in the first place.
Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com
An AP Member Exchange shared by the Sioux City Journal.