Paris Beacon-News, August. 1, 2005
By Jenny Barkley
Sallie Hume greets the dawn of each new day at the Edgar Cemetery. She has done so for over a century. At the age of 8 years, 5 months and 2 days, the youngster was a victim of early death on June 24, 1877. A life-size statue of what may be her likeness was erected upon her departure from this earth. Sallie Hume stands near the highest ground of the cemetery, believed to be one of the first sections established in the cemetery, located near the intersection of High and Clay Streets. It is an area where one caretaker refuses to work because he claims Sallie talks to him, and he doesn’t like it. “I’ve never heard her voice, and he won’t talk about it,” says Superintendent Bruce Quinn. One thing for sure, Sallie is loved. A treasure box at Sallie’s feet proclaims her as “Mother’s Baby.” On the front of the base holding her statue is the message “My Darling Sallie.” (In recent years, someone has decorated the marker with a necklace, silk flower, and assorted trinkets.) Symbolism abounds on this and other older stones. An anchor superimposed on a cross signifies that Sallie has a foundation in the Christian faith, according to cemetery symbolism experts. Sallie’s elbow rests on the cut off trunk of a young tree, with leafy vines growing on it. This symbolizes, according to historians, a life ended (the tree) and the beginning of everlasting life (the vine). A flowering vine balances the anchor, and Sallie Hume holds a small bouquet of flowers.
According to Nancy Reed, a Hume, Illinois historian, Sallie Hume was the daughter of Weaden Sleet Hume (1820-1874) and Martha “Mattie” D. Conners (1842-1922), as confirmed by the markings on the back of the stone. The markings read, “Sallie E. Hume, daughter of W.S. and Mattie D. Hume, died June 24, 1877, 8 Yr, 5 Mo, 2D.” Beside Sallie on the south, her father Weaden is buried. His tombstone bears the Masonic symbol. To the north of her grave are buried E.W.S. (Eliziphan Weaden Sleet) Hume, along with his first wife Rachael W. Hume, and his second wife Martha D. Hume, Sallie’s mother, who married E.W.S. Hume after the death of her husband Weaden. E.W.S. Hume was the cousin of Sallie’s father and founded the town of Hume in Edgar County in 1873, according to Reed.
Another local legend in Edgar Cemetery surrounds a marker called “The Devil’s Chair.” Made of stone, the small arm chair is covered with ages of dirt and ravaged by weather. The chair sits at the end of a large pink granite center stone marked “McKinlay,” to the left of the drive and directly north of the cemetery’s main entrance on Clay Street. The legend, according to Quinn, is that if one sits in the chair and feels heat, that person is full of the devil.
One of the oldest parts of the cemetery boasts several rows of Civil War veterans. The details of the engravings are blurred by the years. Two of the Civil War stones are now imbedded in a tree, which has encompassed them.
Jim Englum, cemetery board president and former owner of Safford Monument Company, said the oldest stone in the cemetery is about 1815. However, burials occurred prior to that time.
A campground for travelers once existed on the east side of The Chicago Trail, in the area now known as High Street Hill. When transient people at the campground died, Englum explained, their bodies were removed to the west side of the road and buried in an area that now appears uninhabited, but which actually contains unmarked graves which date prior to the 1800s.
In the same vicinity, an unusually large horseshoe stone bears the names of Mother Elizabeth Brewer and Father John T. Brewer who each died in the 1870s near the age of 80. The significance of the horseshoe is unknown but Englum suggested perhaps Brewer was a farmer who shod horses.
Mayer S. York, 47, a surgeon of the 54th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment, was assassinated by traitors. His monument was erected by the members of his regiment and Union citizens of Edgar County and declares his fate.
More recently, the Mings marker to the west of the main South Entrance at the intersection of Young and Clay Streets has a legend of its own which defies its beauty. The impressive monument - the most noticeable in the cemetery - is a half-size duplicate of the monument erected to John Rockefeller in New York, according to Englum. Local history says Mings was sent to prison for shooting a man named Moody Sturgell over a load of hay in the Edgar County village of Vermilion. The Mings family successfully petitioned for his release. In the process, the family asked monument company owner Everett Safford to sign the petition, but Safford refused. When Mings was released, Safford called on him after hearing that he was interested in purchasing a large monument. Many say the grand monument was Mings’ way of reviling those who spurned him. However, Mings refused to buy locally because Safford did not support his release from prison. Intent on making the sale, the local businessman then contacted a monument dealer in Barre, Vermont, and secured a salesman to come to Paris for the occasion. The salesman was successful in selling a monument to Mings, but actually sold it for the Safford Monument Company. Safford later took the credit.
Englum points to the large gray Sizemore monument on the crest of the hill east of the south water station as one of the most unique, elaborate stones in Edgar Cemetery. The large monument is 10 feet tall, 5 feet wide, and 2.5 feet thick. The carving is all hand work, Englum explained, and it has a type of lettering called “shell pitching,” very difficult to achieve, and accomplished on a heated stone which is hit quickly with a special tool.
The Sizemore stone and the Ming marker were difficult to install, Englum said. They were transported to the cemetery by a dray – a long, low and strong cart, which in this case had eight wheels and was pulled by eight horses. A tripod was erected taking a week, before the stones were able to be moved, by inches a day, to their final location.
Today, a stone like the Ming monument would cost $300,000 and the Sizemore stone, $200,000, Englum estimated.
Englum said one of the most unusual markers he has seen through the years, although not in Edgar Cemetery, was a limestone organ, complete with pull knobs and the whole works, erected in Marshall, Indiana, by a man in memory of his wife, who played the organ.
Changes in grave markers are apparent through the ages. For example, according to Quinn, baby graves now bear the first and last names, when previously they were known only as “Baby” followed by the surname. Several old markers in Edgar Cemetery depict a baby in a clam shell.
Quinn said one of his strangest findings among records in the archives refers to the burial of amputated body parts, such as arms and feet.
“In the 1950s, people thought they needed to bury appendages,” Quinn said. He even found an eviction notice asking for body removal from an occupied grave due to nonpayment of grave space.
A walking tour of the cemetery is full of treasures for those interested in the past. Much of the history of Edgar County is carved into the stones. And who knows what one might see – or hear!