Sexton Shares Stories

Paris  Beacon-News, 1976

A review of  the history of Edgar Cemetery and a progress report of “Project ‘76” furnished  an interesting program for the members of the Edgar County Historical Society  at the Presbyterian Church.

Jonathan Young MonumentCarl Stacy, sexton of Edgar Cemetery, knows its history as  only a few others possibly could. Recalling its beginning he said that ten  years after the organization of the Cemetery Association in 1858, F.M. Link,  owner of the brickyard nearby, was asked to oversee the cemetery and keep the  records, getting name, age and cause of death for each person buried there. In  1907, John Stacy began work there as a young day laborer and eventually the job  became a full time occupation as sexton which stayed in the family as he passed  it on to his son, Carl.

Originally a group of 39 men had purchased seven acres of  land just off High Street on the north slope of the wooded hill, clearing,  plotting and auctioning off lots. The land had been owned by Jonathan Young,  who had cleared a home site there, and who gave additional land for the new  cemetery if the group would deed him cleared land for his new house. From the  beginning the venture was a nonprofit one and all revenue has been returned to  the cemetery for upkeep and beautification of the grounds or roads.

Located on the direct wagon route from Indiana and on east  over the Lower Terre Haute Road north to Chicago, people were accustomed to  camp at this high wooded spot, drink at the nearby spring and bury their dead  in the woods on the hilltop. So there were already several graves there in “Potters  Field” as family or friends were accustomed to digging graves for their dead in  any convenient place.

The first records of burials in the (Edgar) cemetery are dated 1858  and Mr. Stacy stated it is remarkable that old cemetery records are as complete  as they are since Illinois law was somewhat lax and it was 1916 before death  and burial certificates were mandatory. In 1870 a burial vault was built to  hold bodies in time of epidemic or extreme need though it is seldom used  anymore and will soon be removed.

Today there are 18,000 graves in the cemetery, with many  bodies having been brought there from the Methodist and Presbyterian cemeteries  in Paris and others from out of the county. Apparently there have been an  unusually large number of private graveyards in Edgar County, many of which  have been lost today.

Mr. Stacy closed by noting the changes which have become  apparent over the years in the manner of burial and by studying the records.  Gone are the horse-drawn hearses which often had to be pulled out of the mud  along Edgar Street or in the cemetery itself. Records used to show many deaths  from smallpox, typhoid and other epidemics, many infant deaths, as well as those  of young mothers and their babies who died in childbirth and records show how  much longer people are living today.

In the future, Mr. Stacy sees more cremation and more  mausoleums as space is unavailable. Also spaces on lots which are not filled  and will never be used by the families owning the lot will, perhaps after a  suitable time lapse, be offered for sale according to new laws being adopted  now.

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