Old Concord Cemetery
by Clarence William Clary
submitted by Cyndi Butler

 

“Old” Concord Cemetery, truly an historical landmark, was the first of the early cemeteries in Old Sangamon County, Illinois, but which is now the area comprising Menard County, which came into being in 1838, at a time quite a number of years after the first cemetery was opened. To this writer the origin of the name is obscure but undoubtedly somewhere there are records where this information may be found. At the time of its opening it was located on the farm believed by this writer to be owned by the Reverend Goodpasture.

In the early 1960s this writer with his wife paid their first visit to this historic spot. It was a drizzly cool day in May before the vegetation had grown lush. With permission of the present farm owner, we, on foot crossed through pasture where a herd of yearling calves were grazing. They were in a frolicsome mood somewhat to the discomfort of the wife, but the situation was safely handled. On the far west side of the cemetery an ancient stile was found – the only place of entry. If there had ever been an access road there is no evidence of it. The grounds are situated on a gentle knoll comprising an area of some four acres, very well fenced for protection against livestock. It is located about one mile north and slightly east of the main road leading out from Petersburg.

We were greeted with a very depressing sight; that of a cemetery that had apparently received no care for many years. Trees of considerable size had grown up indiscriminately among the graves with underbrush and vines including poison ivy, forming a veritable jungle. We threaded our way along the lines of headstones and markers mostly of marble, noting the names thereon, many of which we recognized as part or related in some way to our family. Finally we came upon the broken headstone of John Clary, Jr., the founder of Clary’s Grove. Placing the broken parts together we were able to read the inscription and note the unusual picture of a hunter with his gun and his dog at his heels. We also noted a few feet way an ancient wooden sign on which
words has long ago been painted, proclaiming that this was the site of the original grave of Ann Rutledge. It will be recalled that this was the young girl with whom the young Abraham Lincoln had been in love, at the time of her death at New Salem, where her father operated the Inn. Her body had many years before been removed and buried in another cemetery nearer to Petersburg, so that her grave might be more readily visited by the many visitors who tour the region each year.

John Clary’s headstone has long been a much photographed object by writers and newsmen seeking a subject for a story. There is history behind many of those old names, they tell the story of the new state of Illinois. As we completed our tour of this ancient burial ground, we returned to the farmhouse and stopped to talk with the friendly farmer. He told us that there had several times been talk of rehabilitating the pioneer cemeteries of the state, but nothing had come of it. The groundhogs have burrowed extensively beneath the stones, toppling them all out of alignment. Since the writer is a Clary, the farmer brought out a photograph made by a newsman long before, and gave it to us. It was John Clary’s headstone, when it stood upright and was not broken. We were glad to get it and thanked him.

We noted that the cemetery was pretty well filled, which hastened its abandonment. There have been no burials there for many years, but the records must be in custody of someone in the community. Lack of an access road conveys the impression that it is still on private land.

About a mile to the east of “Old” Concord Cemetery there once stood a community church which was of the Cumberland Presbyterian Faith. It has always been referred to in historical writings as Old Concord Church. While it has long since disappeared, only the concrete steps
remaining, the cemetery surrounding it is still in use and is very well kept. This we presume is due to its being on a county road and easily accessible. It could be assumed it was established as an extension of the older cemetery, which explains its having the same name of Concord Cemetery. Its headstones and markers display family names the same as those in “Old” Concord Cemetery, indicating that family burials have been made in both. As an example, John Clary, Jr., with some members of his family lies in the old cemetery, his brother Zachariah and members of his family in the Churchyard Cemetery.

 



Information seems to indicate that Old Concord Church continued in use for most of a century and was not abandoned until about 1934. It finally became unusable and had to be abandoned.

Searchers for family genealogical information would be well advised to visit both these cemeteries and if the records can be located, have a look at them.”


Copyright © 2007 Jeanie Lowe & contributors
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Illinois Ancestors

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