In our never-ending quest to locate Menard County, Il cemeteries and document the remaining stones, this old cemetery recently came to our attention. While only limited proof has been obtained, to date, the “find” is interesting and evolving.
Stories have been handed down for years of the destruction of the old cemetery and how the stones were removed. Some say the stones were placed in the basement of the old Potter home which is a large red brick two-story home across the road from the graveyard. Others spoke of how the stones were used as a sidewalk. Evidently at some point someone realized that is was not a good idea to have the incriminating evidence of the stones so readily available. After all, it was proof that an illegal act of destroying a cemetery had occurred. While several residents around the Petersburg area knew the story of the stones, as years passed by - so did the stones. The stones are no longer in the basement says the current home owner, Mike Brodie. He had heard the stories, but there were no stones there when he moved in with the exception of the top of an old Potter stone which is carefully placed in his front yard flower bed.
Doing some more checking we heard that, years ago, the stones had been taken out of the basement and put into an old well to hide the crime that had been committed so many years prior.
While the stones may be a mystery, the search for the actual individuals buried there produced good results very quickly. Stan Lowe taught Mike Brodie how to do grave dowsing. Within a matter of days, Mike had found at least a dozen burials in that location.
Further research produced a death certificate indicating a burial in the Potter Graveyard. Grace Potter’s
says she was buried in “The Family graveyard called Potter Graveyard.” She died 22 July 1881 - Age - 2 months 12 days old. No parents were listed on the death certificate, further complicating the research.
dated 10 May 1881 was a surprise. No name of the child - well twins - but the only Potter births in Menard county that year were these twins. The age matched to the death date which indicated she was 2 months and 12 days old at her time of death. It also listed her parents as Royal Armstrong Potter and Nancy (Watkins) Potter.
The pieces of the puzzle began to fit together as the land records showed Royal A. Potter living in that area and also an Edward Potter. There are four Edward Potter men in Menard county but Edward Bunn Potter and Elizabeth (Armstrong) Potter are the parents of Royal Armstrong Potter.
Mike Brodie confirmed that his records show Royal A. Potter as a previous owner of his home which sits across the road from the Potter Graveyard.
More interestingly was the fact that the Oakland Cemetery records show that Edward Bunn Potter, whom originally owned the old Potter home and graveyard, was “moved” from a “country” graveyard to Oakland Cemetery just outside of Petersburg. Edward Bunn Potter died April 1863 and is believed to have been originally buried in the Potter Graveyard.
The first burial in the Oakland Cemetery wasn’t until Feb 1879 according to the Menard County IL cemetery book. Back in 1863 there weren’t a lot of choices for burial lots.
Edward Bunn Potter’s wife Elizabeth (Armstrong) Potter died 26 Feb 1886 and was buried in Oakland Cemetery with a large stone which includes both of their names. We don’t know if the stone was originally at the Potter Graveyard and moved when Edward was moved or if it was erected when Elizabeth died. Their stone is flanked by a stone on each side. To the left is a stone for their son Robert Potter who died 25 Aug 1846 and was buried at sea. The stone to the right is their son Logan Potter who died 12 May 1843 he was one year old. The Oakland Cemetery records also list him as having been “moved from the country”. We suspect he too was originally buried in the Potter family graveyard.
Edward (moved to Oakland from country cem.) & Elizabeth
Potter at Oakland Cemetery
Logan Potter (moved to Oakland from country cem.) - small stone to
Robert Potter (buried at sea) - stone to the left - only partially in
Mary Jane (Bale) Greene died 22 Aug 1848 at or near New Salem, Illinois and is buried in the Elijah Potter graveyard, according to an old obituary found by researcher Eileen Gochanour. Mary Jane Bale was the first wife of Robert L. Greene. Elijah Potter owned land in that area but we are not sure if the cemetery actually held his name, or how he fits in at this writing.
While the Menard County Atlas plat maps indicate many, but not all, cemeteries in the county, we found no such indication of the Potter Graveyard on the 1874, 1896 nor the 1920 plat maps. However, the cemetery area is owned by Royal A. Potter on the
1874 plat map
. He died in 1889 and is buried in Oakland Cemetery with his wife Nancy (Watkins) Potter so he is not listed as the owner on the 1896 plat map.
We believe that Mary Jane (Bale) Greene and little Grace Potter, daughter of Royal A. and Nancy (Watkins) Potter are still buried in the old family Potter Graveyard with at least 10 other people.
A special thanks to Mike Brodie, the Potter researchers Mike Keller, Mark Potter, Doris Melendy, my Mom Mary Chamberlain and as always my husband Stan Lowe.
Written and submitted by Jeanie Lowe
28 June 2007