October 27, 2003|
History was uncovered and documented last Saturday and Sunday as Boy Scout
troop 54 -- who are sponsored by the Central Presbyterian Church and Petersburg
Rotary -- worked tirelessly through rainy and windy conditions to clean up the
badly neglected Smoot Cemetery in Menard County. Located off of Curtis
Blacktop, the cemetery is in the middle of some of the most beautiful farm land in
the county. The view is spectacular, however the disrepair of the grave sites
of these early pioneers was heartbreaking.
J. J. Davis, gained approval from the Abraham Lincoln Council, to clean up
Smoot Cemetery as part of his Eagle Scout project. As word of the project became
known, descendants began contacting J.J. in hopes that he could find their
lost ancestors who they thought might be buried in Smoot. The project became
almost a personal mission to some of the scouts as they searched for specific
ancestors who had been lost for decades to their descendants.
J. J. coordinated the project and did a fantastic job of leading the effort
according to a descendent from Michigan who came to Petersburg especially for
the event. Denny Custer and his wife, came to help with the cleanup and in
hopes that perhaps the stone of Denny's ancestor -- Alexander G. Markwell -- would
be found. He said he would donate one hundred dollars to the troop if the
stone was found.
Boy scouts worked all day Saturday cutting down brush and briars and removing
it from the graves. They carefully used probes to identify stones that had
fallen and were partially or totally buried under years of dirt and debris. They
carefully marked stones so the mowers wouldn't accidentally damage any of the
stones. Once the cemetery was clean, they eagerly searched and uncovered more
stones. There were a few names that the boys were especially keeping an eye
out for including Lewis Ferguson the Revolutionary War soldier and also
Alexander G. Markwell.
The call came from the far side of the cemetery, "we found a Markwell" -- and
Denny Custer headed to the grave site. With help from the scouts, he was able
to dig the dirt that hid his ancestors stone and lift it out of the ground.
Alexander G. Markwell, who had died on December 12, 1857, had been found. Denny
said that it was so rewarding to be there when his great great grandfathers
stone was found and to see these young people so dedicated to cleaning up a
Denny commended the boy scouts on an outstanding job and said that without so
many of them working so hard that his ancestor's stone may never have been
recovered. He doubled his donation to $200 and proudly presented it to the
troop. Denny has researched his family history for years and now his allusive
ancestor has been found and all because of Troop 54 and their dedication.
The Boy Scouts enjoyed a number of visitors during their two-day project.
Rep. Rich Brauer came by and had lunch with the boys on Saturday and then hiked
with them back to the cemetery and commended them on their efforts. Attorney
for the Cemetery Association Sam Blane came out on Saturday and was able to see
the boys in action. Sheriff Larry Smith came by on Sunday and brought word
back to the parents waiting at the road that the Boy Scouts had found three more
"These boy scouts are hard-working and a tribute to our community," said MAGA
volunteer Stan Lowe. "This project was well coordinated with all interested
parties and everyone worked together to make this cemetery the dignified burial
ground it once was. The stones will need to be set up at a later time but the
bulk of the work has been completed by the scouts and we're proud to have
been a part of it."
The farmer of the ground around Smoot Cemetery, Richard Holliday worked
closely with the troop leaders throughout the projects development. He offered to
let them park the mowing tractor at his home so they wouldn't have to leave it
overnight in the cemetery the night before. He also helped them find the
perfect location for a port-a-potty that the boy scout troop had taken out for the
event. There were a number of parents and ladies who really appreciated the
thoughtfulness of a port-a-potty since it was quite a hike back to the road and
drive back into town. Mrs. Holliday drove back to the cemetery on Saturday and
was able to see the scouts working.
Boy Scouts involved in the project included J.J. Davis, David Sullivan, Scott
Tisdale, D.J. Rudd, Nick Territo, David Devine, Adam Devine, Zach Knous,
Peter Schnoenherr, Cody Schnirring, and Stephen Barbee. Troop Leaders
Steve Territo, Scoutmaster, Alicia Davis, David Devine, and Joe Davis.
Volunteers included Janet Davis, Denny Custer, Karen Custer, Peter
Schnoenherr, Tom Schnirring, Rick Bilyeu (Pastor of Lighthouse Community Church), Ed
Sauer (Youth Minister from Lighthouse Community Church who did all the cooking
for the event), Kevin & Ryan Wade (from Lighthouse Community Church), Tom,
Jacque, and Kristina Barbee, Wayne Thomas, Norm and Gloria Claussen, and Daniel
Meyer. Also assisting were members of the Morgan Area Genealogy Association
(MAGA) Duane and Betty Albert, Stan and Jeanie Lowe, Brianna Boggs, and Brandy
More than 20 stones were found and documented that had never before been
recorded in this cemetery. All of them were dated before the county began keeping
death certificates. Among stones found include, Fieldon Ballard, James
Ballard, Margaret Ballard, Mary J. Chapman, James H. Chapman, Harriett J. Killion,
Thos H. Killion, Chas. Knowles, Mary Knowles, Alex G. Markwell, Charles McAtee,
Thomas McAtee, …Rzahm Meeker, Alexander Parry, Geo. Pentecost Jr., Charles E.
Permace, Ella Nora Perviance, Francis A. Pond, Samuel Reed, Cornelius Sampson,
Ellen Sampson and three Sullivan stones that were all buried together in a
common hole. They include Infant Sullivan, Seeley Sullivan and William F.
Sullivan. Also found was Sarah Taylor wife of Solomon Taylor. In addition, stones
were recovered of people whose names were included in previous readings.
Norm Claussen's great great grandfather's stone was not yet recovered but
plans are being made to search for it again. In addition, the stone of
revolutionary war soldier Lewis Ferguson was not located. Volunteers will be looking
into the possibility of having a stone placed for his memory if it can not be
found. Betty Albert's ancestor Gilbert Stott's stone was not found but she and
her family are not giving up the search and now will have an easier time of
looking for it with the cemetery clean. With multiple stones being found in a
common hole on two separate occasions -- once in March and now again last
weekend with the Sullivan stones -- it is likely that many more stones could be
found in a similar situation. It's more difficult to find those stones as they
have been deliberately buried and are in deeper holes than the stones that have
simply fallen over and been covered by nature.
Pictures of the project and stones found along with an updated reading will
be available online at the Morgan Area Genealogy Association (MAGA) web site