CHURUBUSCO — It’s been nearly one year since concerned, Churubusco-area residents took on the task of restoring one of Smith Township’s treasures.
In the past 10 months, the Friends of Concord Cemetery — a nonprofit — has pulled weeds, cleaned headstones, marked graves and more in a volunteer effort to remember those interred there.
“In the summer of 2018, we had about five group workdays with volunteers,” Pamela Wolfe said. “We’ve cleaned all the stones. We found a group of about 20 headstones that were buried on the far south end of the cemetery … Those had all been displaced and thrown in a pile, and then spread out and covered with grass. So, we put those back to where we think they go.”
Wolfe began the restoration effort last summer after biking past the dilapidated cemetery. She approached the Smith Township trustee about the condition of the cemetery, and was given permission to clean it up.
The work has been anything but easy since.
Wolfe said that the cemetery’s original plot maps were lost in a fire in the 1930s. In 1945, Nellie Raber and Christobel Hazel created a new map, which the nonprofit used to reset displaced headstones.
“We have probably recovered close to 130 of the headstones, of the 167 that are supposed to be there,” Wolfe said. “We’ve raked and cleaned, and picked up walnuts, and we’ve had some donations: we had some sand and gravel that was donated by (Buesching’s Peat Moss & Mulch), so we can reset some of these stones that are crooked.
“Some are beyond our help; they’re absolutely huge.”
One of these — a double headstone with an arch on top bearing the name “DePoy” — will take considerable work to restore.
“We think it’s going to stand 7 feet tall,” Wolfe said. “It’s in like six pieces — it’s incredible.”
Donations from the Old Settler’s Foundation and the Indiana Genealogical Society have helped cover the cost of that restoration, as well as the other three DePoy family headstones.
“We’re pretty excited,” Wolfe said. “I cannot wait to get this one big headstone up … we think if we get that one done, and the three next to it — they’re called obelisks; they’re tall, slender, pencil-like headstones — if we get those done, I think it’s going to look rather impressive.”
Additional assistance will come from the American Legion Post No. 157 in Churubusco, which has planned a shrimp and tenderloin fundraiser for Friday, May 3, for the effort.
Full details for the event are available on the group’s Facebook page, Friends of Concord Cemetery.
All of the proceeds will go directly to headstone restoration, Wolfe said.
“Our priority is headstones,” she added.
The cemetery’s seven Civil War veterans are the group’s current focus.
“We’re hoping to get those seven stones restored before Veterans Day in November,” she said.
“We’re going to have a Civil War reenactment in period costume, with a gun salute to honor those veterans on Veterans Day weekend.”
Wolfe expects to have more group work days on Sunday afternoons throughout the summer, hopefully starting in mid-May.
The group hopes to raise enough money or donations to put in a fence around the south and east sides of the property, a historical sign marking the cemetery, landscaping for the corner by Johnson and Carroll roads, and more.
In the meantime, they have put out silver grave markers so visitors can see who is buried in the cemetery, even if the headstones are still unreadable.
“This is Whitley County’s history; these are our ancestors,” Wolfe said. “This was the first township in Whitley County that was populated. This was where they came, and they came from basically the Appalachian mountain area.”