Cemeteries. Every city has one. They are mysterious, historic, haunting and, to me, fascinating. I developed a fondness for cemeteries as a boy.
Now whenever I’m out of town, I always make it a point to visit a cemetery. To me, they are better than any mountain range, skyline or other popular tourist attraction. They are hidden treasures containing a wealth of information about communities and the people who lived there.
Chances are you have visited a cemetery at some time in your life to pay your respects to a family member or friend, and perhaps you too appreciate the stories represented among the tombstones and monuments.
My travels take me to all over the South and Midwest, sometimes further North, and sometimes around the world! So I have decided to start documenting my cemetery visits with a series of photos in a Sunday feature.
This week’s cemetery is Franklin Cemetery in Salem, Indiana, a charming community about 35 miles north of Louisville, KY. It’s one of more than 60 cemeteries located in the city, the majority of which have only a handful of graves.
The land for the cemetery and church was donated by Gen. Samuel Milroy, an early settler, farmer and statesman who was the first Washington County representative for the Indiana General Assembly in 1816. The current church building was constructed in 1890 to replace the original log structure that was destroyed in a storm two decades earlier.
According to findagrave.com, there are 928 people buried in Franklin Cemetery. While that may seem like a substantial number of grave sites, being located on a tract of land surrounded by woods and a cornfield gives it a vast, feeling of openness.
The cemetery is a mixture of old and new, with headstones dating back as far as 1770. And like most cemeteries, Franklin has its rules too. According to a sign posted as the entrance, no flowers on the ground are allowed; only hanging baskets or flowers on monuments.
Salem, Indiana is one of those scenic towns that every small town in America strives to be like. There’s so much for tourists to see and do:
- The Depot Railroad Museum – An extensive collection of railroad memorabilia, including a working HO scale model railroad that depicts Washington County in the 1950s and 1860s. For info, visit http://salemdepot.com/
- Pioneer Village – Authentic pioneer buildings depict what life was like during the 1840s. The log cabin structures include a school house, village church, black smith shop, loom house, carpenter shop, general store and a jail!
- John Hay House – Birthplace of John Hay, who served as private secretary to President Abraham Lincoln. He was also U.S. Ambassador to England and Secretary of State under Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt. For info, visit http://johnhaycenter.org/
- Genealogy and Historical Library – Researchers come from all over the country to access the library housed in the Stevens Memorial Museum. The library contains local records as well as records for Indiana and other states.
- Crown Hill Cemetery – The final resting place of such notables as Lee Wiley Sinclair, builder of the famous domed West Baden (Ind.) Hotel; U.S. Congressman Benjamin Parke; Dewitt Clinton Thomas, Civil War Brevet Brigadier General; and John Hay Farnham, an early proponent of free education.
- Old Settlers’ Days – Held in late September. The first was held in 1875 when local settlers came together to recount old stories of the earlier families in Salem. http://www.oldsettlersdays.org/
- Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival – The annual festival attracts over 12,000 people. 2016 will mark the 25th annual festival scheduled for Feb. 27 & 28 and March 5 & 6. For more info, visit http://www.lmsugarbush.com/
- Salem Speedway – Featuring some of the top names in open wheel and stock car competition. For info, visit www.salemspeedway.com.
- Piper Flight Museum – Located at the Salem Municipal Airport and featuring vintage Piper aircraft. For more information, visit http://www.piperflightmuseum.org/
- Knobstone Trail – At 58 miles, it’s the longest hiking trail in Indiana with plans to extend it another 80 miles!
- Beck’s Mill Gristmill – Constructed in 1808 to serve the needs of arriving settlers, the mill continued to operate until 1950. It’s now opened seasonally. For info, visit http://www.becksmill.org/
Until next time….