Anyone who does genealogy research knows how valuable cemeteries are to help find needed dates and names of deceased relatives. Many historical and genealogy societies catalogue their local cemeteries and publish the results in a form that is available for purchase by interested relatives and friends.
It took thirteen years for volunteers from the Fremont County Historical Society to walk the cemeteries of our county and transcribe the wording on every tombstone in those locations, including some back in the woods and in rural homesteads. The resulting book also includes what the researchers discovered of lost cemeteries including the French Village, the County Home (now with only 4 markers left) and Manti Cemetery church records of graves where the stones were removed by someone who wanted to use the land for crops.
Volunteers were recruited who were willing to face various kinds of weather, weeds, insects and, on occasion, snakes. These people spent many hours tramping the hills and valleys of Fremont County over smooth areas and rough, through the well-kept and the weed-covered graveyards. Pens and notebooks in hand, they copied as best they could the information on all the stones they could find. The most difficult and, undoubtedly, the most important work was deciphering the lettering from weathered, disintegrating stones.
Fremont County soil holds the precious remains of prehistoric inhabitants, Native Americans of recent centuries, French Canadian traders, settlers, immigrants, religious leaders, farmers, homemakers and craftspeople. Each in his or her own way helped make Southwest Iowa a pleasant, creative, energetic place to live. Many people from various ethnic backgrounds are buried here as a quick reading of names on the markers will indicate.
The Fremont County Cemetery Record Book includes a short history of each cemetery, plus pictures of some of the tombstones in each. Maps showing how to find graves by row numbers is also part of the way this book gives information that is helpful.
Occasionally members of the Society are asked if they will ever update the book and include information from new gravestones. The answer right now is “No.” Information of the most recent burials are simple to get from morticians or county recorders. The earlier graves are more difficult to find and that makes the book so valuable to researchers.
(Copies of the Fremont County Cemetery Record Book are still available from the Historical Society. Call (712) 374-2335 for more information. a/o January 5, 2009)
Cemeteries are interesting places to visit for your own research but also for the picture they give of the history of an area. Next week’s View from the Attic by Danette Hein-Snider will tell of one of the Fremont County grave yards and its early fascinating history. Burial grounds give a glimpse into the past that may not be found in any other place.