Pictured left to right: Stan Lowe, J.J. Davis, Duane Albert
It has been almost 100 years since anyone was buried there but it’s not a forgotten cemetery. Smoot Cemetery, located off of Curtis Blacktop, is the resting place of some of the county’s early pioneers and it may receive a much needed clean up.
At the request of volunteers from the Morgan Area Genealogy Association (MAGA), Boy Scout Troop #54 was asked for help in the clean up of Smoot Cemetery so additional stones could be found and recorded.
J. J. Davis, a Boy Scout who is working towards his Eagle Scout badge, is submitting a proposal to the Abraham Lincoln Council. If approved, he will begin his Eagle Scout Project to clean up the cemetery and the once picturesque graveyard, that sits in the middle of hundreds of acres of beautiful farm land, will be restored to a dignified resting place.
MAGA volunteers, Stan Lowe and Duane Albert, met with J. J. Davis at the cemetery last Saturday. The group toured the cemetery and found it overgrown with many fallen and broken stones.
Volunteers conducted their first reading in the winter of 2002 but the cemetery was overtaken with briars and brush so the reading was limited. This spring the farmer, of the grounds around Smoot, burned off the brush and a second reading was attempted. This visit produced 33 additional stones with many new names to the original listing which had been done in the 1980‘s by James Toal and included names from Menard death records and Eileen Gouchanour‘s obituary names. Most of the newly found stones had death dates from the middle 1800's which means that the stones may be the only surviving record of the lives and deaths of past pioneers living in that area since death records weren‘t kept in the county until later in the 1800‘s. The most interesting find that day was seven stones buried in a common hole. When the edge of a stone was first noticed, sticking out of the ground, they thought that it was single stone that had fallen over but upon digging it up, they found a total of seven stones that had been buried together. None of the names on those stones had been included in the original cemetery listing. They have now all been added.
To date, the oldest stone found is that of Joseph Brown who was born in 1759 and died in 1833. The majority of stones are from the mid-1800’s with the most recent ones being the very early 1900’s.
Revolutionary War soldier Lewis Ferguson is reportedly buried there and the group is very eager to find his stone. Ferguson, born in the State of Virginia in 1760 died on November 23, 1842, in Menard County, Illinois. Ferguson enlisted in Culpeper County in 1778, serving until 1780. He was made Lieutenant under Captain Garland Burnley and Colonel Francis Taylor. He was allowed pension on his application executed June 5, 1833 then aged seventy-three years and living in Sangamon (now Menard) County, Illinois. The 1840 pension role states he was living in Menard County, Illinois age eighty. DAR records confirm his burial in the Smoot Cemetery. If a stone is not found, arrangements will be made to have one placed for him.
The stone of Robert D. Bracken was found. He was born December 31, 1796 in Montgomery County, Kentucky, and died October 29, 1867. He was 70 years, 9 months old when he died. He married Mary D. Turner September 1, 1829 in Menard County, IL. She was 86 years, 6 months, and 3 days old, when she died on September 17, 1884 and is buried in Smoot Cemetery. Her stone still proudly stands next to her husband‘s stone. A descendent who is researching this family line is very interested to hear if the cleanup will produce any of his other ancestors.
Denny Custer, a researcher looking for his great great grandfather Alexander G. Markwell, believes his grave may be in Smoot and is eager to see if his stone is found. Markwell passed in 1858. As far as they know, he was not buried on land he once owned which is only about a mile an a half away from Smoot.
The MAGA volunteers are reading all Menard County cemeteries to preserve the history of the county for future generations. This project is provided free of charge and the information is available online for no charge. Cemetery books are being printed and donated to the library as the project progresses. If you have any information on a cemetery, historical information or pictures that you would like to share, please contact Betty Albert at 632-3661 or Jeanie Lowe at 632-3945. Menard County cemeteries may been seen online at the MAGA web site at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ilmaga/index_menard.html.