Here lies my ancestor, who deserves notice
Man wants to return lost grave markers to a Clinton County field
By Nicole Brooks
The (Frankfort) Times
December 26, 2006
CLARKS HILL, Ind. -- Robert Wilcox stood on County Road 880 West in Colfax and turned his eyes toward a plowed field.
Here, on this half-acre of land, is where his great-great-grandfather is buried.
But no one has been able to find the exact spot John Franklin Crick, born 1837, was laid to rest in 1910.
The headstones belonging to the 30 to 40 graves in this small cemetery, named Davis Cemetery, were moved in the 1960s, Wilcox said. Today no trace of the burial site remains. A map listing all the known cemeteries in Clinton County includes Davis, but the word "gone" appears next to it.
"It's like they never existed," Wilcox said of the people buried there. "It's a horrible feeling."
Wilcox wants to find the headstones and return them to their original places. If that is not possible, he wants "Davis Cemetery" proclaimed on a plaque stationed on the small hill.
One day, all who know about the cemetery will be gone, he said. He fears a new home could be built on that spot. Someone digging into the ground to build a basement could churn up Wilcox's ancestor.
Growing up in Clarks Hill, Wilcox visited his grandmother in Colfax. Every year on Memorial Day they would visit Davis Cemetery and leave flowers on the grave of John Franklin Crick, a Civil War veteran.
Grandpa Crick, as Wilcox calls him, enlisted in the Army on Aug. 19, 1862, according to his discharge papers in the Clinton County Recorder's Office. He retired a private.
Crick was shot in 1862 in Tennessee, Wilcox said, and spent two years recovering before he was strong enough to come home.
He was granted a discharge June 30, 1865.
Crick died in Perry Township on Oct. 31, 1910, at the age of 72. His death certificate, on file at the county board of health, lists cause of death as cancer of the liver. The certificate also states his occupation as a farmer.
He was buried Nov. 2. But Davis Cemetery does not appear on the death certificate or in his obituary, published Nov. 1, 1910, in The Frankfort News.
Wilcox acknowledges that memory is fallible, but he is positive Crick is buried there.
"I'm not sure you'll ever be able to find out who's buried there," said Joan Bohm, a county historian and librarian for the Clinton County Historical Society.
In the 1960s, Bohm and a team of genealogists cataloged every known cemetery in the county. She believes Davis Cemetery existed, but no documents detailing who is buried there have been found.
Wilcox's brother, Keith, doesn't remember the cemetery.
However, Keith, who was in the bulldozing business, does recall landowner Joseph Bell contacting him in the 1960s.
"(He) had a pile of stuff he wanted me to bury."
Keith dug a hole in the woods in which to dump the stuff. A headstone tumbled out of the bundle of weeds and old brush he was burying.
Keith didn't realize at the time that he was burying the headstone belonging to his great-great-grandfather's grave.
The cemetery has been unmarked and planted in soybeans for 40 years, Robert Wilcox said.
"Now my brother and I are the only ones who know where the headstones and graves are," he said.
Joseph Bell is deceased, but the land remains in the Bell family. The Wilcox brothers have never gone to talk to them about the cemetery, they say, because they don't want the family to feel harassed.
A few months ago, Wilcox sought help from Clinton County Veterans Affairs Officer Joe Root.
Root could not find records proving Crick was buried in Davis Cemetery. He called the sheriff's office, and Sgt. Glenn Ashwell and Deputy Sheriff John Byers went to Colfax to interview the Wilcoxes.
Byers said the Wilcox brothers showed him a spot where they say the 30 to 40 headstones were buried.
"The woods that did contain them are gone now," Byers said.
Byers said he also met with Doyal Bell, Joseph Bell's son.
"He remembers as a kid a cemetery being there," Byers said.
Dismantling a cemetery on private property became illegal in Indiana only five or six years ago, said Jeannie Regan, cemetery registry coordinator for the State Department of Natural Resources. Hoosiers were not even required to keep track of cemeteries until 1939, Regan said.
In the case of Davis Cemetery, Regan said she would recommend a plaque be placed on the half acre. It would be nearly impossible, she said, to replace the headstones.
Many land owners are afraid to work with the cemetery registry because they think their land will be taken away or they will face legal action, she said.
This is rarely the case, she noted.
Wilcox's only hope is that the final resting place of John Franklin Crick and the other residents of the former Davis Cemetery will be designated again.
"I'm not bringing this up to get anyone in trouble," he said.
Wilcox believes the people buried deep in that soil deserve more than to be plowed over and forgotten.
He can still see the outlines of the graves in the ground, even after all these years, he said.
"Everything leaves its mark."