|I took this photo as we left. It was about 11 or midnight.|
Among the graves were Civil War veterans and their families, some of the first settlers of in that area, children who had died young in skirmishes with the Sioux. It was the quintessential prairie graveyard, small and understated, rich in history. We walked around with flashlights, looking for names of the veterans, amazed that the stones were still legible even after 150 years. Then, as the night breeze picked up and got chilly, Neal told us a chilling tale.
It was hard to tell with Neal's expression if he was kidding us, or if he'd invited friends along to scare the living daylights out of us. We saw no ghouls, living or otherwise, but I know I felt something... some awareness of the past that hadn't been there before. The dark deeds of others can mark a place in ineffable ways.
In August, just weeks after the group of us had been there, an eighteen year old was arrested for vandalizing over 50 tombstones in Farmers' Valley. He was charged with criminal mischief, and the local community rallied together in September to begin repairing the damage. A Journal Star article conveys the sense of loss this act created; the cemetery is history, personal history, and it must be guarded and cared for and visited. I am so glad I saw it when I did.
I've found the Farmers' Valley Cemetery on Rootsweb, which tells the story of Marion Littlefield's death in battle with the Sioux, the arrival of Scottish settlers to the area, and the hard lives that were lived out here. This little slice of history is just south west of Henderson, Nebraska in Hamilton Co. Oh, the stories this ground can tell.