Keeping A Legacy Alive
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By Marlana Smith
It all started August 1964 when the county Historical Society met at the Oak Dale Grange Hall.
Discussion arose on old cemeteries in the vicinity, and it was decided to conduct a cemetery survey of the county.
Roy T. Neff made the motion and saw that the task was completed. He said, “After two years, we have just about completed the task.”
“To make a complete survey it was absolutely necessary to find all burial places, from one grave to the largest cemeteries. This we have done,” said Neff in a 1966 report describing the survey completion.
Neff said the early settlers buried their dead in orchards, chicken yards, gardens and in the surrounding timber near their homes.
“Since these early homes have disappeared, we find, what we call brush cemeteries, extinct, abandoned, bulldozed out and some only a memory, with no records left of any kind to identify them,” Neff said.
According to Neff the program was put off 50 years too long. It was recorded that perhaps 50 percent of the early records were lost. He said the success of the whole program depended on newspaper articles to inform the public on the kind of information to turn in.
Information from family trees, old records, family Bibles, old army service record newspapers and clippings were furnished to Neff.
During the summer of 1965, the purchase of a large county map showed the farms and the owners as of 1959. Local volunteers had the help of six youth corps members that summer to type and run cemeteries.
All cemetery locations have been numbered and located by number on the map. The map is on display at the Shelby County Historical Society and Museum in Shelbina.
Neff has been gone 50 years, but the Shelby County Historical Society and Museum continues to keep the records up-to-date with the help of funeral homes. There are approximately 175 death to be recorded each year.
According to Shelby County Historical Society and Museum President Kathleen Wilham, work is currently being done on the old part of Shelbyville Cemetery.
All newspaper articles covering the survey have been recorded in a scrapbook as well.
Wilham reports new displays have been added to the museum recently.
A 100-year-old loom was donated by Curt Blades. A Doctors Adolphus bed, dresser and table that is 150 years old was donated by the Mildred O’Bryan family.
Wilham wants to invite the public to an open house on Sunday, July 18 from 1 to 4 p.m.