“Without the past, there is no present, nor can we build a future.” Anon.
I was born a Steeves from the line of Lewis, the 7th son of Heinrich and Rachel. Lewis died in 1827. Some time ago, our family discovered where Lewis was buried and we were pleasantly surprised that the headstone is still standing and legible.
"So what?" some would say.
Constables carried guns in those days and our relative accidentally shot and killed one of the constables with the warrant. Our relative was arrested but managed to escape to New York after the inquest.
Even before we heard this story, my Dad had an interest in our family history and we often talked about where our ancestor Lewis Steeves was buried. In our drives, whenever we saw a cemetery, we would stop and scan the headstones. "If you are driving with Idella, you can’t get past a cemetery” became a family joke.
Someone thought Lewis was buried at Turtle Creek, but where? I live in Ontario and helped on the farm only in the summer, so there was not a lot of time to "cemetery shop." We did it the hard way. Before I accumulated a laptop, books, papers, articles, census records, etc., my search for Lewis Steeves was a journey with many obstacles.
We searched many cemeteries and were about to give up. Then, on a trip near Hillsborough one Sunday, when it was nearly dark, I spotted a cemetery with no sign. I said, "I have got to try." For some reason, I went up to a knoll beside a huge tree and, using a flashlight, made out the spelling on a stone. It was Lewis!
I hollered to Dad, "I found it!" He climbed out of the truck just to see for himself. What satisfaction!
When we saw the neglected state of the cemetery, Dad said we would have to do something about it. We went back and talked to a few residents. They said local men had restored it, but it was no longer maintained. Dad made up his mind that we would at least cut the bushes and grass.
Maintaining cemeteries is about history, honour and respect for our forbearers, a connection to those who helped shape us...
In response to the question "So what?," maintaining cemeteries is about history, honour and respect for our forbearers, a connection to those who helped shape us into the way we are.
Marc Jahr wrote "When memory lives, the departed live, a powerful and present force to those who knew them, and loved or hated them, defying the indifference that time breeds. When memory dies, the departure from life is irrevocable."*
On many tombstones, there is a phrase "Never Forgotten." We did not forget about our Lewis.