Sunday, September 26, 2010

Remembering the Civil War

A few months ago I purchased yardage of some Civil War commemorative fabric. Next year is the 150th anniversary of the war. There will be celebrations and festivities, programs and also a time for remembering. I have both Union and Confederate ancestors so my allegiance is split.
This weekend I decided it was time to do something special with the fabric. Using three different fabrics, plus the muslin for the lining, I started cutting fabric, batting and interfacing in anticipation of making a tote bag. Very seldom do I sew with a pattern, so this was just measure, cut with the rotary cutter and sew. My mother used to tell me that sewing is not done right if you don't have to rip. I ripped four times on my tote bag. Part of that was because I was thinking of Cherokee ancestry while I was sewing and just not paying attention. Somehow those Cherokees kept getting in the way!

On the front of the tote bag is a fabric photograph I made of my late husband's first cousin, three times removed, Richard Edmond Weathers (1836-1870). He was the son of Squire Beauchamp Weathers and Ruth Sharpe. Richard served in the Union Army, enlisting as a Quartermaster Sergeant on 13 August 1863 in Lamb's Independent Cavalry Regiment in Indiana. Less than a year later he was promoted to Captain in Co. H, 131st Regiment, 13th Cavalry, Indiana Volunteers. He was married to Elizabeth Shaw in 1859 and had two children when he enlisted. The 131st Regiment, 13th Cavalry was the last regiment from the state to be mustered out of the U.S. Army on 10 November 1865. The five oldest sons of Squire and Ruth Weathers served in the Union Army in the Civil War and fortunately all five came back to Indiana alive.

The background fabric behind the photograph is of a cannon and tiny labels saying "Remember Me." No genealogist will ever forget a Civil War ancestor or relative.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mt. Rushmore Guards Their Souls...part 2

Our recent trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota took us on a side trip to find some old cemeteries that still exist today but were a large part of the early frontier days of the Black Hills. The second one we visited on this trip was the Mt. View Cemetery located in the active mining and now tourist town of Keystone, S. D. This cemetery, while quite small for the amount of years it has existed is probably one of the most unique that we have visited. The varied history of the community it serves gives this scenic little cemetery a proud and unique character, one which also by it's serene location seems to command one to view the final resting place of it's inhabitants with silence and reverence. Established long before the construction of nearby Mt. Rushmore, it is, none the less, protected by night and day as the granite stone "faces" of Mt. Rushmore stand guard over all the souls who are resting there. It is the only cemetery in the world with a view of Mt. Rushmore.

To imagine what the lives were like for many who are buried here, one must learn about the history of this unique area of the Black Hills. Mining in the area dates back to around 1876 with the discovery of placer gold along nearby Battle Creek. Several small settlements sprung up in the area until 1883 when the Harney Peak Hydraulic Gold Mining Company was organized to mine the area which was later to become known as Keystone. Also in 1883, the Etta Mine which was rich in mica was opened and soon the area began to produce tin oxide which was in great demand. The town was officially platted in 1891 and named after the Keystone Mine. In 1894 a rich ledge of gold producing quartz was discovered and named The Holy Terror mine after one of the miners wives! The Holy Terror mine became one of the richest gold producers in the country. Gold, mica, feldspar, tin oxide, quartz, many other minerals and even arsenic played rolls in the success and even the later failure of the economy. Early in 1900, the narrow guage railroad reached Keystone which encouraged further development of many of the mines and later was used to haul goods and equipment into Keystone to aid in the carving of Mt. Rushmore which was started in 1927. Many local men and miners were often employed in the construction of Mt. Rushmore as the wages were good in a time that mining had started to decline. During WWII, minerals from the mines near Keystone were in great demand and used in production of war goods.

Keystone had a varied and checkered past during the years of miners and saloons and the small community has seen many ups and downs since the turn of the twentieth century. Clashes over claims, serious mining accidents, several early fires which destroyed the town, and floods have claimed many lives in the area of Keystone. The devastating flood of 1972 destroyed again a large part of the business district which had been resurrected over the years to become a premier tourist area and also took out most of the original railroad tracks into the community. Loss of life in the Black Hills area was substantial and Keystone was hit hard..again.

Many times over the last century, the Keystone town and community has rebuilt- each time it has gotten bigger and better. The lumber industry, some mining, and most of all the tourists have kept this little city alive. As a kid who frequented Keystone in the 1950's and has visited many times over the years, I have watched the old town grow. Once it was a sleepy, small tourist town with wonderful little shops and now has grown all the way through the valley in all directions. Top name hotels now scavenge for land to build on, spreading into the small fingers of the valley. Beautiful eateries, shops and museums line the once again busy streets. The whistle of the 1880 Train can be heard through the valley as it stops close to the town of Keystone. The ever present Mt. Rushmore watches over the daily life.

All the while that the town of Keystone has lain beneath her, the Mountain view cemetery has taken in the inhabitants of this proud little town. An infant girl which was relocated from an old cemetery downstream was the first burial here in 1900. The older Harney Cemetery was abandoned and reclaimed by "Mother Nature".
Mountain View cemetery also is one which has seemed to reflect the history of the area with its often stylish old headstones... and beautiful handmade monuments. Several well known historical figures are interred there. Many more photos that we took in the cemetery can found here and they are as varied and unique as is the area's history.

The day we visited, we stood and marveled at the stone of Zeke Valdez, which is pictured above, it showed us that he was a worker on the construction of Mt. Rushmore. A week after our trip to Keystone was my 40th class reunion in Alliance, Nebraska. One of my classmates and friend who happens to live in Hill City, S. D. was attending with her husband. Oddly, we happened to start talking to them about our recent trip to the Hills and about visiting the old cemeteries. The stone of Zeke Valdez came up when I mentioned the unique engraving on it and it turns out that Zeke was the uncle of my friend's husband. His family has been in the Black Hills for generations and several of his relatives (including the Grover and Valdez names) are buried in the small cemetery at Keystone. How truly small this old world is! His family's pride will mark his uncle's resting place for eternity.

The little Mountain View cemetery high above Keystone is certainly a beautiful little known gem in the otherwise hurried and bustling tourist community in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

(photo link: Keystone, S. D. cemetery pics)
(photo link: Hill City, S.D. cemetery pics)
(link to part 1 of this set: "Resting in Forested Beauty")

You Go Genealogy Girl #2 --Cheri

Friday, September 10, 2010

Resting In Forested Beauty...part1

Camping in the wonderful outdoors usually conjures up thoughts of fun, relaxation, fireside cookouts and wild life. My family is no different than most others as we love all those things and spend as much time as possible in the summer seeking the solace of those beautiful forest settings. During part of our recent vacation, my husband and I had been perfectly content to lounge around camp and get caught up on our reading which had gotten too far behind. The afternoon of the fifth day was very quiet, as the camp had nearly been vacated of the last of the before school travelers. We were discussing taking a short drive and a picnic, but where to go? We had frequented our favorite camp site in the Black Hills of South Dakota for many years, knew nearly every back road and were not in any mood to visit Deadwood or other tourist filled streets in the Hills. There were only a few places which we had not yet visited over the years. At the same time as I was thinking of suggesting it, "Go Hubby" asked if I would like to visit a cemetery. Boy, did I! We could think of two which were very near where we were camping and we could have our picnic while out for the drive.

We headed down the road towards Hill City, just 13 miles away. Hill City is the oldest existing city in the Pennington County area of the Black Hills. It is part of the original lands of the Lakota Sioux. In 1874 when then Major General George Armstrong Custer led his famous expedition to the Black Hills area, gold was discovered along French Creek which lies just south of Hill City. By 1876 the Hill City area (called Hillyo) was being settled by miners who came first for gold and then to mine tin. During the early years of the Harney Peak Tin Mining, Milling, and Manufacturing Company, Hill City was quite the rowdy town with many saloons lining the streets. Over the first few decades the city had many ups and downs mostly due to fluctuations in the mining business. Population counts varied from year to year.

As a child during the 1950's, my family spent nearly every summer around the Hill City area and the town itself seemed like a second home to me. Mom and I would wander the little two block long main street looking in the few souvenir store windows. It was a fairly quiet little city during those years.We bought our groceries at the corner grocery store which in later years closed and became a biking and climbing shop and I spent countless hours watching chipmunks run in their little wheel at a corner gas station which has been replaced by a new modern tourist stop. Time has certainly changed Hill City as it has blossomed into a first class "artist's" center and tourist stop. It has now expanded its business district to cover many more blocks and the famous Black Hills Central Railroad 1880 train has helped the city to thrive since the late 1950's. Through the years of early settlement, mining, the timber industry and tourism, the Hill City Cemetery has overlooked the little community from far atop a hill to the NW of the town. Many times we had passed the cemetery as we headed to Deerfield Lake for a day of fishing but the cemetery was one place we had never stopped to see.

As my husband and I located and strolled the cemetery a couple weeks ago, I was at first surprised to see the wide variety of tombstones and markers, but in retrospect, they seem to mirror the history of the town. There are simple stones, elaborate memorials that reflect the one time residents who may have had made money in the mining business, and unusual homemade headstones. Many babies are buried there, telling the story of the hardships and difficult living of the early settlers to the area. I believe the cemetery is a perfect reflection of the community that it serves. The Hill City cemetery is certainly a place of solitude and seems to be filled with the voices of those from the distant past. Those that rest on the hill are surrounded by the forested beauty of the Black Hills.

I have added a few interesting photos of the Hill City cemetery here .

Photos of our visit to the well hidden Mountain View Cemetery in the historic mining town of Keystone, South Dakota can be found here. The follow up article about Keystone and the Mountain View cemetery,"Mt Rushmore Guards Their Souls" can be found here.

You Go Genealogy Girl #2- Cheri


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