In Indiana, it wasn't great timing for the annual Girl Scouts Love State Parks weekend. The forecast called for just enough rain all weekend that one could neither plan confidently nor cancel confidently. Normally, my Girl Scout troop is fairly tolerant of miserable weather (we've happily completed entire badge meetings and cookie booths and camping trips more-or-less in the rain!), but all of the activities that they most wanted to do--full moon hike! Trail ride! Campfire dinner! Earning the Ambassador Photography badge!--called for fair weather.
Also, high school students are so busy! I fear that I'm past the days when I can gather my entire Girl Scout troop together at the same time in the same place. Someone's always got their part-time job or volleyball practice or play rehearsal or a college visit or, ahem, ballet class six times a week.
So it was with a much reduced number of Girl Scouts that I went to a local history program put on by one of our nearby state parks one Sunday morning. Not the whole day of fun some kids had hoped for, but we'd learn some local history, at least, spend some time together outdoors, and, most importantly, earn those fun patches! Honestly, I was going to be thrilled if the rain held off long enough for us to at least take a walk around the historic cemetery and take some photographs.
Happily, the rain held off long enough for us to attend the entire program and have a (quick) picnic afterwards AND take a (few quick) photos for the badge.
Allens Creek Cemetery has an unusual reason for being. The land we live on once belonged to the Miami nation. In 1809, William Henry Harrison unethically "purchased" most of Indiana from the indigenous nations who lived on it, then the Shawnee leader Tecumseh led a protest, then Harrison led an attack on Tecumseh's people that he later used as a campaign slogan, then he talked so long at his presidential inauguration that he became ill, then he died.
Meanwhile, post-Battle of Tippecanoe but pre-Inaugural speech, let's say around 1815 or so, settlers, mostly Scottish and Irish, came into the area to take over the Miami's former land and farm it. Some of their descendents were still on that same land, still farming it when they weren't working at one of the local limestone quarries, when the state government used Eminent Domain to buy their properties away from them so Monroe Lake could be built.
Here's a quote from Herbert Lucas, one of the landowners whose property was taken through Eminent Domain:
"You know, you grown up and read about how they took the land away from the Indians and you don’t sympathize until it happens to you. Then you think about it.” (Salt Creek Valley)
Interestingly, he was also specifically upset that the government planned to take and move the cemetery where all his family, including the great-grandfather who was the original homesteader of his property, was buried.
Our event was to tour where they put Herbert Lucas' great-grandfather, as well as all the other residents of all the other cemeteries that were moved during this process.
I'd worried that the tour would be boring for the kids--it was a very deep dive into very local history, and although you know how *I* feel about very local history, the kids couldn't possibly be expected to feel the same.
It was, however, very interesting, and VERY strange!
A volunteer was there to demonstrate the proper way to clean an old headstone. Although you can clean more thoroughly with D/2, or even engage in restoration work, it turns out that you can get most old headstones quite clean with just a low-pressure water sprayer, a soft brush, and a non-metal scraper:
Frankly, I hadn't expected a lot from this event. All I'd needed was for the kids to not be too bored while we did an activity that was just long enough for them to earn their Girl Scouts Love State Parks fun patch. So I was STOKED at how legitimately fascinating the tour was, and how fascinated the kids clearly were! It was an especially great event for teenagers, because it got them thinking and talking about big questions that don't always have a right answer. Here is just some of what we discussed:
- Why should a government get to take land away from someone who already owns it?
- What's the point of moving a cemetery if you know you're going to miss some of the bodies?
- What's the point of moving a cemetery if there are no actual bodies to move?
- Why couldn't people choose to let their loved ones stay in their original cemetery locations under the lake?
- Would it have been useful to do an archaeological excavation of the cemeteries as they were being emptied?
- Where did the contracted Black workers stay, and how were they treated? And were they hired because they would work more cheaply, or because it was work that made white people squeamish, or because it was work that white people thought they were too good to do, or because it was work that local people refused to do because they didn't want their cemeteries moved?
- WHAT IS THE REAL STORY OF THAT MISSING CEMETERY?!?!?!?