Mike Jones, the Executive Director of the General John A. Logan Museum in Murphysboro, Illinois is the kind of guy you cannot say no to. When he asked me to help get the word out about the museum’s new exhibit, I knew I had to say yes – and not out of obligation – or from pressure – but because I WANT to help. Mike and the museum he founded and developed starting nearly two decades ago is a monument of selfless public service. The people of Murphysboro and southern Illinois owe Mike an incredible debt for all he has done. Mike is not the the sort to toot his own horn – so I will for him. Sorry Mike.
The General John A. Logan Museum exhibit “Caught in the Sweep of History” – is a multi year project recounting the history of southern Illinois in the Civil War. Unlike many other exhibits, this one focuses on the people – the individual lives of those who experienced those times. In conjunction with the exhibit, I’ve been asked to produce a series of short videos. The two first videos have been posted on a YouTube page set up by the Logan Museum. A third is in production and will be posted next week.
Thank you for the opportunity to help Mike. It is an honor!
Earth, Stone & Memories – a documentary about our passion with historic cemeteries is now available for sale: http://www.southernmostillinoishistory.com As the website explains, proceeds from the sale of the DVD benefit the Southernmost Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone and its community and economic development programs.
The documentary focuses on historical burial grounds and cemeteries and their development through time. Historians, archaeologists, and genealogists offer insight into the types of stone used, motifs and cemetery layout and other changes we see when we visit an old cemetery.
My hope is that this documentary inspires and motivates you to learn and do more in regard to historic cemeteries. Maybe you’ll discover an old burial ground in need of upkeep. Or perhaps you’ll find a historic section that needs to be inventoried and photographed and deposited in a local library.
The website also includes classroom handouts and projects. Additional materials will be forthcoming as we transcribe the bonus segments.
Some organizations interested in restoring an old cemetery may want to view the DVD to learn more about the state requirements before they do the work.
After writing and directing this project, I can tell you that historic cemeteries affect all of us in different ways. I know one woman who “feels” and “hears” things when she visits a cemetery and walks among the old stones. “That white one over there was speaking out to me,” she said to me last spring. Another stone projects an evil vibe, she commented.
My cemetery experiences are far less interesting. A deer snorted and stomped in my direction when I walked too close to a wooded area in the Beech Grove Cemetery in Mounds, Illinois. I couldn’t see the animal, but I got the message. A second deer-experience in the West Eden Cemetery – after dark – was a little unnerving because it was AFTER DARK IN A CEMETERY.
To me, the typical historic cemetery gives me a good reason not to think about myself. I find myself reading the headstones and putting that person’s life in context. I am also a visual thinker – so an old cemetery in the middle of the summer with the cicadas vibrating in the trees stirs my soul in ways I cannot express in words. Watch the DVD and hopefully you’ll see what I mean.
The Mound City National Cemetery Preservation Commission raised more than $3,000.00 on Saturday. The event was quite entertaining thanks to Buddy Walls’ ability to persuade folks to spend one more dollar for a “good cause”. The gentleman in the photograph standing next to the auctioneer is Jimmy. His job was hold up the item and show it to the crowd. Usually, he stood with his back to the crowd and decided if he wanted to buy it for himself. Several times he was told to “hold it up” or “turn around”! A good time for a good cause and I’m thrilled to have been asked to help. I served as the cashier – and somehow managed to avoid buying anything. Buddy Walls is truly a local hero – he not only donated his time to the auction but when the event was over he wrote a $212.00 check to push the total over $3,000.00!
The MCNCPC must raise funds to support its occupation of the Caretaker’s Lodge at the national cemetery. The commission pays the electric, water, alarm and other incidentals – like toilet paper for the public restroom. In addition, the lease agreement with the National Cemetery Administration requires they maintain a $5,000.00 balance in one checking account – so the group’s financial burden is significant. Clayton Bierbaum helps raise the flag just before the start of the auction. About two-minutes later, a massive thunderstorm pounded the area with torrential rain, lightening, and thunder. Despite the weather, the auction went forward and every item was sold.
I travel Interstate 24 quite a bit and every time I see a wide load. Not just any wide load – I mean a WIDE LOAD. The photograph snapped from my phone shows a truck hauling what appears to be a Saturn V rocket. Of course, that rocket no longer exists except in museums, but I think you get the point. No complaints – just amazement.
I am producing a documentary about cemeteries. I’d love to explain it in detail, but I should refer you to website set up for that: www.southernmostillinoishistory.com I needed to visit Bellefontaine Cemetery in north St. Louis, Missouri because the location welcomes visitors who are interested in the history of the place (or so I thought). Founded in 1849, BC holds the remains of some of St. Louis’ wealthiest and more prominent citizens – and, I might add, quite a few “scalawags” as Carol Ferring Shepley talks about in her book Movers and Shakers | Scalawags and Suffragettes: Tales from Bellefontaine Cemetery (2008, Missouri History Museum). I know the place welcomes visitors – but aside from an office and another building, I wasn’t sure where to go. It was raining so I decided to drive around rather than enter an office and bug someone. I drove for more than a half-hour through the site – which contains several miles of winding roads. There is a white line and numbered gravesites – that’s for the vehicle tour that’s available (again, no signage). The cemetery continues to bury people, so I saw workers erecting a tent for an upcoming internment. Another crew was trimming and mowing. To say the place offers a feast for those of us interested in burial markers is an understatement. It is literally an outdoor museum. It contains some of the most classic examples of Victorian Era stones I’ve ever seen. And given the money behind those buried there, the place offers original works of sculpture art here and there. The family crypts can be found along one road at what appears to be the highest level. But every level and every road offers an overwhelming display of stone. I could spend a month exploring there – easily. And if my GPS hadn’t found my way out, I would probably still be there. I got lost. Once you enter, it’s like a maze and there’s no signage indicating where to go to get out (perhaps a metaphor?). I stopped and asked directions. The worker told me he had been asked for directions “once or twice” and then laughed. He then proceeded to give me completely meaningless directions. I finally decided to turn on the GPS and within 30 seconds I was at the front gate. I recommend reading Shepley’s book about some of the famous and infamous buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery. And I know the site welcomes visitors and offers a map and a booklet, but you need to make an effort to find those resources. Perhaps some day I’ll return and make the effort myself.
I”ve written about Trillium Dell Timberworks before. Check out the post about four or five articles below. Today I shot video & interviews for the company in Oblong, Illinois where they’re raising a frame for a local family. On the satisfaction scale, I tend to place my work with TDTW very high. The company cares and it shows. The homeowners couldn’t say enough good things about them. I like their work ethic and the smarts they demonstrate on the job. Building a timber frame structure requires a particular set of skills that demand attention to detail far beyond a typical “stick-built” construction project. The general contractor gave me an interview and said he was amazed how well the timbers went together. For the family – a couple with four adopted children – the 40 x 60 frame will give each kid a bedroom – something they don’t have now. And the kid’s mom realizes a lifelong dream of living in a house made from an old barn. She told she had been collecting stuff about barns since she was a kid. I’ve attached an image taken from my Blackberry – but I’ve also captured multi-gigabytes of video and stills, including a few time-lapse sequences. I’ll try to post a few other things about this shoot tomorrow. I left Carbondale at 6:30 am to get there in time for the raising of the first bent. Right now, I’m tired, sunburned – but recharged. Thanks again TDTW!
I want to thank the Southern Illinoisan newspaper for publishing my news release. You can find it on page 1E – Sunday’s Business section. I’m especially thankful to Gary Metro for answering my email with a thumbs up. I’m not one to toot my own horn, but nowadays you got to do what you can to get the word out.
I won two Bronze Telly Awards for direct marketing and history-biography. Special thanks to Bob Henderson at Vestibular Technologies for granting permission to announce the award. Thanks also to the Mound City National Cemetery Preservation Commission, Inc. for hiring me to produce their museum video about the cemetery.