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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Two vandalized Gallatin cemeteries repaired

  • Two adjacent rural cemeteries are receiving a much need renovation from a central Illinois group of volunteers.
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  • Two adjacent rural cemeteries are receiving a much need renovation from a central Illinois group of volunteers.
    Called Good Samaritans Restoration, Angie Johnson and friends worked July 12 and July 13 to upright and clean vandalized tombstones at the Hickory Hill and Lawler cemeteries in rural Junction. The cemeteries are near the intersection of state Route 1 and state Route 13. The cemeteries have been in a state of disrepair for years.
    The stone of John Hart Crenshaw and wife, Sina — owner of the nearby Old Slave House — was long since toppled and partially buried in the ground. It is now again upright as are nine other stones in the two cemeteries.
    “We had 10 stones down. We had to level 14 stones that were literally about to tip over,” Johnson said.
    The cemeteries date from the 1800s. One volunteer noted the most recent grave he had seen was in the 1970s, but the majority are from the mid-1800s to early 1900s. Most visitors would not know the cemeteries are separate, the boundary marked only by a few trees planted in a row. The Lawler Cemetery was Catholic and Hickory Hill was Protestant.
    Each have a grave of a noteworthy historical individual. John Hart Crenshaw operated the nearby salt works, providing a supply of salt for the nation. The operation was considered so vital slaves continued to operate it even after the abolition of slavery for the rest of the country. Crenshaw is believed to have kidnapped freed blacks and sold them back into slavery. He had the Crenshaw House — also known as Old Slave House built — which operated for years as a tourist attraction before purchased by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. The house has been closed for years awaiting funding for restoration.
    The Lawler Cemetery is the final resting place of Michael Kelly Lawler, a Civil War general who also happened to be the son-in-law of Crenshaw. A monument to Lawler stands in the village of Equality.
    Crenshaw was Protestant, Lawler was Catholic. Crenshaw utilized slave labor. Lawler fought in the war for the Union, opposed to slavery. They are buried in different cemeteries, but only yards away from each other.
    The stories behind those stones are the allure of cemetery restoration to Johnson.
    Her interest started with cemetery photography that she shares at the site graveyards.com
    Family members of some of those who graves she had photographed began contacting her and she came to know the stories behind some of the unique graves she found. She has in 10 years visited about 1,450 cemeteries to photograph.
    “I’ve been here four to five times in the last two years, first to photograph,” Johnson said.
    Page 2 of 2 - During her second visit she decided to pursue getting permission from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency to do some restoration work.
    “I decided I would like to come back and fix this,” Johnson said.
    The restoration team is composed of 16 people from seven counties. Some are historians. Some are interested in haunted cemeteries. The team has restored 10 cemeteries in the state with four full cemetery restorations.
    In 2012 Johnson started the Illinois Chapter of the Association for Gravestone Studies and is the chairwoman for the chapter. The group travels throughout the state leading cemeteries walks conducting meetings. The group will be holding its fall meeting 9 a.m. Sept. 13 at the State House at Vandalia.
    The majority of the work in Gallatin County was done July 12 and July 13 and the group completed the work Saturday and Sunday.

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