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Monday, July 1, 2013

Williams Cemetery -- The Restoration Begins!


The Williams Cemetery in Brandywine Township has always been an island of trees and tangled vines between two cornfields. It is located between the Brandywine Road and the Shoestring Pike, just north of the Indiana Downs Casino. The Williams home place which is just down the lane, has been designated a Hoosier Pioneer Homestead complete with an official sign in the yard of current owners, the Ortel family.

Restoring the old cemetery has been a dream for myself and my cousin, Jon. We have discussed it many times.  Without proper tools and the financial means to restore the broken stones, we were very discouraged.

That all changed with an email from my friend, Julie. She wanted to help us restore the cemetery using financing from the Blue River Foundation Cemetery Preservation Fund.  (If you would like to contribute to this fund, I’ll give you the contact information at the end of this article.)  We hoped to start in March, but it was too cold in Indiana at that time. Next, the rains came! I kept hoping the weather would improve. Finally, the first of June, Julie and I decided the time was right.

We were a small but dedicated group who began to clear all the overgrown brush, trees, and weeds from the cemetery. Julie and cousin Jon brought gloves, tools, and probes. Cousin Lowell brought his chain saw. Cousin Connie and I began the clean-up process as Lowell took down dead trees and limbs, and we all cleared away the overgrowth. At the end of two visits, the cemetery was clearly visible. It had never looked so beautiful  - even though this was just the beginning.

All of the grave stones were in disrepair and pieces of many of them were missing.  The large marble monument  for Matthew and Martha Williams was in many pieces but gradually we were able to rebuild it. It was an amazing sight! Julie cleaned the stone for Eli Williams and it could finally be read. We also rebuilt Ida Williams’ granite monument .  James V. Williams’ stone was in two separate pieces that would have to be professionally repaired.  In fact, all the stones would be professionally restored and cleaned by Greenfield Granite, in Hancock County,  Indiana.  We were not able to locate the top of the stone for Paulina Williams Steward but after the area is probed, we are hoping to locate it.

We worked for most of the week, cousins Jon, Connie, Lowell and “adopted” cousins, Julie and Jerry. It was truly amazing what our little group accomplished in the hot June sunshine. The Ortels were terrific, visiting us and praising the work. They provided cold sodas and anything else we needed. We appreciated their support  so much.  Janice and Larry, we couldn’t have done this without you!

Greenfield Granite has taken the stones to be restored. They will also prepare a stone for Daniel and Mary Williams. Although we have never found their graves, we all feel they are buried on the property. Daniel was a Shelby County Pioneer and created many acres of productive farmland out of the early Indiana wilderness.

I will follow-up this post with updates on the cemetery restoration. We plan to landscape the area and put up a small fence. The state will provide an Indiana Pioneer Cemetery sign, and Greenfield Granite will make a stone to identify the Williams Cemetery. The cemetery will be protected by the state; it will not be moved or destroyed. And that is the best gift any of the many descendants of Daniel and Mary Kimberlin Williams can ever receive!

If you would like to provide a donation to the Blue River Cemetery Restoration Fund, please send any amount to:

The Blue River Foundation
54 West Broadway St.
Shelbyville, Indiana 46176

(Please be sure to designate "Cemetery Restoration" on your donation. Thanks!)

More pictures ----
Top:  Ida Williams
        Matthew & Martha
          Williams - rebuilt 
       Stones before being

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