As before stated, the first death in the county, of which there is any record or recollection, was a son of Mr.Boyer, named Henderson. Some affirm that Joseph Kinney-thrown from a horse and killed-was the second, and some say the third death. The burden of the proof is that he was the second. His grave was the first in the burying-ground now known as Sugar Grove Cemetery. There is a strange fact in connection with this eldest known grave in Menard County. Kinney was injured by being thrown from his horse while on his way from a horse-race, and he died very soon after the fall. Shortly after his burial, an elm sprang up from the very center of the grave. This was allowed to grow from year to year; and it seems there was peculiar nutriment in the soil of that spot for the elm, for it grew with remarkable rapidity. It stands there to-day, a giant tree, and the grave is entirely covered and obliterated by it; and there it stands, a living, verdant monument, wrestling with the tempest, and glittering in the sunshine, silently telling of the death of Joe Kinney.
Soon after this, the old "graveyards" in Clary's Grove, and at Lebanon, and at other points were opened. No fact, connected with the early settlement of the country, is more to be regretted than the practice of burying their dead in places totally unprotected by law, and doomed soon to be abandoned, and, in time, to be inclosed in farms, the soil above them ruthlessly torn by the plow and the very ashes of our ancestors made to feed the cultivated crops. A very little care and effort at the proper time would have prevented all this. But it is a lamentable fact that, even to the present time, there are scarcely any cemeteries in the county for which provisions are made.
The principal cemeteries proper are as follows: "Rose Hill," situated on the hill east of the river, one mile from Petersburg. Some fifteen years ago, Mr. William S. Conant purchased the tract of land, and laid out the cemetery into blocks and lots. The location is one well suited for the purpose. It is a high ridge, level on top, and gradually sloping off, at first into gentle undulations, and then, farther south, it breaks into abruptly rolling hills; so that any taste can be satisfied. Fine drives for carriages traverse every part of the grounds, so that every lot may be closely inspected without alighting. The ground was originally covered with a fine growth of young and thrifty forest-trees, oak, hickory, elm, walnut, etc., and the proprietor has displayed great taste in setting out evergreens and flowers in every part of the ground. A great number of graves are already to be seen there, while a great number of fine monuments beautify the ground, standing as mute, but eloquent mourners, bringing to the memory of many the tender but broken ties of other years. Mr. Conant deserved great credit for his energy and perseverance in opening and keeping up this "city of the dead."
"Oakland Cemetery" is deserving of mention here, for, while it has been opened but a few months, in point of importance it stands among the first cemeteries in the county. It is located just outside the corporate limits of Petersburg, at the southwestern point. It consists of some twenty acres purchased by the proprietor, Mr. D.M. Bone, of Mr. Wadkins, in the autumn of 1878. It would seem that the Great Architect prepared this spot as a private chamber where the sleeping dead may rest. The cemetery proper is cut off from the surrounding fields by a deep ravine running along each side, thus forming a high ridge, slightly declining toward the city, while on the summit, there are at least seven or eight acres that are almost level, rolling just enough for the water to run off. Along the entire extent of the crest of the hill, running clear around the whole bluff, is the broken brow of the hill, offering a choice of every quality of ground, from the level sward on top to the sloping, wave-like undulations on the brow, to the rugged and precipitous sides of the bluff. The earth is close and compact, and, at the depth of three or four feet, it is almost white as lime, while, owing to the peculiar conformation of the entire tract, the ground underneath is very dry, caused by the shedding of the water from the surface. The surface of the tract was by nature covered with a dense growth, principally young and thrifty forest trees, with here and there a gnarled and wrinkled oak or elm, looking the parent of the surrounding forest. These old pioneers of the wood, centuries old, yet showing no signs of age, are fitting sentinels to guard these precincts of the slumbering tenants of the tomb. The natural forest was marred but little by the ax, but left almost as nature formed it. Mr. Bone secured the services of Mr. Cleaveland, of Chicago, the most gifted landscape gardener on the continent, to come and view the ground, and, having examined the land, he laid it out in the highest perfection of the art. Mr. Cleaveland has superintended the laying out of the leading cemeteries of the country, and, so soon as they got a view of the natural tract, he and his son both spoke in the highest terms of its beauty. It is laid out in gentle curves, and smoothly gliding lines, without any sharp angles, or monotonous squares or diamonds to weary the eye and surfeit the taste. No two blocks or lots are alike; no two drives or walks are similar; but an unending variety and every varying contrast is presented to the eye. Broad drives sweep in graceful curves through every part of the ground, and from the carriage every grave may be viewed from the foot, and every inscription be read. In addition to this, the cemetery is chartered on a basis that it can never be neglected nor fall into decay. Provisions are made by which an ample fund, as a kind of endowment fund, is laid by in store, the interest only of which is to be used in keeping up the repairs. No individual can ever assume the control of it; and as much care will be taken of the grave fifty years after the interment as the first year. Taking all these facts together, and in connection with its location within an easy walk form any part of town, it will, in the very near future, be one of the most lovely cemeteries in the county. Quite a number of persons are already interred there, and many lots have already been sold.
At Indian Point, there is a cemetery one mile east of the church, that is duly incorporated, and is beautifully laid out. At Athens, the cemetery laid out by Mr. Hall is also incorporated, as also the Tallula Cemetery. These, we believe, are all the incorporated cemeteries in the county. There are a large number of private burying-grounds in the county, some containing hundreds of graves; some have some little care and attention, while most of them have fallen into neglect, and, in the course of a few years, will have gone to entire ruin. This is a matter in which our people are shamefully negligent, and it is sincerely to be hoped that the public mind will become awakened on this subject. Will we take so much pains with our homes and barns and farms, while the dust of our fathers and mothers are thus neglected? A mere pittance, in the way of expense, and very little care and labor would gather these scattered remains from those dreary scenes of desolation and neglect, and place them in incorporated cemeteries, where their graves would be remembered, protected and cared for.