Rice Cemetery was founded in 1839 on the old Jacob Rice farm and is located west off of Mt. Morris Road south of Rt. 72. The last known burial took place in 1891. The cemetery is under a complete restoration process sponsored by the Leaf River Historical Society located at the Leaf River Museum in Leaf River, IL.
RICE CEMETERY RESTORATION
The restoration of this long abandoned cemetery was suggested as a project by Shirley Lovell even before the Leaf River Historical Society was formed. In February, 1997, the story of the cemetery in E. Buskohl's Townline Road book recalled an ad for the caretaker of the Rice Cemetery placed by James Meissen who wished to return three large gravestones sent to him by a lady in Tennessee.
After viewing these stones in Stillman Valley, Betty Croft proposed that the restoration be adopted as a Make A Difference Day project. It was approved at the March 13th meeting, and plans were made to proceed. Charles Diehl, who owns adjacent land, provided generous support for the initial cleanup of branches and debris on April 26th, and he later installed a gate for easier access to the grounds.
Summer and fall cleanup were scheduled, but volunteers were few in number, and the tall grass and thistles discouraged efforts. Hopes were rewarded, however, on September 25th, with the discovery of a tiny paper with a note of encouragement fastened to a tree. David and Larry Zellers had been at work and were later joined by David Link, all interested in genealogy and experienced in cemetery caretaking. Subsequent work days brought James Meissen with his divining rods to locate more than the 43 graves on the original lists, and the matching of broken parts of stones accelerated.
At the end of summer, a total of 34 volunteer workers were identified and recognized for their efforts. October 25th, Make A Difference Day, was too cold and windy for much work on the hill, but a small group gathered to clear some brush and locate some family stones, and the Herbert Allen family from Rockford was there to present a check for $1,000 to establish a fund to be used to purchase materials needed in the restoration and to ensure that the work begun can be continued to completion.
A special program was presented at the Museum on November 2, 1997, to honor and remember those buried in the Rice Cemetery and to report on the progress of the restoration. Tom Lyons, a Civil War re-enactor, appeared in uniform to describe the Battle of Shiloh, at which Daniel Turney, who is buried in the cemetery, was gravely wounded. James Meissen spoke of the sacrifices of the soldiers, most of them being young sons of struggling farm families, as was twenty-one year old Daniel. He also discussed sources of information regarding wars fought in this area.
Even as the stones are being located and the pieces patched together, information on the families represented by those buried in the Rice Cemetery has been sought and organized for preservation at the Museum. Esther Buskohl spoke of her work in tracing family relationships and gave special recognition to the pioneer women who are buried there. David Zellers described his work in finding and matching broken stones and in locating the bases to which the stones will be re-attached.
Pastor Jon Hutchison then led the sixty friends present in a blessing of the stones, as represented by those which had been returned from Tennessee and are now at the Museum awaiting their re-setting at the cemetery. The program ended with a congregational singing of Blest Be The Tie That Binds.
A few days later, the gravestone of Daniel Turney was raised on its restored base, a symbol of the sacrifice that was given and the work that is yet to be done.
From the November 1997 issue: "Museum Musings" A publication of the Leaf River Historical Society and Museum Center
More information on the Rice Cemetery restoration project