A Different View of the Strausbaugh Baptist Cemetery

The Secret of Trees

As I gazed upon the old cemetery photograph, I couldn't help but notice that the trees were younger than the headstones. Sporatic growth thrusting jaggedly upward, some slightly slanted, others leaning precariously.

Grandfather Samuel's headstone is shown in the foreground and leans against a tree. Other headstones lay flat among leaves and twigs. Then there are those that are buried underground, interred by weather and wear. What justice had nature brought upon these cemetery monuments? A reclaimation to a wilderness that was.

I have read where Grandfather Thomas by sweat and toil, cleared the locality of some trees. The trees did not forewarn him of his futility.

Brown, crisp leaves lay over a desparate ground, weaving in and out of the dank earth. Echos of an ancient axe whisper its harsh bite. A soft wind comforts the sting, muffling the harshness, the sound no longer distinct.

The trees do not give up their secrets.

Past and present, the tree is dependent on seed and soil. The axe taries, but not for long. The seasons claim tree and corpse, deciding not which is more important. Trees stand in persistance, bending to the will and tendency of nature. What seems to us to be a lasting memorial is merely some obscure, decomposing footnote.

Monuments of wood stand as silent testament to forgotten words and faces. They recycle the air we dare disturb and sup what we leave in the dark and porous soil.

The stone monument does not improve, but the tree begins anew after a time. How pleasing the leaf of spring. Each one an individual portrait, displayed in a blended mural. Begging room for their abundance, they preserve their own eternal hope.

Keepers of the past, guardians of the present, they do not tell us to what end they persist. Solemn, they stand with quiet purpose. Some leaning, others proud and straight . . . The trees do not give up their secrets.


James W. McCluer
December 1999


Tombstone in the foreground leaning against the tree is of Samuel McLure (Samuel McCluer [1765-1833]), my 5th great-grandfather. Thomas McCluer (1790-1862) was his son. Both early pioneers of Richland County, Ohio, arriving in 1809.

Photograph by Sunda and Nancy

Strausbaugh Baptist Cemtery, Richland County, Ohio