A TIME EXISTED when I avoided cemeteries. I was young then, unappreciative of their value from an artistic, historical and personal perspectives. And, if I’m honest, I’ll admit that I felt a bit afraid walking atop graves.
My thoughts have changed. Whenever my husband and I happen across a rural cemetery, we’ll often stop and wander.
We did just that recently while in section 25 of Walcott Township in southeastern Rice County. This Minnesota township was named in honor of Samuel Walcott, an early, enthusiastic settler from Massachusetts. He returned to the East “after…his mind became distraught and he found an abiding place in an insane retreat in his native State.”
Randy, whose vision far surpasses mine, spotted the small final resting place along County Road 90, headed toward it and pulled into a field drive as no other parking exists.
Now I’ve explored many a country cemetery. But I’ve never had to step over a double stretch of chains to enter. That should have been my first clue that the Eklund Cemetery would trouble me.
I felt almost instantly uncomfortable here as I meandered among aged tombstones marking the graves of early settlers like Hans Flom, born in 1826. There are 143 people buried at Eklund, including five with the Eklund surname.
The first burial here, of one-month-old Annie B.O. Sam, occurred after her February 28, 1884, death, according to the Dalby Database (a remarkable online collection of cemetery and other historical info compiled by Faribault residents John and Jan Dalby). A few months later, the 17-month-old daughter (listed only as “baby”) of Christ and Julie Davidson was buried here.
Such long ago dates impress me.
But I was unimpressed by the condition of the cemetery where dandelions and creeping Charlie and other weeds flourish in the too tall grass. Perhaps frequent rains have kept the caretaker away.
No matter, it was not the unkempt lawn that bothered me as much as the sunken graves, the marked depressions in the earth that show the precise spots of burials. When my husband remarked that vaults were not used back in the day, my concern increased. As foolish as it seems, I worried about suddenly sinking into a grave. And I’ve seldom felt that way before in a cemetery.
I hurried my tour, distracting myself by noticing the abundance of Norwegians names like Hans, Ingeborge, Nels and Erik, middle name Ole.
This cemetery once served Eklund (or Egelund) Evangelical Norwegian Lutheran Church, disbanded in 1957. That steepleless church building now sits off Minnesota State Highway 60 on Faribault’s east side, according to information written by Helga Sam Thompson. Its current use is that of a chiropractic office.
In one particular spot in the cemetery, I noticed a patch of black earth the size of a grave. Just dirt, unheaped, no grass, with weeds beginning to edge into the soil. No marker marked the spot. Again, that uncomfortable feeling settled upon me. The last burial here, of Bernard C. Sam, happened in 2011. Prior to that, the most recent burial, of 22-year-old Matthew David Caron, occurred in 1997.
Shortly thereafter, Randy plucked an errant plastic flower petal from the ground, fallen from a gravestone cross. I advised him to leave the orchid colored bloom there. He did.
I wanted nothing from this cemetery. Nothing.
FYI: If you are into genealogy and/or history, visit the Dalby Database which includes a remarkable collection of 2.5 million records and increasing daily. Click here to read a summary of what you can find on this website. And then click here to reach the Dalby Database. John and Jan Dalby of Faribault were given the Minnesota Genealogical Society’s Pioneer Explorer Award in 2010.
Special thanks to John Dalby for providing me with links to information about Eklund Cemetery and church and Walcott Township histories.
© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling