St. George Lutheran Church
The Burying Ground
Hegeman, Clarke, Coffman, Niebel, Treon, Warner... these are the names of some of the families first buried in the cemetery now associated with St. George Lutheran Church. In the 1820's, when they first came to the area, these early settlers to Jackson Township, Shelby County, must have set aside the hill by the creek for burying their dead.
St. George's congregation was organized after the cemetery was established. The first church building was south of the burying ground. Not until they decided to build the brick church did the church and cemetery become associated. In 1867, Edward and Magdalena Kern gave the land for the present church and also the land from the original cemetery east to the church lot. Then in 1877, after her husband died, Magdalena Kern gave the land for the "new" cemetery, extending west behind the church to the creek and south to the old cemetery. Newspaper records in the 1870's refer to it as the Lutheran burying ground in Jackson Township, so the connection between church and cemetery had been made. Today, members of the cemetery board are also members of St. George's church, but the cemetery is a separate corporation.
The cemetery treasurer's reports go back to 1898 when Julius Haneman was treasurer and the 20x11 foot lots sold for $11.00. Past treasurers include: Walter Wertz, who took office in 1915, and in the 1930's had the well dug, which still serves both church and cemetery; and Karl Snepp, who took office in 1950, and saw the north land purchased in 1959, the fence repaired in 1984, and the stones repaired and straightened in 1986.
The other officers, and only other members of the cemetery association, are the president and secretary. The members are elected by the existing members. Past presidents include Harold Isley, John Haneman, and Charles Klein. Former secretaries include: Carl Sanders, Harold Kendall, and Harry Compton. Current members of the cemetery board include: Jeff Pruitt - president, Ray Burbrink - secretary, and Mike Steinbarger - treasurer.
The oldest stone in the cemetery today is that of Harriet Hageman, who died July 24,1828 when she was five months old. Her parents, Peter and Clarissa Hageman, buried at least five other children here before they too were laid to rest. The number of infants and children's gravestones reminds us that life was hard. Jacob and Maria Mutz buried four children here between 1849 and 1864. David and Sarah Niebel lost two children, ages 12 and 8 within two days in March, 1880. They had already buried five infant children between 1857 and 1863. Almost every family lost at least one child, and these inscriptions are common: "Please rest babe...", "Suffer the little children to come unto me...", and "Sleep on dear child, take thy rest..."
Spotted fever, typhoid pneumonia, influenza, brain fever, and consumption are common causes of death listed in newspaper accounts and church records, but accidents and suicide were also recorded. Jacob Wertz fell dead at age 64 while carrying goods from the burning house of William Cutzinger in 1876. Sophrina Isley hung herself in their corncrib in 1931. she was 78 and had cancer. Adam Maley was killed by a falling limb while cutting saw logs. It was `878, and at 31 he was "in the prime of manhood", according to the October 24, 1878 Shelbyville Volunteer. Leonard Bueche shot himself on Christmas Day in 1887. He was 18. Tragedy and death came in many forms, then as now.
A common cause of death among women was childbirth. Aurilla McDonald was 25 when she died in 1882. :Maggie Pendleton was 36 in 1886. Her baby daughter, Maggie died 17 days later Malinda O'Donnell was just 17 when she died in 1869. Elizabeth Grimes was 18 when she died in 1860. Prudence Scott was 35 when she died in 1879. Her son Daniel lived five years after his mother died. A daughter, Minnie May, had died at 2 in 1877. The inscription on Prudence's stone says simply, "She is gone to rest".
It was not uncommon for the men buried at St. George's to have several wives. Often the first wife died leaving them with children to rear. It was also hard running a f=arm without a woman to do the milking, baking, sewing, cooking, tending to the chickens, and countless other tasks. David Compton is buried with tow of his wives, Sarah and Mary, and a son Alonzo who was the tenth child of David and Sarah. His third wife, Charlotte, isn't buried at St. George's. David was 92 when he died in 1912. He and Charlotte had been married only eight years at the time. One of the largest stones in the cemetery is that of Daniel Snepp. He is buried with his second wife, Mary Guntle Snepp. His first wife, Mary Rollman Snepp, who was the mother of his six children, died in 1853 and is buried in the original part of the cemetery. John Isley's stone is inscribed with all three of his wives. Sophia, who died in 1871, was the mother of his 16 children. His second wife Sarah died in 1898. His third wife, also named Sarah, died in 1921 and her name, too , is inscribed on the marker; however, she is buried n the newer part of the cemetery with her own stone.
There are no famous people buried in this cemetery, but there are many names familiar to members of St. George's congregation. Founding members George Warner and his wife Mary Magdalena were laid to rest here in 1843 and 1865. Jacob and Catherine Mullendore were buried in 1872 and 1875. Edward and Magdlin Karn were laid to rest in 1876 and 1891. Beverly and Hannah Brooks both died in 1883 at 73 years of age. Jacob Muck was buried here in 1881. His wife Mary Getter Muck is buried in Montgomery County, Ohio. She was visiting her family in the summer of 1879 and died there. Today family members are flown back to St. George's for burial from as far away as California (Don Snepp in 1988), but before refrigeration, that was out of the question.
The only minister of St. George's to be buried here is the Reverend Davold P. Groundt. He was serving as the pastor when he died at age 31 in 1863. His wife, Percilla A., died three years later. She was 32. A son of the congregation, the Reverend C. Raymond Isley, was laid to rest at St. George's in 1966. He was 85 and had never married.
Unlike many Lutheran cemeteries in the Midwest, most of the stones at St. George's are in English. A few are in German (Mohr, Haneman). Some of the stones reflect the pioneer spirit of the people who settled this area and indicate a pattern of migration westward. They refer to earlier homes like York County, Pennsylvania; Montgomery County, Ohio; Oxford, New Hampshire; and Manchester, England.
Every stone has a story to tell. One that seems typical of the kind of community St. George's has been, is that of the Eppens. August Eppens died in July of 1879 at seven months. Adoph Eppens died two months later at 32 years. They are buried under the one stone on the Haneman plot next to the infant son of Theodore Haneman. The inscription on the Eppens stone is our only clue to the death of this young man and his son: "A stranger in a strange land but no stranger to his God".
Another interesting story of the St. George's community erecting a fitting stone for the dead concerns Jacob Klein. For decades no stone marked his grave. When the old Sanghill schoolhouse was torn down, Harold Isley took the signature stone of the builder and placed it on Jacob Klein's grave. It reads simply: "Jacob Klein Builder, 1893". That was the year he built the schoolhouse. The year of his death is forgotten.
Our cemetery continues to be a landmark in the county and a witness to our faith in the resurrection, thanks to the care that the members of the cemetery association and to St. George's congregation have given to the burying ground over the years. In addition, generous gifts of some of the families buried here have enabled the cemetery to remain financially stable. While funerals are not a pleasant task, the funerals at St. George's are known throughout the community for their dignity and solace. The solemn tolling of the bell as it counts out the age of the deceased, the kindness of the members to the bereaved family, and the preaching of the gospel message of the love of Jesus Christ --- these tell of our faith in the resurrection.