Memorial Day 2008


Drive, oh, about a quarter of a minute up the road from our farm….

And turn into this unmarked drive…..

Shift into 4WD and go up….

And up…..

Till you come to this clearing….. Do you see what it is?

You see now.

It’s a cemetery, in the middle of the woods, on a hill, in a clearing. Did you see that unmarked drive off that godforsaken road? No one would find this cemetery if they didn’t know where it was.

Here is buried my great-grandfather, John Morgan Dye, and his wife Florinda Farnsworth Smith Dye. She liked to sign her name F.F. And wear red dresses because red was John Morgan Dye’s favorite color on F.F.

When I was a little girl, I thought this cemetery was called the Dye cemetery. Only in the past few years did I discover that it is officially known as the Summerfield cemetery. My great-grandfather’s farm was directly across the river, and on this side of the river was the Summerfield farm. The cemetery is on land that was once part of the Summerfield farm, thus the official cemetery name. Of course, my father always called it the Dye cemetery because that was my family’s name.

My grandfather is buried here, too. His romantic/incredible name was Romeo Napoleon. He died of pneumonia when my father was four. My father wore a little blue serge suit to the funeral.

When they laid his body out for the wake, my great-grandfather waited outside on the porch while they took my father in to see his daddy. When he came out, my great-grandfather got down on his knee and said, “I’ll be your daddy now.”

That story always reminds me of the emotion and reality that existed once in these now-abandoned hills around our farm. It was once a bustling community filled with people and all the drama and hardships, happiness and sadness, that is part of life.

Some of the gravestones in this old, mostly forgotten, cemetery are either unmarked or worn to the point of being unmarked.

With me was Lisa Carper Stott, who is working with the Roane County Historical Society to document old cemeteries. I showed her the way to this graveyard and one other on down our road. She showed me how she uses flour to dust worn tombstones to read inscriptions.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. She tried several, then on this tombstone, a name was revealed, but no dates. And even with a name, we have no idea who this person was, who primitively inscribed their name, or when.

The past is ethereal. All around us and nowhere at the same time. The people buried here once raised their faces to this same sky.

And yet time goes on.

In my former suburban life, visiting cemeteries on Memorial Day weekend was an unknown idea. Many if not most suburban dwellers are transplants. Most likely, no one you know or are related to is even buried within 100 miles. But here in rural America, it’s not like that. Memorial Day weekend is all about visiting the cemeteries. And then, yeah, hitting the barbeque. We’ll do that, too.



  1. Kim A. says:

    I *love* old cemeteries! I get lost in thought, wondering about the lives of those who have gone before me. It’s a great way to regain one’s perspective, I think. We forget that our problems — our lives — are transitory, simply one of billions. And that overall, the things we obsess about now, worry about, strive for, all will fade away in time.

    As for today, it’s not a holiday in Canada — last Monday was our holiday. So I am currently at the office, trying to motivate myself to tackle my projects.


  2. Cyndi Lewis says:

    I love that you know so much about your family history. What a treasure! :clap:

  3. Heidi says:

    I find it so hard to grasp that people in the city dont visit a cemetary on this day….. We have a service at ours and then most of the churchs have a lunch of some sort. I always feel sorry for those graves that dont have flowers on them – I know that most people dont have any idea that they may have relatives buried here, but yet why would you not ask where they were? My simple country mind just needs to know these things!!! LOL 🙂 We have a couple of graves that we put flowers on because the fellows were batchelors and had no family left. I have told my boys about Lawrence and Lynman AND that when I am gone they need to put flowers on thier graves. My grandma has walked through the cemetary and shown me who is who and what I will need to do when she is gone. I will have to start a green house of my own to keep up!!! LOL

    Its so sad that there is not enough moneys in the perpetual care funds that the cemetarys have to keep them nice. I think that they should have better % rates on the saveings in the banks to afford those costs, but they dont. SO – have a wonderful Memorial day full of memorys Sue!!

  4. kacey says:

    I love visiting old cemeteries when we go back to where my father was raised and generations of his family lived. So much history. A few of them are just about as hard to find as your cemetery there! “Go out past where that old barn burned down and take a left.”

  5. Ann from Montana says:

    Growing up in the midwest – Northwest Ohio – small farm town – there was a parade that ended at the cemetery and then a service there. In High School, I was in the marching band and always part of that parade. I’ve been back to Ohio on Memorial Day – it is always most meaningful to me to be part of things there.

    Montana is my home by choice and we have a lot of veterans as well as a lot of young men and women now serving, but there is something different about the relative “youth” of the west and maybe the climate – not the abundance of old cemetaries that there are in the east. ??? – I’ve never thought to ask.

    Beautiful post for remembering what this day is for.

  6. Becky says:

    In Pinch, WV, there is a graveyard that’s hard to find. My Dad and I found it when we walked in the woods as we did a lot. I am not related to these people, but I would like to take pics and notes and put it on the internet for possibly someone searching. I am hoping to go back there and do that this summer. I would like to take my son and walk with him along the same footsteps that my Dad took me. My Dad passed in 2006, I think it would be a good memory for my son as it is for me.
    Also, in Bomont, WV I moved into a house and after moving there I found out that my great-great-great-great maternal Grandparents were buried in a small graveyard across the dirt road from me. Very interesting to me and my family.
    I love snooping around old graveyards. If only the trees could talk, they would tell us about the people that cried over the family buried in those cemetaries.

  7. Carolyn says:

    Love your grandad’s name, Romeo Napoleon. Reminds me that my Dad’s middle name is Rudolph Valentino. His mother, a Creek Indian maid, named him. He’s 81 now and his hair is still as black as the day he was born, just getting thinner on top. Our Mom passed last year at the end of May, but he wanted us to keep her ashes to mingle with his when he passes. I think that is just the most romantic thing. We’ll spread their ashes at their most favorite place, Ocean City, MD, when the time comes. Thanks for sharing the story of your family. xxoo

  8. jane says:

    Wow loved your post today. In some places I have lived we have a service at the cemetery that day. my grandparents are buried in an old cemetery in Marshall, Texas, and I own the other 4 plots from them, bought in the 20s. since High School I have gone with others to take pictures at cemetaries. Across from St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas I think, there is a very very old large cemetery. the tombstone are very very large and massive. whole families are buried in one spot in vaults. the art is beautiful and the streets have names. i hope the historical society can preserve your cemetery. there is a movement to do that in the US.

    Thinking of your culinary posts – have you read any of Lou Jane Temple’s books? or the tea shop mysteries by laura childs or susan witting albert, the culinary mystery series by Nancy Fairbanks? they are wonderful and often have authentic recipies in them from different periods. check then out.

    Well this day let us remember our troops past and present and the war in Iraq, Afghanistan and so on. So many of our troops have been killed and so many more have come back unable to work or have a quality of life. Remember to vote this year.

  9. jane says:


    I dont think I have ever heard such a tender story. How wonderful to spread their ashes together. Wish all unions were like that – so few are. COnsider youself lucky and blessed.

  10. Carolyn says:

    Thank you for your kind words. My parents would have been married 57 years in June of last year. I do feel blessed that they were together so long, and will remain together after he has departed from us. xxoo

  11. Maria says:

    What a beautiful post, Suzanne! I LOVE old graveyards. If they are not my history they are certainly someones! The collective voices of history unvoiced (or are they?) is the way I think of it. Raising themselves to the put that so beautifully.
    We have so many wonderful tiny little graveyards tucked way in the woods here in Maine too. My goal is to someday ride around and document them all in photographs. I think evening light is best.
    I LOVE the flour idea…so often I can’t make out inscriptions and doing an etching is sometimes laborious. I’ll have to pack my flour next time we go to the cemetery.

    In a word: Taphophile.

  12. Connie says:

    On this day, I always like to go to all the cemeteries and remember those buried there and the great things about those people when they were here. And the stories of those who came and went before me. I was raised in the military and have great respect for the men and women who serve this country and died for this country and all the people who live here and enjoy the privileges this country has to offer. I remember a story that was told to me not long ago about a native american soldier back in the 60’s who had received the Medal of Valor during the WWII and had died and was to be buried in a cemetery in Nebraska somewhere, (I believe it was his hometown) and the people there didn’t want an indian buried in their cemetery…so the military buried him in Arlington (which was a better place anyway) for a soldier. But the story really bothered me, because those people only have that privilege to do that, because soldiers like him fought for them, to make it possible. There are so many things that need to be done for the veterans and soldiers of this country, that are not done and people take for granted the freedom they have and the price that was and has to be paid to have that privilege today. God Bless All those who have gone before us.

  13. Lucy says:

    And that is where I want to be buried. In some little place mostly unseen by others and away from the world.

  14. Debbie From Iowa says:

    My grandmother always made the past generations come alive.
    She always made it seem as though I had just missed them.
    They had just left the room ! I wanted to know everything about them. I have been doing alot of Genealogy research lately and my daughter thinks cemeteries are like going on a field trip!

  15. Robin G. says:

    There is a hill in southwestern Virginia that contains my great grandparents, my great-great grandparents, my great-great-great grandparents, and my great-great-great-great grandparents. Sometimes I visit it, and feel the pull in my blood of the rural lifestyle — that feeling that my bones recognize these hills.

    Then I go home and remember that the past is not my future.

    Regardless, today I’m going to an all-you-can-eat meatathon and will do my best to explode my arteries. Also I will be making subtly cutting comments to people I hate. Then I will get car insurance. I may follow up with a viewing of the new Indiana Jones movie.

    Speaking of which, I should probably be getting ready for all that.

  16. Laura says:

    I’ve noticed around here, it is the older crowd that still goes to cemetaries to prep for Memorial day. Everyone has been out inforce for the past week, so that everything is done by Memorial day, so that they can watch the parade and enjoy their living family. :heart:

  17. Heidi says:

    Carolyn – Your story brought tears to my eyes. How he must miss her…. That sounds like good book material doesnt it? 🙂

  18. Jean says:

    Thank you for the beautiful reminder. Thank you also for helping to document the names in the old cemeteries. It will mean a lot to someone far in the future.

  19. Jodie says:

    When I was little we visited cemetaries, but not usually on Memorial Day. In Boerne TX, my paternal grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents (the German immigrants) are all buried. Along with many other relatives. One of my Uncles was buried there 2 years ago to be close to his relatives. We always took flowers and I still do when I get down for the family reunion in July. I’m the family genealogist so I sometimes searched the cemetaries for more relatives. I’ve found a great-great-grandfather on my mother’s side in a Gonzales TX cemetary. He helped out in the Texas War for Independence (from Mexico). I took lots of photos on my tour around Texas a few years back. Took my husband to at least 5 cemetaries to visit graves of relatives. It’s good to remember all of them and their lives. Happy Memorial Day!

  20. catslady says:

    Beautiful blog. Cemetaries are going to be a thing of the past I’m thinking. Besides the space, families just aren’t living in the same areas anymore and there’s no one to tend them. As long as you have your memories and keep them in your thoughts they will never be forgotten. Passing these on to the next generation is important. :purr:

  21. Linda says:

    I visited my parent’s graves today. And fortunately ran into my sister who was there at the same time. We talked about our parents and how as time has gone by the things our parents did that aggravated us are slowly fading and we’re remembering more and more the special things about them. And the special memories that we tucked into our brain and seemed to forget, just for this time in our life.

    And we’ll look toward the future, for those things we have yet to accomplish and the lives that we’ll continue to live. Because that is what our parents would want us to do.

  22. Melissa's Cozy Teacup says:

    Not far from my house is a cemetery. I like to go there and read the married people’s markers. On the way home today, I passed it, it was busy. You’re right, no one I know is buried here in my city. They are in Buffalo, NY and Wyoming.

  23. Tori Lennox says:

    What a wonderful post, Suzanne! I love old cemeteries. I love visiting our local country cemeteries, but there’s one in a nearby town I’ve wanted to visit but never have. Now, however, my aunt’s buried there so we have an excuse to visit other than blatant curiosity. One of the reasons I’ve wanted to go there is to see who rates the miniature Washington Monument type tombstone and to visit the crypt of a 1930s-era bank robber who’s entombed there. 🙂

  24. becki says:

    I miss my own Dad on Memorial Day more than any toher. A couple of years ago, our daughter (who was 9)took a picture of his decorated grave. Since our ridiculous txas school district has school today, she takes it in to lecture about the real meaning of Memorial day.

    Is that 52 helping with the basketball court?

  25. robin says:

    My parents,grandparents,great grandparents, cousins, and distant relations are buried under the oaks in a small cemetery in north florida. My mom and her cousin used to say they would meet under the oak half way between their family plots…they were buried a few years apart and we are sure they are getting into trouble….meeting there, laughing, watching under that big old oak. I have taken my daughter and granddaughter there to search the stones for names,families…telling them the family stories as we remember them on this day.

  26. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Yes, that is 52 helping with the basketball court. :heart:

    You all have such lovely stories! Thank you for sharing them.

  27. Brandy says:

    Remembering those who came before us should be done more than it is now. You’ve done a good thing.

  28. Debbie says:

    I love your website for so many reasons, and today’s post about visiting cemetaries is is just one more. I actually do live in the suburbs, and yes, visited two cemetaries today to visit my relatives graves. I am about your age (I think!) and have always loved cemetaries…they have so many story to tell….

    Some of the older cemetaries have a picnic grove. Did you know that at one time it was not uncommon for people to have a picnic near their loved ones final resting place?

  29. rebecca says:

    Cool! I didn’t know the flour trick. I know that sometimes you can get a readable rubbing with a wide crayon and a piece of paper.

    I was going to visit my husband’s Mother’s family cemetary in Gay, WV, but Olivia’s sick and Mike is busy working on my car. I will try to get out there today or later in the week, though, to deliver flowers for his Mum. THe rest of my family is buried about 70 miles from here. I would love to be there with my family when they do their rounds. It’s always been an important tradition for me.

  30. Susan says:

    Lovely blog, Suzanne. And here I thought we were the only ones with hidden cemeteries. Your photos look remarkably like Brookside Cemetery where my great-grandfather, two of his three wifes (no he wasn’t married to them at the same time) and three out of their nine children are at rest.

  31. Johnna says:

    I really love history and that is a great story that you have. Old cemeteries are so fascinating to me. I would love to find out more about the stories of the people there. This is my first visit to your site, thanks for sharing those memories.

  32. Margaret Cline Harmon says:

    :butterfly: I enjoyed your pictures and thoughts very much.


  33. Lisa Carper Stott says:

    Suzanne, I went back a checked one of the books from the RCHS and discovered that the tombstone in the above article was a man named Burt Seabolt. I found lots of other names in that book too. I want to thank you so much for showing us around!

    Lisa Carper Stott

  34. scott says:

    My mother was reminising about days gone by . She thought about a cousin who she called Chub . She couldn’t remember his his name . I decided to do some research and some how ended up on a web sight called Chickens in the road . Amazing ! My mothers aunt is Olive E Elliot wife of Romeo . Anyway yal have a neat web sight here . Thanks the look around !

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