Jane Keill’s 2nd trip to Deer Creek Cemetery
In 1907 James Dorward Raitt and his wife Elizabeth returned from Nebraska to Deer Creek, Illinois to set up a gravestone for two of their children, Marion and Henry, who had died there, as well as for Elizabeth’s mother, Brigit Motley. James subsequently wrote a journal of his family history and their trip back east. In 2007, exactly one hundred years after James Dorward Raitt returned, his great granddaughter, Jane Keill, also made an epic trip back to Deer Creek in an effort to locate the graves. Like James, she too wrote up the story of her trip to Deer Creek. More recently, however, Jane felt the urge to return not only to revisit the Raitt grave in Deer Creek cemetery, but also to visit the burial grounds of other family members. The journal of her latest short trip is given below. The numerous photos that she took of the cemeteries, graves and roads she had to take are included in her Picasa Web album.
After several short construction stops going through Pontiac, I find myself sailing along on Rte 116 eastward toward Cullom. Their cemetery is just before reaching town on the north/left side of the road. The first entrance brings you to their Soldier’s Memorial, then to the right around the graves. If you go a little further up the hill, you enter into the Catholic side of the cemetery. It is separated from the Protestant side by a series of wood poles stuck in a row between them.
Since I have been here before, I am able to find the row of Taylor/Poshard graves on the north side of the cemetery. I try to take pictures of the backs of the stones that have children and grandchildren names on them. Mike will probably be familiar with some of them, or maybe they will help him fill in the blanks on his family tree. I leave flowers on the graves, then head back to Pontiac.
Once back in Pontiac, I pick up a sandwich at my favorite Subway Shop, getting a roast beef which won’t drip all over me as I drive back to Chicago. It’s now coming up on 3:00 and I don’t want to hit Chicago traffic in the middle of Saturday night traffic rush hour. I eat while I’m still on I-55 to Joliet, then run into a stretch of traffic back-up which is due to construction. Once at Joliet, I turn north onto I-355 again, but am now in four lanes of traffic moving along between 75-80 miles an hour (what 65 mph speed limit?). There’s distance between all the cars and trucks, however, so everyone is sailing along steadily. I have to pull over for the two toll gates since I don’t have a transponder on my car, but I pick up the speed quickly again. Since I’m swinging west of the City, I don’t hit the really thick traffic at all, and in two hours, I’m pulling off onto Euclid/Lake Ave, and reversing the start of my trip yesterday. In another hour, I’m home and unpacking my car with some new pictures and maps to add to the family collection and more than I knew yesterday. I can see now there is more Raitt gold to be mined downstate, so I must return to fill in more blanks!
After my visit to the Pike Cemetery and around 11:00, I returned via Rte 24 to Chenoa again, drove east out of that cemetery and crossed a small creek bridge just beyond the cemetery. There is a road there which seems to be unmarked and is small and closed in by tall cornstalks. You almost miss it in the summertime! I turned north onto it and in a mile or so, came across the Calvary Catholic Cemetery on the northeast corner of the road. Up another mile and there’s a T-bone intersection with a stop sign (950N/1300E, Livingston County). Looking to the right (east), you can see a one-lane bridge crossing over the creek, with lots of trees. Looking beyond that, you can just see a cemetery, unmarked. I'm going to visit the graves of Mike Thomas’ relatives who are descendants of the John Dorward and Cecelia Crabb Raitts (James’ brother). The closest to Mike are Barnwell Alexander and Elizabeth (Raitt) Taylor and their daughter, Elizabeth Mae, who is buried with her parents, but in an unmarked grave.
Crossing the bridge, I remember that the Taylor stones are in the lower ½ of the cemetery as it slopes down toward the creek. There are other Taylors buried there, some with the name of Asper by marriage, so I take pictures of the many Asper graves that are nearby. Also, for some reason I think Ehrhardt is also a family-related name, so I take pictures of some of those, too. I’m not sure about these, but Mike can tell me if any of them belong to his side of the family. Also, for want of time, I did not walk the whole cemetery. There may be more Aspers and Ehrhardts in the upper section of the cemetery.
From the Payne Cemetery, I find a crossroad that brings me back just north of Chenoa. I then turned north on Old Route 66 (which runs parallel to I-55 and drove up to Pontiac.
It’s noon and I’m getting a little hungry, but since I have one more cemetery to visit on Mike Thomas’ side of the family, I decide to head for Cullom, IL, which is 20 miles east of Pontiac on Rte 116.
Pike Township Cemetery
After a nice discussion, I say good-bye with thanks to Carol and head east of Rte 24 to find Gridley, which is where the turnoff to the Pike Township Cemetery is supposed to be. But it isn’t. I turn back to Gridley after driving around for a while. I fill up the gas tank, then stop in the station to double-check my directions. The ladies behind the counter say the turn-off is further east after the little town of Meadows, but they weren’t sure of which road it is. I head off again, and when I get to Meadows (about 4 miles from Gridley on Rte. 24), I turn north again. I am still in McLean County and think this is what is confusing me. Carol’s directions are for Livingston County, which is north of McLean. I reach the Livingston County line and find myself on 700E Road. At least, I know I’m in the neighborhood! Then, I turn east and find a farmer pumping water out of a ditch and ask for the Pike Township Cemetery. He points due south and says, “It’s down the road about a mile.” Couldn’t have found my way better with a compass and GPS! The farmer wasn’t familiar with the Archie Crabb farmland, but has family buried in the cemetery, so he was sure where it is.
I drive south, now on 800E Road, which is exactly where I wanted to be! Down the road a mile, I see the cemetery trees on the left/east side of the road and have soon parked my car on the side. You can see the Crabb headstones as you drive up as they face the road. I walk over to the stone and see son, Robert’s stone, next to his parents. And, just beyond that and to the right, I see the stone for Agnes Crabb Rollins, their daughter. (She apparently died young and her husband remarried and is buried elsewhere.) Since this is a small cemetery, I do a fast walkthrough and see many stones for the Nicol family, including one for Jim Nicol and his wife. This name is mentioned in GGrandpa Raitt’s 1907 trip journal.
During my walkthrough, I notice two headstones which have been braced by white acrylic/plastic half-tubes to hold up broken stones. Also, there is another stone for Anna Bauersfeld which looks like it might have been made by the same stonemason who made the Raitt stone in Deer Creek. It was made by the John Merkle & Sons in Adams Street in Peoria. The two stones are very much alike.
Deer Creek Presbyterian Cemetery
(Second visit, Saturday, 7/13/2013)
I return to the Deer Creek Cemetery this morning before I go on to Washington to meet Carol. I place some flowers on the Raitt grave stone and clear away a little dirt and grass around the base. Suddenly, I’m aware of a ewe coming toward me from the shade under the trees. I see her lamb still munching grass there, but she is definitely coming toward me. It crosses my mind that I know rams can butt you, but I don’t know if ewes will! I talk quietly and gently to her and figure as long as I’m not between her and her baby, she won’t really bother me. She walks right up to me, sniffing and huffing a little. I stick my hand out and pet her head a couple of strokes. She snorts at me and I back slowly away from her, still talking. Then, she huffs a couple of more times and turns back toward the shade and her lamb. Got a great pic. Never found out if ewes butt. I leave the cemetery and close the gate securely.
Then, I call Carol to let her know I’m on the way and drive straight north up Dee-Mack Road to Rte 24, take a left and go west a few miles until I reach Washington. Carol’s directions bring me right to the Presbyterian Church and I turn the corner and go into the parking lot at the back. Carol is waiting for me at the door under the overhang and we step inside where it’s much cooler. Carol has several packets of materials and she starts to show me some pictures and papers that I can have. Most of it is about the Dorwards, but there are plenty of allusions to the Arbroath clans that settled in this area back in the 1880s. It was really quite a large group.
She tells me that Archie Crabb and his wife, Mary Ann, are buried in the Pike Township Cemetery which is on 800E Road in Livingston County. His old farm is up the same road north a couple of miles. She gives me their family picture, a road map to get me to the cemetery and a plat of his farmland. On the Pike Township farm plat, I also see the names of J. Richardson, J. Nicol, J. Guthrie, J. Phillips, O. Hepperly, M. Monroe. The names Snethen and Voorhies are also mentioned in the Raitt trip journal. These are all old friends who James and Elizabeth Raitt visited during their return visit to Illinois in 1907. Most of them had farms nearby where the Raitts rented their farmland and must have been neighbors and friends at that time. (See Great-Grandpa Raitt’s trip journal of 1907.) (Also, mentioned are an Archie Taylor and J. Chaffer – possibly name misspelled Shaffer.)
Deer Creek Presbyterian Cemetery
(first visit - Friday, July 12, 2013)
I take off from Morton and am soon pulling into the gate of the Deer Creek Cemetery which is on the southeast corner of the Scott Mickna farm at Dee-Mack and Harding Rds. Rich is waiting for me under the trees as it is pretty hot and I comment on how much nicer the cemetery is since I saw it last. Then, there was hardly any grass and there were sheep turds all over and most of the stones were knocked over. Now, the place is green with grass, and although the sheep still graze on parts of the property, Rich has managed to keep most of them off the cemetery proper. He has tried several times to set some of the stones back on their foundations, but the sheep rub against them and knock them over again.
We walk around the cemetery, noting the various gravestones. Rich has been able to identify some of them. We note the stone for Margaret Dorward, from Arbroath, who was the Great-GrandMother of Rich’s wife, Annette. She and Great-Great-Grandma Bridget Motley and G-Grandma Elizabeth Raitt surely must have known each other. Rich is thinking about putting on white acrylic/plastic tube bracings to set up the broken stones in hopes that will keep the sheep from rubbing against them and knocking them over. (See examples in the section on the Pike Township Cemetery) We also discussed rubbing the stones with water or dirt to see if we can bring out the names and dates on them. Many are made of sandstone and, as I have seen in many cemeteries, face west – right into the weather, which deteriorates them badly! Some stones we can identify; others not. The marble/granite ones (like the Raitt stone) have stood the test of time and look almost new.
We then go on into Deer Creek to Rich’s house to look at the Communion Set from the DC Presbyterian Church (see pictures). Rich has also bought for $2.00 at an estate auction what appears to be a plot of the original DC cemetery with some names written in various places (undated). It seems to be on some kind of heavy parchment paper with a cloth backing and a wooden broken frame at the top (for hanging?) With that purchase, there were also some paper rolls with names listed which might align with who is where in the cemetery. (Rich has written me later that he has studied the plots/lists and thinks they might be quite early in the Church’s history (1850s) and the paper lists may represent the plot owners and the plot map may represent who is actually buried in the plot. It’s going to take some sleuthing to pin this down.) After more discussion, and having a chance to meet Annette herself as she arrived home from work, I head back to the hotel.
Rich has given me the name and phone number of Carol Dorward, who lives in nearby Washington, IL. Carol was married to Donald Dorward who is related to Annette’s Dorward family from Arbroath. Now, I go off on a tangent here because the Dorward’s are another clan who settled in the area, but we’re pretty sure that a Raitt from Arbroath married a Dorward from Arbroath in the distant past, and we are all probably cousins, six or seven times removed! [Note added by David Raitt: John Raitt, born 1805 in Arbroath, the father of John and James Dorward Raitt who went to America, married Elizabeth Dorward, born 1808 in Arbroath. Elizabeth’s father was John Dorward, born about 1760 in Arbroath and all his children (except Elizabeth) died in Arbroath. I need to do more research on John Dorward’s grandchildren and also his parents and siblings to see whether any are related to Carol Dorward’s family.]
I want to meet with Carol as she has been doing the genealogy for the Dorwards for many years, although she is a Dorward by marriage only. Right now, Don’s children are not interested in the family history, but Carol was able to keep some pictures and other information when Don passed away several years ago. She may also have some additional information about Archie Crabb.
At the hotel, I freshen up, then place a call to Carol. She and I have an active conversation for ½ an hour, and she says she has to look up her files since she hasn’t dealt with them in a long time. I have to go to dinner since I haven’t eaten since before noon. I head over to the Cracker Barrel and have a lovely grilled trout with veggies and some of their delicious corn bread. Then, back to the hotel where there is a message, then a phone call from Carol. She tells me that Archie Crabb and his wife, Mary Ann, are buried in the Pike Township Cemetery, just south of his old farm. Her directions to the cemetery are a little tentative since she hasn’t been there since she and Don were there several years ago. If I go to Gridley, then north and look for 800E County Road, I should be able to find it.
Carol offered to come down to the hotel since Washington is only 8 miles or so from Morton. She has a 40-page list of Dorward generations which may be of help to me. I had also given Rich and Annette a 40-page list that I took from David Raitt’s files and I’m wondering if it’s the same list! Instead of Carol coming down to Morton, we agree to meet at the Presbyterian Church in Washington in the morning where she’ll be practicing the organ for church services. I make some notes, grab a shower and go to bed. It’s already been a very active day!
DAY TWO, Saturday, 7/13/2013
I get up about 7:00 am, dress and go down to breakfast, which is included in the room price. They have a nice spread with scrambled eggs, sausages, breads, cereals, yogurt and various juices, tea and coffee. Holiday Inn is also noted for their cinnamon rolls, so of course, I must have one of those. There are lots of people in the breakfast room, so I carry my food to my room to eat in privacy.
After finishing up, I double-check my bag and belongings, then check out at the desk about 9:00 am. It’s a nice hotel and I’ll stay there again the next time I’m down that way.
(first visit on Friday, 7/12, second visit on Saturday, 7/13/2013)
(A bit of background: John Raitt – James Dorward Raitt’s brother – was married to Cecelia Crabb. They came to America before James and Elizabeth Raitt and settled in downstate Illinois to farm. James and Elizabeth also settled in downstate Illinois and farmed, then moved on to Nebraska. When James and Elizabeth returned to Illinois in 1907 after 25 years in Nebraska to put up the headstone at the graves in Deer Creek, they spent part of their trip with the Archie Crabb family (described in James’ journal.)
I had thought that GGrandpa James Raitt’s old friend, Archie Crabb, was buried in Chenoa, so I stopped for lunch first, then drove east through town on Rte 24. Shortly after, the Chenoa Cemetery appears on the north and I drove through it slowly to see if I could spot any Crabb gravestones. It’s a fairly large cemetery, but I didn’t see anything until I drove to the southeast corner where I spotted the gravestone for Henry and Martha Crabb. I don’t know who they are, but I take pictures and note their location. I also visit the very nicely done Soldier’s Memorial with its brick memory stones for its veterans.
I come back to Chenoa Cemetery Saturday, because I have found out that Archie Crabb is buried in Pike Township Cemetery, but the headstone I had found on Friday in Chenoa belonged to his son, John Henry and his wife, Martha. Their son, Curtiss, age 22, is buried just behind them and to the left with a smaller marker. I don’t know the details of his death. (See the Crabb family picture under Pike Township Cemetery.) The next time I visit, I will check with the Chenoa Cemetery Board as I believe there may be more of the Archie Crabb family buried there.
Then, I continue toward Deer Creek as I need to get to the hotel and contact Rich Brehmer. He has a very busy weekend already scheduled and I am to call him between 2-4:00 to get together. I arrive at the Holiday Inn Express just off Rte 74 in Morton, IL, (which I think replaced the Comfort Inn where I stayed last time) and get settled into my room. I call Rich and we make arrangements to meet in the next 15-20 minutes at the Deer Creek Cemetery. I stop at the front desk, and the clerks there give me a map print-out and very good directions to Harding Rd, which will connect nicely with Dee-Mack Rd just outside of Deer Creek at the cemetery.
A Visit to Deer Creek, Illinois
Friday, 12 July - Saturday, 13 July 2013
Since I had not been down to Deer Creek, IL since 2007 to visit the Raitt family gravestone at the Presbyterian Cemetery, I felt I needed to make another trip. I have also been in touch with Rich Brehmer, who lives in Deer Creek, - the county assessor and surveyor, who has been actively involved in the unmarked and inactive DC Presbyterian Cemetery for several years. He not only has mowed the grass and done some maintenance on the grounds, but has actively pursued ownership of the cemetery property so it cannot be plowed under or otherwise destroyed or sold off.
DAY ONE, Friday, 7/12/2013
I leave at 9:00 am Friday morning, and instead of taking the I-294 tollway, I drove west of Lake/Euclid Ave, almost 17 miles through Arlington Heights, to I-53 South, which turns into the new I-355 tollway. From I-355, I turn off onto I-55 South towards Joliet and Springfield. An hour and ½ drive, and a rest stop shortly after Joliet, I continue to Chenoa, IL, where I make my first stop at the Chenoa Cemetery, just east of town on Rte 24.
(I pause here to describe this journal as there is much, much more in it than some of the people who read it will find interesting. It is for me the report of my trip and I have included many specifics so I can retrace my steps on my next visit. Because of the multiple locations, I’ve divided the report into the five various cemeteries that I visited, and those whose interest is in one cemetery, can skip or omit the other ones. I also used the journal written by Great-Grandpa James Dorward Raitt, in 1907 as a guideline and confirmation point for including various cemetery and road pictures. I’ve divided each cemetery with a preface page so you can scan through the pictures (sent via Picasa album) and find the cemetery and information of most interest to you.)