Bishop Hill Cemetery gets much-needed lift, thanks to OSA

Mary Davidsaver
Wayne Johnson and Cheryl Dowell stand near a grave marker that had been nearly completely buried but was recently unearthed and salvaged in Bishop Hill Cemetery.

Sixty-three markers in the Bishop Hill Cemetery received some much needed care and attention July 9.

The crew from Lacky & Sons Monument Company, Galesburg, got an early morning start. Their goal was to work with a budget of $2,300 and see how much they could accomplish.

Some markers needed to be straightened and leveled, while others needed repairs with special glue. Still others needed much more help.

“People don’t realize that some were underground,” said Cheryl Dowell of the Bishop Hill Old Settlers’ Association.

For one stone, only four square inches remained to show that something was there.

“If you lose an inscription, you lose the people,” Dowell noted.

Some markers are marble, but the oldest ones are limestone, which according to Dowell “tries to get back to the earth really fast.”

Dowell is a member of a committee formed by the Bishop Hill Old Settler’s Association. Other members are Lewis Nelson, John Anderson and Bob Anderson (no relation.) The committee’s purpose was to find a use for the interest from a much older fund that had recently passed to the association.

“The money was meant to be of use to the community and what better way than to help the village take care of the cemetery?” Dowell explained.

The funds she was referring to came from the Voluntary Donative Society of Bishop Hill, founded on Feb. 5, 1889.

This society formed as a way to “bestow a permanent blessing upon the poor and destitute of both current and future generations . . . more lasting than occasional gifts.”

The Bishop Hill colonists wanted this to be a permanent fund “for the purpose of relieving the poor and distressed and to promote Christian charity and human sympathy.”

“It was a grand idea,” attested Dowell of the Donative Society.

And ahead of its time ? President Roosevelt didn’t sign the Social Security Act until 1935.

Anyone who’s been to the Bishop Hill Cemetery can see that there’s more work to be done. Bishop Hill Village board member Wayne Johnson spends a lot of his free time there. He was happy to assist the Old Settler’s committee with the recent improvements.

The Old Settlers’ Association will assess the success of this initial first step and consider how best to use their funds for future projects.