I could tell you about a pile of Perl code I wrote Friday but it’s more of the same old DBI stuff. Not very exciting at all. How about a more interesting story instead?
Susan and I spent the day yesterday on a genealogical photo expedition to several cemeteries. They weren’t particularly remote but three of them proved challenging for one reason or another. The first challenge was a cemetery not marked on any maps and not present in the USGS database. But it was referenced in various old documents as being an IOOF cemetery in the vicinity of a small town called Princeton. Upon arriving in Princeton, we stopped at a couple of small grocery stores and eventually found someone who knew the location of a nearby cemetery. As it turned out the name was simply “Princeton Cemetery” but there was no indication of it being an IOOF cemetery. We did find the headstones we needed as well as few unexpected ones.
The second challenge was the tiny Wilson Cemetery, which the the USGS placed along a farm road in northern Collin county. We drove around criss-crossing farm roads too small to be on our maps for quite awhile without finding anything. We were about to give up at one point but decided instead to retrace our steps back to the last intersection large enough to be on the maps and try one more time. This time we noticed a tiny dirt road fork off between some trees about where the USGS map showed the cemetery. We took the road and discovered it had been cut right through the cemetery. What remained were two small cemetery fragments – one on either side of the road. Problem was, that each fragment was fenced in and the fenced areas were themselves inside of larger areas fenced with barbed wire. One side was overgrown with thorny vines and riddled with mostly harmless orb spiders and nastier funnel web spiders. I do not like spiders. I managed to squeeze through the barbed wire and into the inner fenced area on the other side unharmed. Unfortunately the headstones we sought were either not on this side or were destroyed when the road was put through. We shot what photos we could to document the location itself and moved on to our last challenge.
The last cemetery, White Rock Garden of Memories, was one we thought should be easy as the maps indicated it was not only here in Dallas but just a few blocks from my office. But when tried to follow the road indicated on the map we found it terminated at the security gate of an apartment complex. The map indicated another road that should lead to the cemetery but it terminated in a dead end quite a distance from the correct location. We parked our car near the dead end, loaded our camera gear and started out past the end of the road on foot. Just past the end of the road, a gravel trail started and we crossed over a couple of creek beds into a large, undeveloped area. It was really odd finding such a large area of what looked like wilderness right in the middle of North Dallas. We followed the trail until it terminated behind the same apartment complex that had blocked our path on the first road. Based on the map, the cemetery must be inside the land used by the complex!
Since the back of the complex was bounded by a creek, the builders had apparently decided not to continue the security fence around that side of the complex, thus allowing us a way in. We begin wandering through the complex until we noticed a very large stone wall with an iron fence projecting from the top of it. In a few places the ground level rose high enough to see past the stone wall and through the iron fence. It enclosed a rectangular area bounded by an old asphalt road. On the other side of the road was a large wooden fence, and through gaps in the wooden fence we saw a high, chain-link fence and, beyond that, headstones. The first problem was the stone and iron fence on our side. It was too big to go over and had no openings or gates. It did terminate on one side into the main security gate of the complex, so we decided to hike back to the car and make a second attempt by that route.
When we got the car back to the security gate we parked to one side, contemplating the risks of trying to tailgate a resident through before the gate closed. About this time, I noticed an alley that connected to the street and looked very much like the asphalt road that separated the fences we had seen earlier. We followed and hit pay dirt almost immediately. We were now between the stone / iron fence and the cemetery. Following the road all the way around, we found the wooden fence did have a large iron gate bounded by two brick columns. The gate was locked with chains and several padlocks, some of which were rusted and looked many years old. Somehow we’d have to scale a 10 foot wooden fence, a 2 foot boundary, and then an 8 foot chain-link fence.
We found a missing plank in the wooden fence near the main gate that exposed the horizontal support beams behind – these turned out to work as hand and foot holds allowing me to climb the wooden fence. From the top I was able to swing over to one of the brick columns and from there onto the top of the chain link fence and down into the cemetery. Susan passed the camera gear through the iron gate. The cemetery had suffered a high vandalism rate with perhaps a third of the stones broken or destroyed by vandals (which is probably why it was made so inaccessible). but I was able to locate both our headstones fairly quickly and both were intact. I shot the photos, passed the camera back to Susan and then started looking for a way out. This proved more difficult than expected as the high chain link fence was not as easy to climb as I expected – but I did eventually make it back up and down the other side with no major injuries.