|Ridge Cemetery - Williamsburg Hill, Illinois|
Nearly two years ago, I wrote a blog post about visiting an area in Illinois that was once known as Williamsburg Hill. When the railroad bypassed the town in the late 1880s and the stagecoach line ceased to exist, residents deserted the village out of necessity. The only thing remaining from that era rests on the hill itself: Ridge Cemetery.
After viewing that beautiful and, yes, strange place, I decided I’d found the perfect setting for my next book. Fictional townspeople have come alive in Williamsburg and Ridge Cemetery plays a prominent role in my story. The first draft is finished and is now undergoing rewrites. While I’m happy to share the status of my book, which is titled Williamsburg Hill, I’d also like to share something else.
In March of this year, vandals struck Ridge Cemetery. Three adults and one juvenile from nearby towns were eventually arrested and face felony counts of unlawful vandalism of a gravestone. According to a Go Fund Me Page that was started to cover the cost of repairs to the cemetery, approximately 122 headstones were knocked over and damaged. The news reported destruction was done to some tombstones weighing more than a thousand pounds.
|Only road to Ridge Cemetery|
Fortunately, enough money was raised to reset the stones, the brush was cleared, and the grounds were cleaned. I visited the area again in May of this year for a bit of last minute research, and wasn’t aware of the destruction that had occurred just two months prior. It was only a few weeks ago that I was informed of what had happened. Kudos to the special volunteers who worked diligently in a short amount of time to restore the grounds to a place deserving of respect and honor, not one of contempt.
While the cemetery is isolated and difficult to find if you don’t know the area, it is open for anyone to visit. There have been stories of odd events that supposedly occurred there over the decades, which more than likely attract the strange and curious sorts. For all of the tales that might scare or intrigue about this nineteenth century place, it seems the only thing to fear are those living and breathing folks who wish to do damage.
|Surname used in my book|
Ridge Cemetery and Williamsburg Hill spoke to me of a rich background that didn’t evolve into anything greater, but simply ended. The idea to visit took root as a story to write and I love history. So seeing the cemetery appealed to me, especially because I thought it had something to say. And it does. One doesn’t have to write a book to hear it. It speaks of families, hardships, lives lost suddenly, prosperity, tragedy, long years of existence, illness, stillbirth and disease. It whispers of differences during life, but shouts that in the end everyone ends up in the same place together. It exists as a reminder of those who came before us, and a place all of us will eventually face. We should listen because it has a lot to say.
The volunteers who worked hard to restore it after the recent destruction know this. It’s unfortunate that some with nothing but anger inside of them do not.