Fisk Cemetary

Fisk cemetery

One of the more delightful parts of doing geneology research is that it takes me to wonderfully peaceful locations like the other Melugin Grove cemetery and, today, Fisk cemetery.

The countryside here is peppered with these little cemetaries, some of them tiny, some of them large. Typically there are gravestones at an array of ages, some legible and, for the older graveyards, many not. Some time spent online will find that some of these sites (though not all) have at least partial rosters to give you an idea of who is interned there. I recently re-discovered, which is a low cost way to find a considerable amount of information both about where to find ancestors, as well as adding to what you know about them - I've found, for example, a few additional family members a couple of generation back, within the information available on the site.

It also meant that I knew - or at least had a pretty good idea - what I would find by traveling to and exploring Fisk cemetery. Central to that trip today was the grave for my Great-great-great grandfather and grandmother: Smith H. ”Prairie" Johnson and Ziba (Tompkins) Johnson.

Prairie and Ziba Johnson

These two people fall in the same generation as John Foulk, the builder of our house. And as with that generation on the other side of my mother's side of the family (if you can parse that sentence) things start to get sketchy when one tries to go further back. Written records get harder to find, making a record of these grave sites much more important. Thanks to my uncle's family tree research the Johnson side of the family can be tracked further back, but the same is not true for the Foulks and the Comptons, among others. There the work is more involved.

I do know from this that I want to know more about these folks - what occurs that causes a man to get the nickname "Prairie" in the first place? And what is the derivation of the name "Ziba"? Is it short for Elizabeth? Because Ziba is the only version of that name I come across. And she was born in 1809 and died in 1873. It doesn't seem like folks from back then were terribly interested in keeping enduring written records as a part of their priorities while coping with life on the prairie. Wolves, coyotes, panthers, growing enough food to survive - they may have had other things on their minds.

Also present at the Fisk Cemetary is Calvin Johnson and his family.

Calvin and Mary Johnson

Calvin Johnson Family

Calvin and Mary (Williams) Johnson would be, by my estimation, my Great-great Uncle and Aunt, respectively. As is true of many living in the turn of the century they experienced tragedy with respect to building their family. They lost all of their children early - one at 3 months (Jennie), another at three years (Lafayette). The third and first-born, Eugene, lived to 23 years of age. He did better than his siblings, but all three were outlived by their parents.

This is not, of course, an uncommon story for the times. Still, it illustrates the reality - and the pain - of the era.

The folks three generations back - John and Martha Foulk, Smith and Ziba Johnson, John and Nancy Compton - come to Illinois from the East. The Foulks came by way of Pennsylvania, with a stopover in Ohio; the Johnsons came out from Vermont and New York. We can see from the gravestones they were here, but finding more on them has been challenging.