Spending your time on the rural backroads of Illinois will often reveal tiny cemeteries dotting the landscape. Live here long enough, and they become a common feature along the roadsides.
But sometimes they aren’t on the roadside. Very occasionally they are hidden away from view, a forgotten remnant of days and people past. Inlet Cemetery is such a place.
Inlet itself is a place that used to be. A tiny settlement situated on high ground in a wetland, back in the 1800’s it hosted an inn or two for travelers moving back and forth through the protection of the groves, avoiding the relatively inhospitable open prairie. It was ultimately replaced by the slightly larger Lee Center a couple of miles down the road, and which remains a spot on the map. Now there are only a handful of a houses here to suggest that past settlement.
And there is nothing to suggest the cemetery. You have to know that it’s there.
Inlet sits in the middle of a field, in a stand of trees. Even in early spring the leaf cover begins to obscure it. If you already know what you are looking for you can see it from the road on one side, but even that is challenging to suss out:
Don’t see it? I knew where to look, and even then I wasn’t sure if I was actually seeing it, or just convincing myself that I was...
The key is the tiny hint of gravestones seen through the trees:
But even if you know that it’s what you are looking for, what it also shows you, from that angle at least, is that there’s no way to get there. You’ll have to go around to the other side for access.
The path in to the cemetery is more of a suggestion than a walkway. It’s a strip of grass in-between a fence line and a field. It’s passable by foot, and by bike/trike in low gear. And it’s a little less than a quarter-mile long. And there is nothing from this side of the road to suggest that it’s a path to anything . The trees completely obscure the graveyard, and while the path is possibly wide enough for a motor vehicle, there are no visible tire tracks.
As you get back inside, you can see the stones. It’s a similar sensation to the Other Melugin Grove Cemetery, in that it’s a hidden thing, no longer appearing to be in use. But it’s different because, while some of the stones are quite old, others are considerably newer.
Walking through you can see, and the listing at Geneology Trails will confirm, that while many or most of the people interred here were laid to rest in the mid- to late-1800’s or early 1900’s, some are considerably more recent. There are stones marked with passing dates in the 1950’s and 60’s, and the most recent person laid to rest passed in 2001.
This seems impossible, given the appearance and hidden nature of the place, until one realizes that 2001 was 18 years ago...
According to Geneology Trails, William E. Shaw was the first person interred here, that back in 1839. Take Inlet road a couple of miles south from here and it intersects with Shaw Road at a place some of the maps still call Shaws. Like Inlet, Shaws is a place that used to be, though perhaps a bit more substantial. But the ephemeral reality of its existence does not keep one from realizing how most of these places got their names.
Given the range in age, the stones vary considerably. Many are old and in poor repair (though it’s clear that people have tried):
You have a family plot - DeWolf - bounded by a cement fence:
And - as is often the case, some of the stones have reached the stage where they are approaching impossible to read...
...Or where there is virtually nothing of them left.
And, as happens sometimes, I find a stone type that I’ve never seen before. This particular marker appears to be suggesting a Greek column.
Josiah Rogers is the only person with that particular surname that appears to be here. It makes one wonder what brought him out this way, and then what caused his demise, to be buried here, apparently alone...
There are a couple of other solitary souls but, as is expected, most of the folks here have family within. For better or worse, from a family tree hunting perspective, none of them appear to be mine.
My people settled east and south of here. The distances aren’t great by modern standards - in most cases less than 10 miles, as the crow flies. But in the 1800’s that distance was enough, it seems, to discourage intermingling. And it’s worth considering that those Victorian Era folk in the Midwest didn’t - couldn't - travel as the crow flies. Between the unforgiving nature of the open prairie, and the untamed wetlands dotting the groves, those ten miles likely represented a journey of significant time and effort for a person also worried about eking out an evening’s meal.
I headed out from there to resume my ride through the spring countryside. Inlet is a lovely place to visit and, unlike the Other Melugin Grove Cemetery, and despite its remote placement, it appears on the maps. But I appreciate that remote placement, because though time will likely eventually take it, that placement means that a person really has to want to see it to venture in. And those are often some of the best places.