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By Dellaray Hileman
The Grafton Visitor Center was busy on Sunday, April 10, with locals looking to learn more about the history of Grafton’s cemetery.
The Grafton Historical Society swiftly discussed the agenda for their regular meeting and to follow Margret Ann Voke presented her studies on the history of Grafton’s cemetery.
Voke started by identifying the cemetery’s background.
“James Mason, founder of Grafton, owned the first cemetery where Grafton Hills is today,” Voke said.
Voke went on to inform the crowd that cholera, smallpox and malaria were rampant in Grafton during that time. She explained, “I had no idea we had malaria here and that the old timers simply called it ‘summer complaint.’”
She read out of a book that in 1849 Grafton is believed to have had a “pest house, of which the location cannot be verified.” Voke explained that this house was a log cabin that, at the time, was used to house people who were believed to have diseases.
Voke emphasized the sale of the cemetery in 1872 when it was sold from Mason to a farmer. Then, in later years, the cemetery was sold to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
In the book, The History of Jersey County 1885, Oscar B. Hamilton wrote, “The burial ground is nicely located on the bluffs north of the Mississippi River and is quite well improved.”
The next publication regarding the cemetery was found in a 1937 Jersey County Newspaper advertisement that read, “The Legion Post takes over The Odd Fellow cemetery, one of the oldest in Jersey County. Desirable lots and beautiful tracts now available.”
Nine years later, in 1945, The Legion sold the Cemetery to Quarry Township and that is when it became known as Scenic Hills Cemetery.
“Some interesting facts are that there are 56 Civil War Veterans and two Confederate Veterans buried in Scenic Hills Cemetery,” Voke explained.
In 1994, the changes to Grafton Hills unearthed two graves, and by the end of it 252 graves were unearthed. Voke continued, “All of the remains were documented and boxed, they were then taken to the Illinois State Museum in Springfield where they still remain today in storage.”
Voke touched on some facts about early Graftonians, as they were called, and she also shared information about the cemetery in its current state.
The Grafton Historical Society captured all of the information in a video and it is available for viewing at the Grafton Visitor Center.