Burris-Hartman Burial Place, Champaign Co., IL
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Champaign County Genealogical Society


Burris-Hartman Burial Place

By Mary E. Payne

Champaign County Genealogical Society Quarterly: As published in Volume 4, Issue Page 36

This is the story of a section line, a stubborn and determined man, and a family cemetery. A road also became part of the story.

The section line was a surveyor’s line laid out by Government surveyors about 1827, before Champaign County was established. The line separated Range 14 West of the Second Principal Meridian from Range 11 East of the Third Principal Meridian. We might say that it separates the East from the West in Champaign County land descriptions. It was an important division, especially to those who had property in that area of South Homer Township. As time went on and the area gained more families, there was a demand for a road along that section line. However, there was one who did not want the road, and who spoke out vehemently against it.

The man was Isaac Burris, who bought two parcels of Government land in Vermilion County, Illinois, on June 28, 1830. His land became part of the newly formed Champaign County in 1833, and was no longer part of Vermilion County. Later he purchased other Government lands in Champaign County, and at the time of his death, he was paying taxes on six different parcels of land in Champaign County.

The burial spot is part of one original piece of 65.56 acres which Isaac Burris purchased from the Government for $1.25 an acre, and a total price of $81.65 for that particular piece. The burial place is located in Ogden Township, the Southwest quarter of the Northwest quarter of Section 30, Township 19 North, Range 14 West of the Second Principal Meridian. Until 1873, that location was in South Homer Township, a political division, not a surveyor’s division. As progress and growth made a further political division necessary, Ogden Township was formed from the North part of South Homer Township.

In Judge Cunningham’s History of Champaign County, it is mentioned that Isaac Burris was a blacksmith, and he performed his services for his neighbors in the area for some years. He was selected as a Grand Juror by the Commissioner’s Court of Champaign County during the September term, 1846, to serve during the next term, 1847. He was also selected as the road Commissioner for his area during 1847 and again in 1848. His death in 1849 cut short any further public service.

Isaac Burris was nearly 47 years of age when he died. He apparently did not linger long as there were no Doctor bills in his Estate file in Champaign County. Isaac died intestate, but there is an estate file. In the file is a casket bill for $12.00 and also a bill for a “sett” of grave stones. The Widow, Mary Burris, ordered the stones, asking for a white marble head stone with an open Bible engraved above the inscription, “Isaac P. Burris, Died Feby 26th 1849 - aged 46 yrs. 10 mos, 3 days.” The length of the head stone was to be 5 feet, 9 inches in length, and the price was $44.00 for the “sett”, which included the head stone, and probably a foot stone for Isaac’s grave.

The poor condition of the wall worries the Ogden Township officials, who think that it could block the road if it collapses, and prevent the care of the road. The wall should be rebuilt to protect this pioneer burial spot from further deterioration. If possible, it would be interesting to have the stones uncovered so that the record of those pioneers buried there might be revealed through their tombstones.

According to Frank Morris of Urbana, who at one time was interested in having the cemetery become an Eagle Scout Project for the St. Joseph Eagle Scouts, there could be some 20 or more graves there. According to rumor, there could be some 13 to 17 stones. Probably many of the stones would be unreadable, but unless they are uncovered, this will be unknown. This site is historic, and should be preserved as a pioneer cemetery.

Godfrey Sperling, surveyor of Champaign County for many years, wrote a short description and history of each Champaign County Cemetery, and made plats of them. Sperling gives as his source for this story, Judge Cunningham’s History of Champaign County. Cunningham says that before his death, Isaac Burris had objected to having a road laid out on the section line bordering the West side of his cemetery. This implies that other burials had been made before Isaac Burris was buried in his plot. Cunningham says further that on his deathbed, Burris requested and urged that he be buried immediately alongside the section line, believing that his burial would deter the road being built. The road was laid out later, being moved just enough to miss the grave. When I was a child, the stories that I heard ascribed that determination to Thompson Hartman, Isaac Burris s son-in-law. Thompson Hartman had married Ellen or Eleanor Burris on December 9, 1847. They were married by William Elliott, J.P. who was the administrator of the Burris estate. However great the determination of the two men, the road was laid out later, just missing the grave of Isaac Burris, although the edge of the cemetery was in the roadway. The plat of the Burris or Hartman Cemetery shows 16 lots, each 5”x 10”, and indicates that a brick wall surrounds the plot. The plat also shows the placement of the burial spot in relation to the road, about two-thirds in the roadway, and one-third in the field. The Ogden Township Supervisor, Harold McCoy, says that the edge of the plot is right where the ditch to drain the roadway should be. Isaac Burris did make his point, and his mark is on the land.

There have been rumors that some terrible disease took a whole family, and that they are all buried on the Hartman plot, which might be true. Cholera did come to Illinois, and might have been the dread disease. The area was dreadfully wet, and malaria was also prevalent. It was a rather unhealthy place, and so was not among the first to be settled. It has also been said that some burials were made at night, implying secrecy, mysterious death, or even foul play. If Isaac Burris was buried as he asked to be, to prevent the road being laid out, his burial might have been rather a secret one. There has been a reluctance to disturb the gravesites, perhaps through fear of the awful germs, or dread of moving any gravesite.

Unusual facts concerning the cemetery are these: Thompson Hartman, who heired the land containing the gravesites because of his marriage to Eleanor Burris, had a son George Hartman. Thompson Hartman did not die until 1900, and George Hartman became responsible for caring for the burial plot. About 1925,1926, or 1927, George had a brick wall built from four to six feet high all around the plot which measures about 22 by 44 feet. Not content with this, he covered the stones with about two feet of earth. Many stones were leaning or down, and downed tomb stones were placed against the wall.

As long as George Hartman was able, he cared for the grave sites, but when he grew older, he tried to make sure that the plot was undisturbed. Covering the stones made it easier for him to care for mowing of the site. However, it covered the stones, and thus the record of those who are buried there.

At the present time, (July, 1982), the wall next to the road is bulging, with loose bricks and lost mortar. About a year ago, no grave stones were visible because of the vegetation, but Ruth Youmans, who lives north of the site and on the West side of the road, says that a white stone had a corner visible along one wall in early spring before the growth became too thick.

The poor condition of the wall worries the Ogden Township officials, who think that it could block the road if it collapses, and prevent the care of the road. The wall should be rebuilt to protect this pioneer burial spot from further deterioration. If possible, it would be interesting to have the stones uncovered so that the record of those pioneers buried there might be revealed through their tombstones.

According to Frank Morris of Urbana, who at one time was interested in having the cemetery become an Eagle Scout Project for the St. Joseph Eagle Scouts, there could be some 20 or more graves there. According to rumor, there could be some 13 to 17 stones. Probably many of the stones would be unreadable, but unless they are uncovered, this will be unknown. This site is historic, and should be preserved as a pioneer cemetery.

For footnotes see Quarterly.

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