Hardwood Township Cemetery; They Asked to be Remembered..., Champaign Co., IL
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Champaign County Genealogical Society

They Asked to be Remembered, but Time has Passed Them by

Champaign County Genealogical Society Quarterly: As published in Volume 8, Issue 1
Reprinted from the Champaign-Urbana Courier, June 24, 1955

Memories of a Christmas Eve tragedy of 70 years ago still stir in an untended, quarter-acre cemetery in a Harwood township corn field. They ripple along your skin as vague impressions, like spreading rings in a gently disturbed pond of time breaking against a rock of here and now.

The cemetery is three miles north of Gifford on a country road. It is in a field once owned by Julia Corbley, Paxton, but she has long since deeded it to Champaign County.

In the long run, it appears, everybody has forgotten it, despite the exhortation on one of the tombstones. "Remember, friends as you pass by, as you are now, so once was I. As I am now, you soon will be, prepare for death and follow me". It's the epitaph of Mary, wife of S. D. Cushing. Mrs. Cushinq died Nov. 19, 1881, and was buried in the plot, which then was part of the Harwood Methodist Church grounds. Her husband died 20 years later, according to evidence in the cemetery.

A squat, square tombstone marks the spot where Eva, daughter of  I. and A.V. Johnson, as buried after she died Dec. 24, 1885, at the age of one month and 14 days. Thick, thorny bushes and weeds overhang the stone and, on bleak days, the wind whistles a little as it passes through, perhaps an echo of the blustery, pneumonia-laden weather of that Christmas Eve long ago.

Daniel and Sarah Billinq Johnson, who in all probability were aunt and uncle to Eva, are buried nearby. Their son, Earl Johnson, now lives near Kalamazoo, Mich .

Those five graves are all that are left that are apparent. There may be others, though, hidden by pranks of nature and humans. It's a little difficult to find the exact position of the Johnsons' graves because the large, granite stone has been pushed off its stand.

Frank Corbley, who farms the land, recalls that several years ago, three girls stopped in a new, sleek car, and climbed the fence to the cemetery. It wasn’t too long before Corbley saw them tugging and pushing at the Johnson tombstone. He and some visitors drove down the road in time to get the license number of the car before it pulled out, and the girls were brought to justice in Urbana. Their reason? It seemed like fun.

The church that once stood by the cemetery has been gone for more than 40 years. It is being used for grain storage on a farm a few miles west of the cemetery. It looks little like a church, and only a second or third look will reveal its original nature. "Remember, friends, as you pass by," is what Mary Cushing wanted. But nobody does.

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