|Franklin History Book - The Franklin Cemetery
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On October 18, 1831, John W. Burch and his wife Peggy, conveyed property rights to John Sappington, Thomas Antrobus, and Seebyrd England, the trustees of the Franklin M. E. Church, to a piece of land 23 rods by 13 rods. A log church first stood on this ground and was afterward moved to a site on Blaine Street. About 1840, a brick church was completed which stood near the south side of the lot. This church was destroyed by a storm in 1860. Prior to 1840, interments were made on the west end of the ridge.
The first burial was that of a child who belonged to some movers who had camped near the road in 1828. Many graves are unmarked and lost. After the destruction of the church and the erection of a new building on the public square, burials were made on the old church lot, but without any system, records or organization. As a result, the care of the cemetery was very much neglected, even though several attempts were made to improve its condition. The situation became so disgraceful, and the need for action so pressing, that a few citizens determined to organize a Cemetery Association to acquire title to the old burying place and purchase and plot adjoining ground.
On August 18, 1908, the Franklin Cemetery Association of Franklin, Illinois was incorporated under the general cemetery act of Illinois. The following men were elected as the first officers and trustees: Lewis Roberts, president; M. B. Keplinger, secretary-treasurer; J. P. Woods, John Votsmier, A. J. Transbarger, and Fred Burch.
The association secured deeds conveying title to the old cemetery and purchased 5,129 additional acres from Alexander Van Winkle, J. M. Hart, and W. J. Wyatt. The entire cemetery was surveyed and plotted by John L. Smetters under the direction of Charles U. Brown, a civil engineer from Jacksonville.
Improvements, beautification and the plotting of additional grounds have been made over the years. A section of the northwest end of the cemetery has just recently been cleared and a large number of lots were made available. The present board of trustees consists of Leroy Sweet, president; Mrs. Nancy Wood, secretary-treasurer; Harvey Smith, Wayne Rolston, William Rees, Sr., and John Roach. The board employs a caretaker for six or seven months out of the year.
An interesting letter, along with an order for a Franklin History, was received recently from Esther M. Atwood of Danville, Illinois. Here is a quote from that letter:
"As a little girl I remember being a guest in the home of ‘Uncle Bill' Covey and ‘Aunt Nancy' in Franklin. Uncle Bill owned one of the two livery barns in town, and had brought a freed slave home with him when he returned from serving in the Civil War. As the poor old African American was the first of his race I had ever seen, I presume I stared at him as he had to be coaxed to come to the table and eat with the family. When going home time came for us, Jim was asked to hitch the horse to the buggy which he did in a most peculiar fashion--the horse was facing the buggy! It turned out that loafers at the barn had made up a purse to buy the old man some "liquid refreshment" which had addled his head somewhat. He was a good, old man and loved by everyone in Franklin."
Jim is remembered by a few of the older residents of the community, and to our knowledge, was the only African American to reside in Franklin.
(Last 3 paragraphs edited for content)