Another milestone for preserving LaGrange County history was made last week as the Cemetery Heritage Sign for Eagley Cemetery in Van Buren Township was installed.
The earliest known burial at Eagley was for Tyler Fleming who died in 1839 (this year was also used as the year the cemetery was established). Fleming arrived in the area of what became Van Buren Township in the year 1833, journeying here with several other hearty souls including Revolutionary War veteran David Cowan, who is also buried in Eagley Cemetery.
This October the LaGrange de Lafayette Chapter DAR will conduct a dedication ceremony for the new sign.
There are still several headstones at Eagley in marvelous condition considering their age, but many are illegible, broken and down, and a large number of graves no longer have markings at all.
Visitors to the cemetery will take note of the line of headstones along the back of the cemetery to the south, against the fence. These stones were moved from other tiny pioneer cemeteries long ago when those cemeteries became victims of “progress.” Only the headstones were moved.
Tracy Gall and her family have a bit of history with Eagley Cemetery. About 1947 Tracy’s grandfather, Roy K. Miller, purchased the farm across the road from the cemetery. Grandpa Miller would “mow” the cemetery with his sheep – a common practice in those days. Tracy’s father, Gerald Miller, became trustee in about 1979 and served for 16 years, followed by her mother Sharon for an additional eight years. During this time Tracy and her three siblings mowed and maintained Eagley as well as several other cemeteries in the township.
The Indiana Historical Bureau (IHB) has a program designed to mark cemeteries that are over 50 years old. The IHB is working with the Department of Historic Preservation and Archaeology to insure that when these important cultural resources are identified with Cemetery Heritage Signage, they are also catalogued in the Cemetery and Burial Ground Registry for protection.
The Cemetery Heritage Signage initiative has three purposes: to reinforce the importance of cemeteries as a resource for the interpretation of Indiana’s history; to bring attention to the existence of Indiana’s remaining cemeteries with a visual reminder of their importance; and to assist the many individuals and groups working to preserve and maintain Indiana’s cemeteries through a heightened awareness of their existence and needs.
In 2013 the Cemetery Heritage Sign project in LaGrange County was undertaken by the LaGrange County Heritage Initiative with Jean Fremion-McKibben as project coordinator. To date, three county cemeteries have been placed on the register and all have signs installed: County Infirmary (Poor Farm) Cemetery in Clay Township, Eagley Cemetery in Van Buren Township, and Pierce-Witmer Cemetery in Johnson Township. Work on all the cemeteries within LaGrange County continues with two more pioneer cemeteries waiting for survey and application approvals: Sugar Grove (Salem) in Eden Township and Eagle in Greenfield Township.