Anyone who frequently travels on U.S. 50 between Brownstown and Seymour Indiana has probably noticed the hilltop cemetery along the south side of the highway at the top of what is known locally as Crane Hill.
This nearly half-acre cemetery is in Brownstown Township approximately two miles northeast of the city of Brownstown on the south side of U.S. 50 and at the terminus of North County Road 250E.
The property is shown on the Brownstown USGS 7.5 min. quadrangle map as the Durland Cemetery; however, this property may also be referred to as either the Crane Hill Cemetery or Douglas Cemetery.
Some of the family surnames with multiple burial plots in the Durland Cemetery include: Blodgett, Borcherding, Brocker, Claybaker, Clayton, Crabb, Dixon, Douglas, Durland, Findley, Frank, Frische, Goodall, Holeman, Hunsucker, Hunt, Kasting, Miller, Murphy, Myers, Peters, Sheppard, Sitterding, Smith, Sutton, Turner, Whedon and Whitson. There are numerous other individual graves on this site as well.
This early-mid 19th century graveyard was established by the Durland family at the summit of a somewhat steep hillside ultimately extending down slope to the southwest. According to available online resources well more than a 100 interments have been reported at the Durland Cemetery, although, it is presently difficult to discern the actual number of burials as the property has fallen into an unfortunate state of ruin and disrepair.
There are perhaps as many vandalized, broken and disarticulated monuments as may yet be found standing and numerous stones that have fallen are covered or partially grown over with vegetation.
Many of the upright grave markers are lichen-covered and unreadable. A number of these deteriorating stones are leaning and are likely to topple and break if left untended. The larger leaning stones may be dangerous to visitors. Many folks probably don’t realize just how heavy the stone monuments are, and this is a hazard that could have liability consequences for property managers.
The Durland cemetery is just one of many less well-known cemetery properties that have suffered the ill-effects of nature, time and neglect.
However, this cemetery is an example that exists in plain sight not only by locals, but by visitors and tourists traveling U.S. 50, one of Indiana’s Historic Pathways.
The Durland Cemetery is somewhat less of an eyesore from the road than it is upon closer onsite inspection. The shocking condition of this property reflects poorly on our state and our local community.
By ignoring the Durland cemetery, Jackson Countians must be perceived as having avoided responsibility to the ancestors and pioneers who came and passed on before us.
What is the best way to deal with damaged cemeteries?
There are a number of qualified professional firms throughout the U.S. who have expertise in dealing with damaged cemetery properties.
It is essential that this type of work be carried out by specialists with the knowledge and hands-on experience to competently deal with the variety of materials used to make Indiana grave markers.
All too often, it is the repairs done by well-meaning individuals that may contribute to the problems, further the damage of delicate stone monuments, and destroy or obscure the provenance of burial locations. There is certainly some evidence of this in the Durland Cemetery.
One such well-established company, Stonehugger Cemetery Restoration Inc.4 is located in neighboring Brown County. Having observed some of the excellent work product that this company has been responsible for around the state, including several successful projects accomplished in Jackson County, this professional restoration firm comes highly recommended.
Conservation and upkeep can be expensive particularly when a cemetery has been neglected to this extent, although, the process doesn’t necessarily have to be accomplished all at once.
The more critical elements of a restoration project could be undertaken initially and followed up over several budget seasons to help offset the total costs.
There may be individuals and local businesses who could help finance the project or perhaps offer in-kind services. Preservation grants are also available for this purpose. In any case, funds should be allocated, and work should begin to save this cemetery before it deteriorates any further and matters become far worse.
The Durland Cemetery is part of Jackson County history and, in my opinion, it is definitely worth saving.
Rich Green is the owner of Historic Archaeological Research in Brownstown.