Liberty Cemetery in Salem, Wisconsin

Salem Wisconsin

Mike has been helping me keep an eye out for photo opportunities locally. He knows I must feed the blog pictures and subject matter daily Monday through Friday. One thing he cut out of the paper and pinned to the fridge was a series of history walks in Salem, Wisconsin. Perfect for me!

The only problem was it started at 5pm each day and Mike gets off work at 5pm. These feed the blog things are stuff we do together. With effort on his part we made it to the final one – the history walk in Liberty Cemetery.

Salem is a small town just west of Kenosha City (where I live) but still in Kenosha county. It’s getting out in farm land territory back in the days when Kenosha was founded and much of it is still villages and farms to this day.

We had missed the previous three nights history walks. So we didn’t know the full stories of some of the people the tour guide pointed out. Also we aren’t from the area so names of prominent families meant nothing to us. Nor did her explaining that Mr. So and Sos farm from the early 1900s took was is now the Jones, Smith, and Brown farms today. Still we did learn a few things and I’ll share those with you.

Liberty Cemetery Salem, WI

Mike and I knew that Kenosha was originally called Southport. It was founded by a group from Utica New York who decided they needed a port on Lake Michigan. That’s all we knew. We’d pondered why a group in Utica thought they needed to send families here to make a port. We’d lived in Ballston Spa and I’d worked in Schenectady New York. So we knew where Utica was and that it didn’t even have a port on Ontario the closest Great Lake. What possessed them to think they needed to start one all the way over here on Lake Michigan?

Capt Tuttle’s story held our answer. It appears in the mid 1800s in Utica they still followed the tradition of the first son inherits the full farm. The second and later sons were just out of luck. So Utica wanted to offer an outlet to these non-inheriting sons and their families. This was the beginning of the lumber boom here in Wisconsin. The thought was to form a company to send these families west to settled there and send first wood then later produce to fuel the growth in the eastern seaboard. Forward thinking really, as the small New England farms were going and the big cities of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia were booming.

Liberty Cemetery Salem, WI

Utica formed a company for this venture along the lines of the West Indies Company that helped expand into the Carribean but this was to expand to the western shore of Lake Michigan. That’s where Capt. Tuttle comes in, he was hired as part of this company. He owned a large sailing vessel and was the mode of transportation from an Lake Ontario port to the new Southport on the west side of Lake Michigan. Passengers purchased fare to transport them to Southport, put them up there for a few weeks then they were to go west and claim land. Capt Tuttle retired to Kenosha (then Southport) a very wealthy man and knew most of the families in the area as he’d helped them settle there.

Liberty Cemetery Salem, WI

You notice these tree style markers in many cemeteries around here. I always wondered was it a fad at the turn of the century in this area? Did it mark say founders who cleared the land for farming? What was the significance of such a marker. It was for members of the Modern Woodman Fraternal Order. Their footings even were made to look like logs. Sorry these photos are off but night was falling and I had to really adjust to get enough light for the image. Apparently I didn’t hold still enough.

Liberty Cemetery Salem, WI

The Montgomery family claim to fame was a connection to Mary Todd Lincoln. One of the Montgomery women was a private nurse to Mrs. Lincoln for a time. I found that interesting and wish I’d gotten the name of the woman who was the nurse. Maybe next time I’ll catch that.

I found this next marker interesting. See the stone there behind the flamingo. Those flamingo markers were used by the tour guide to mark the graves she was talking about. She stopped to tell us about this stone.

Liberty Cemetery Salem, WI

It’s a natural stone from the Hollister family farm. They were the only family to haul a natural stone from their farm to mark their family plot. Here’s a picture of the other side.

Liberty Cemetery Salem, WI

As you can see it is carved. I know it is simple but I think it is lovely. I actually like it better than some of the fancy ornate markers of other family plots. This one came from their home and is elegant in the simplicity of it.

Liberty Cemetery Salem, WI

I liked this stone. Farmer Brown’s is a large produce farm in the area. Right now it’s their big cabbage and pumpkin season. Once when I was at my parents I noticed the pumpkins for sale in their local store had come from Farmer Brown’s in Kenosha Wisconsin. This marker did something a tombstone rarely does – it made me smile. I thought of happy farmer with happy produce. I thought of Aaron as a baby when I’d read the children’s book Farmer Brown. “The cows are hungry but where is…” and he’d shout at the top of his lungs “FARMER BROWN!” I liked it even though I didn’t know the man or his family. I instantly had warm feelings for them. However, the tour guide did say some Brown family members think it is too cartoony and want it changed to something more respectable. To me what’s more respectable than being remembered with a smile and good thoughts?

That’s our little tour of the small “old” cemetery in Kenosha. I put old in quotation markers because to me this is such a new area. I mean Wisconsin was only made a state in 1848. So the “old” grave here were after that. I was raised in a church that was over 200 years old. I lived in Charleston South Carolina where the OLD homes were built in the late 1600s. My grandfather was born in 1899 so I can name my line back to 1848 from memory! This is a young place still establishing itself. Still I loved learning about the area, seeing the history and hearing the tales of those who lived here before me. Except unlike them I intend to die somewhere warm preferably on a beach with pineapple dink in my hand watching a hunky pool boy.

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