Crew surveys land in Rock County for lost grave sites
Digging into the past to find answers for the future, William Scherwitz and his cousin, James Fiedler, set out to fill out their family tree.
“I’ve always been a believer in ‘How do we know where we are going if we don’t know where we have been?'” Scherwitz said.
Fiedler has been searching for clues that might lead him to lost graves of family members for years.
“It was a lost cemetery and no one really knew who it was that was buried here,” Fiedler said.
“It would do our hearts good to know that there are some members of our family buried here because we probably have their names and their dates, but we don’t know where they are buried. It could very possibly be here,” Scherwitz said.
Fiedler’s great-grandfather owned land in 1902 south of the half-acre field they are now surveying for lost grave sites.
“We are hopeful that at least we will find as many people as we can and from there we actually have to try to track down the family of the people that are actually buried here,” Fiedler said.
Interest in the land off Newville Road in Fulton started two years ago when Fiedler met Anita Langer, who now owns a farm on Fiedler’s family’s former property.
The former 1800s cemetery is now farmland.
“Before the late 1800s and even after that, people buried their family in a family plot so there are hundreds of pioneer family graves around Wisconsin,” said Peter Peregrine, an archeology professor at Lawrence University.
The team of students along with Peregrine use a magnetometer, a device using radar scans to identify any metal from caskets, nails or other remains.
“Our purpose is to identify where interments are so they can be preserved. So the people buried there can rest in peace,” Peregrine said.
Red flags mark where an estimated dozen graves lost underground might be, a number that raises even more questions.
“The big question is ‘Where are the head stones? Were there headstones? Do they exist someplace, what happened to them?’ The big thing is that we could recognize where they are buried and give them a proper place rest,” Scherwitz said.
Saturday, students found at least nine sites. Fiedler hopes that the town will officially name the land as a cemetery again. He’s also asking for help in locating lost headstones to identify the family members.
Anyone with more information about the cemetery, including where headstones might be located, is encouraged to contact James Fiedler at email@example.com.