Axsom Association Newsletter Aug-Dec 1999
When we finally opened the iron pipe gate and walked into the wilderness graveyard, the winter sun had found its way through the clouds to spread the yellow-orange splatters on the headstones and grass. Besides the relief of the warm sun at that moment, Ruth and I also felt relief in the knowledge that the past hour's hike was not in vain. A the start of the trail near the Hickory Ridge fire tower, we had only the knowledge that the billboard sized map of the Charles C Deam Wilderness area showed the location of the Terrill Cemetery at the end of one of the branches of the trail that led into the forest.
/The trail we followed was along the ridges-only once did it descend into a gulch. The trail was easy to follow-however the branches in the trail were only marked as to whether or not horses, bikes or people were allowed. There were no indication of which branch led to the Terrill cemetery. So we followed the widest trail-one that had been spread with crushed stone suitable for auto or truck passage.
The trees on the hills and ridges were mostly bare of leaves-except for the evergreens. The trail would have been darker in the summer when the leaves would block the light-but in December, the trail was bright even with the overcast sky. We were dressed for a winter hike-with warm coats, gloves, hats, and good warm walking shoes. Our pace was such that on level ground we would cover two to three miles per hour. From maps, I had estimated the distance to be about a mile and a half from the Hickory Ridge fire tower to the cemetery-so we expected to walk about 45 minutes or so. Some 40 minutes into the hike we stopped to rest about 5 minutes-took our rest on the trunk of a fallen tree beside the trail.
At the end of an hour's walk, we were openly asking the question: "Will we find the Terrill cemetery?" We decided to walk further. We had enough exercise by that time that some perspiration was now on our brows. The trail widened into what was clearly an old road. The road took an abrupt left turn and led down a slight slope and up to a clearing enclosed by a 5-foot high fence. It was the cemetery! One corner of the clearing was at the crown of a knoll. The clearing sloped down (what I think was) the southwestern side of the knoll. The clearing was roughly rectangular-about 80-100 yards on each side. There were some large oak and maple trees in the lower corner of the fenced in cemetery. The gate was at the top of the knoll and was held closed with a standard garden gate clasp-not padlocked.
There were 15-25 gravestones in good condition near the gate. Near the lower boundary of the cemetery, most of the grave markers had deteriorated to just stone subs sticking up-most were not even rectangular in shape any more. There were no inscriptions visible on at least half of the grave markers.
The largest marker whose text was visible from the gate was inscribed with: Axsom Hezekiah July 13 1872 Sept 16 1939 Mary Alice April 5 1880 april 27 1860. This marked the grave of Hezekiah Thomas Axsom (#50-son of Andrew Jackson Axsom and his second wife, Lorinda Todd) and his wife, Mary Alice Hillenburg. In the next row of graves and very near this marker were stone markers inscribed with Dortha Viola daut. of H&A Axsom Feb 23 1919; Lestia daut. of H&A Axsom MArch 5 1913-Dec 16 1913; Mamie daut. of H&A Axsom Nov 20 1909; Virgal R. son of C&A Axsom Dec 14 1918 . The marker for Virgal R. shows that he was the son of C&A Axsom. This marker actually closest to the marker for Hezekiah and Mary Alice and the style of the stone marker was identical to the markers for the other children of Hezekiah and (Mary) Alice-but the initials "C&A" were clear in their engraving. Was it an engraving error that was not corrected or was there an Axsom husband and wife with initials of C and A who lost a son Virgal in 1918?
In the row of graves that contained markers for the children of H&A Axsom were two more Axsom markers: Richard Axsom born & died Oct 27 1932; Martin Axsom March 5 1865-Aug 9 1921. Martin Axsom was the son of Samuel David Axsom and his second wife Melvina Hall. I do not know the identity of the parents of Richard Axsom.
There were three Axsom markers near the downhill side of the cemetery whose inscriptions could be partially read: infant son of J&I Axsom b. Apri 11 1902; Ethel daut. of J&I Axsom ????? 1906; Lenial son of J&I Axsom b. Aug 2 1916 ?Oct 19 1919 Who were J&I Axsom? James Axsom married his cousin, Mary Ices Axsom in 1893. James died at about age 60 in 1920. Mary Ices had 4 other husbands.
There was a marker for husband and wife as follows: Axsom Rebeca Aug 10 1856 Mar 4 1914 Samuel Feb 23 1848 Di. Jan 30 1927 This was Samuel D Axsom son of the Samuel David Axsom who came to Indiana from Surry County, CN in the 1830s. He married Rebec(c)a Lawson in 1888. According to the Axsom database, no children issued from this marriage. Samuel D was the youngest son of Samuel and his first wife, Winifred. He was born in Polk Twp., Monroe Co, Indiana.
There was one more marker that contained the name of an Axsom-one that is not buried int he Terrill Cemetery. The marker contained the inscription: TERRILL Weley 1896-1936 Delista 1896-19. There were no numerals engraved for the year of Delista's death. Delista Axsom Terrill died in Hope, Indiana in 1997 and is buried in the Garland Brook Cemetery. The Terrill cemetery in the Charles C Deam Wilderness was likely closed to burials at that time.
There was one other Axsom grave marker-perhaps the most remarkable one we saw. It was a marker for FIVE Axsoms. The marker was wide enough to span 5 graves. It was inscribed as follows: AXSOM Betty 1938-1939, Dora 1925-1931, Dartha 1923-1931, Dorval 1921-1931, Delphia 1918-1931. Just from the dates on this marker, it is clear that 1931 was filled with grief for the parents of these siblings. These were all children of Wylie and Rella (Hillenburg) Axsom. The four who died in 1931 all succumbed to spinal meningitis. Betty died of pneumonia. The other seven of Wylie and Rella's children survived until the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. The spelling "DARTHA" differs from the name listed in the Axsom database- which shows DORTHY.
Of course there were many Terrill graves in this cemetery. There were also markers for the following surnames: Hearth, Snow, Stevens, Hillenburg, Rogers, Reaves, White, Grubb, and Lawson.
The Terrill Cemetery is maintained by the state of Indiana and/or the US Forest service. It is a maintained area in the wilderness that surrounds it. The grass in the cemetery had clearly been mowed in the late summer or early fall. The wire fence around the cemetery was sturdy, not rusted, and supported by 5 foot high, 4 inch creosoted wood posts-each with a metal cap. The surrounding woods were dense with trees, overgrown with underbrush and untouched and unmaintained, as one would expect of a wilderness.
I took pictures of several of the graves along with some notes to preserve for me a sense of the past that pervaded this lonely wilderness burial ground.
We took our leave of the Terrill Cemetery just before the sun slipped behind the clouds. The hike back to the fire tower where we left the truck was quiet as the fading early afternoon light dimmed the landscape. As we walked down that old roadway near the cemetery, I wondered which of my ancestors had walked that road in times past. I thought that surely the cemetery was not very far from one of the Terrill homesteads-but there were no signs of farmhouses, barns, or former habitation that I could see. There were, however, a few overgrown railbeds branching off from thetone we were hiking. Perhaps some of these led to the old homesteads.
This wilderness is located on the south side of the Monroe Reservoir-and two or three miles east of the Todd Cemetery, which was visited by those who attended the 1999 National Axsom Reunion.
The Terrill Cemetery is located much closer to the reservoir than the Todd Cemetery. And it is located only two or three miles from the William David Axsom homestead located on Axsom branch. Samuel David Axsom's homestead was also located in this area. Axsom's are buried in the Deckard, Todd and Terrill cemeteries, which are all within a 5-7 mile radius.
Our truck was a welcome sight as we neared the fire tower. We rested a short while and I unloaded the pictures from the digital camera into my laptop computer. Then we heaed to Nashville, IN for some browsing and dinner.
On the road we passed the Todd Cemetery and stopped their briefly. It was such a contrast to my last visit there. That visit was on the 4th of July, 1999 during the Axsom reunion. It was a sweltering, breathlessly hot day then. Today it is very cool-bordering on cold. Only a dim sun lit the bare trees surrounding the clearing of the Todd cemetery today. We walked the length of the cemetery-and (if one allowed for the changes in season) it looked like it looked in July-with one exception. There was a fresh Axsom grave! At the entry to the cemetery are two Axsom gravestones. One of those had a mound of relatively freshly earth and some relatively recent bouquets. The stone above the fresh earth bore the inscription: AXSOM Benza Sept 13 1903 Raymond Feb 28 1902 Nov 16 1992. Raymond (#1692) was the son of Martin (#26) and Racheal (Fender) Axsom and grandson of Samuel David Axsom (#14). His wife, Benza Hillenburg Axsom had died about a month after the 1999 Axsom reunion.
The road we chose to travel as we headed to Nashville went eastward through the Charles C Deam Wilderness and brought us to the small villages of Kurtz and Storey and finally to Indiana Route 136 leading north to the center of Nashville. These roads shared an interesting characteristic: there were right angle turns frequently. The roads were following property boundaries or section boundaries. Sight seeing possibilities were maximized-as was traveling time.
Visiting the Terrill Cemetery was a great experience-one that I wish I could have shared with the Axsom descendants who came to the National Reunion in July. The length and roughness of the trail would have been prohibitive for some to walk. The trail would have not accommodated the motorized coach that transported the 25 or some Axsoms to Brown County in July. This narrative will have to suffice.