Harris Cemetery

Harris cemetery, Wilcox Township, Hancock County, Illinois

This Harris cemetery burial list was compiled by Mr. and Mrs. William King who live in Wythe township not far from the cemetery.  They are to receive full credit for it.

This is the Warren L. Van Dine sponsored burial list project for the Hancock County cemeteries.  This introduction is being written January 19, 1972.  The list was received from Mr. and Mrs. William King by mail (Their address it is R.F.D. No. 2, Warsaw, Illinois 62379) several days previous.

Following is a statement by Mr. and Mrs. William King describing this cemetery:

"This burial place is located one mile south of the Warsaw junction on route 96, then one half mile west to the home of Robert Miller in Wilcox Township, Section 12.  The stones are all moved and used as stepping stones to get into the house and one in the machine shed.  All are in very good shape".

Mr. and Mrs. King did not state by what name this cemetery is known in that area but as it is a very small family plot it may never have received the designation. In talk with Mr. Robert Cochran in the history office in the Carthage Court House where this is being written (he is a township supervisor from Wythe Township and a well-known history worker for local history of that southwest quarter of the County) I found out from him if probably is known as Harris cemetery after the Harris family (one of the two families buried there).  So it will be known here by that designation but if a more exact one comes up a change will be made.

This Harris Cemetery is not to be confused with the larger public's by that name in Dallas Township.

The other family buried here was the Benjamin family.

The Harris family was known in pioneer times as one of the founding families of Wilcox Township whereas there is no mention of the histories of the Benjamin family.  They may have been temporary residents of this area of if not that poor farm laborer who were unable to obtain any credit for pioneering effort.

The 1874 Andreas kent Atlas of Hancock County shows a Harris named for a tract of farmland in Section 12 of Wilcox (as Mr. and Mrs. King give it) in the southeast corner near what is now Illinois north-south concrete road No.96.

The Harris name still appears at that point in the 1891 County Atlas.

The name, however, does not appear on the Wilcox plat in the 1908 County Atlas.

This cemetery may seem from the King family description to be an abandoned graveyard, but in this project all cemeteries that if ever have existed on the soil of Hancock County are included with their location and history even though the dead may long since have been disinterred and re-entered elsewhere. but there is no moving of the dead actually listed or inferred here, just a move seen of the monuments from the, so these dead undoubtedly are actually still here.

The King statements indicate the monuments are still in good condition, not weathered and easily readable.  These people were called to eternal life over a stretch of 30 years from 1840 to 1870.  These monuments were no doubt the marble slab type popular here in that early day.  As the most recent death for 1870 is more than a century behind our 1972 year these must have been first class marble monuments, the best that could be procured from say Vermont in New England.  For most of these even the death the epitaph was so easily readable that Mr. and Mrs. King included that too. For soft Georgia Marble from the south practically nothing on these stones would be readable and especially the epitaph which was not carved as usually as a factual material of the inscription.  This indicates an honest monument dealer who furnished for the usual $15.  Price exactly what he said he would furnish, a good New England marble and not worthless Georgia marble.

The brief names, places, dates on many monuments tell volumes about the lives of the People resting in death beneath them in addition to "The short and simple annals of the pour" angle.  For the Illinois frontier from 1840 to 1870 was in spite of the romance built around it in our nuclear age 1970's a place of stern poverty.  For many years of that 30 years it took real Christian character and man and women with a fair share of brute strength to even survive.

When they came here to the prairies of Wilcox Township in this county in Western Illinois or where from we do not now know or the writer of this does not know at least.  Also what they look like, how they talked and laughed and stroke mightily beneath the warm sun of Illinois.

They constitute a generation now swallowed up in the mists of time.  We have a handful of names to note there were such souls in Wilcox Township is all.

For the Benjamin family the dates of death of the mother and daughter in the age of time of death of the girl indicates the possibility of the mother dying from complications from childbirth.

Deaths of young unmarried women by childbirth was a tragedy re-enacted over and over again on the Illinois frontier.  The midwife type of delivery in a home bedroom, sweltering hot in the summer and ice cold in winter, was good enough if all went well the though even then sanitation such as hospitals now employee was unknown then for the delivery room.  But with the least complication it meant in nine out of 10 cases death for the young mother.  Our County cemeteries are strewn with these pitiful graves.

Physicians now with modern hospital facilities and sanitation methods very seldom lose a mother, maybe once in five years in this county.

Such is the Harris cemetery of Wilcox Township "Lifes fitful fever" as the American poet Edgar Allan Poe described are mundane mortal existence.

I am sure at one time there were other burials in this cemetery. At this time these are the only names I have.

Benjamin, Mary E.- b:   d: November 8, 1856  Aged 2 years 9 months 28 days  (d/o C and M. E. Benjamin)
Benjamin, Mary E.- b:   d: January 16, 1854 aged 22 years 6 days
Harris, Samuel - b:   d: September 13, 1840  Aged for years 5 months 26 days  (s/o S and A. Harris)
Harris, Samuel- b:   February 27, 1870  Aged 78 years 1 months 6 days
Harris, William F.- b:   d: March 1, 1859  aged 10 days  (s/o M. and N. Harris)