Monday, August 27, 2012

Spring Mill State Park, Part II:
An odd place to find a cemetery

The second line of the headline on today's post conveys my thinking when I came upon the Hamer family cemetery off the main access road while driving out of Spring Mill State Park on Thursday. I suppose that wouldn't have been the case if I'd done sufficient pre-trip research and studied a copy of the park map I'd printed out at home before leaving. (I guess the after-effects of  yesterday's "honesty" post is going to be hard to shake).

A lot of photographers gravitate to cemeteries to explore and indulge their creative sides. There are attractive compositional elements -- chiefly lines, shapes and patterns. Plus, there's the fact that cemeteries usually have low people traffic, which means you have the time and opportunity to set up photographic compositions without worrying about needing to pause for or interfere with others.  And even if there is someone else there, and they happen to emerge at a spot where you want to spend time to photograph, the larger cemeteries are expansive enough that you can find something elsewhere on the grounds to shoot while waiting for your prime spot to free up.

As for the smaller cemeteries, there is rarely any foot traffic. Still, when I arrived at the Hamer family cemetery at the park on Thursday, I knew there were other people in the park, that they eventually would leave the same way I came in, and that they, too, might react the way I did when I came upon the cemetery. So, I decided to act quickly.

It turned out to be a good move. I tried to compose and shoot quickly, and about a half-hour into my shoot, right about at the point when I was preparing to wrap up my time there, an elderly couple drove into the modest parking area on the opposite side of the access road then strolled in. I had just left through the stone-arched access and was shooting some closeups of the stone wall along the perimeter when they entered. So we each had sole access to the grounds for our visit.

And again, in the spirit of yesterday's cathartic "honesty" exercise, I admit that I neglected to take the time to appreciate the Hamer family history before deciding what pictures to compose. I learned a few things afterward that would have been nice to know at the time I did my picture-taking.

The cemetery is described as a resting place for descendants of Thomas Hamer Jr., who was born while his family -- which came to the New World from England -- was living in Pennsylvania. He  died in Lawrence County in 1829 and initially was interred in Jolly Cemetery in Lawrence County's Bono Township. His remains were moved to the Spring Mill site in 1937. Oddly, his wife, Hannah McNeal Hamer, died in Jamestown, N.Y., in 1811, and is buried in New York, not with her husband in Indiana. I couldn't find any information telling me when the Hamers moved to Indiana, so it's possible they were still living out East when she died.

Unfortunately, I didn't know the above to look for Thomas' grave spot while I was there. It would have been nice to have had that.

And oh, since the 1930s, Hamer's descendants have held a reunion every year ... at Spring Mill State Park.

You can find a gallery of my photos from the visit to Spring Mill State Park -- both the Pioneer Village and the cemetery -- at my site at SmugMug.

Above: This monument attempts to lay out the generational history of family members interred in the cemetery.

Above: The stoned-arch entrance to the grounds.

Above and below: Flags mark the graves of family members who served in the U.S. armed forces.

Above: One of the most striking plots in the cemetery was this large monument for a girl who died Oct. 26, 1877, at the age of 1 year, 5 days.

Above and below: Rear and front views of an oddity I don't recall ever noticing in a cemetery before -- stone-column supports for grave markers.

Above: I posted this photo at my photo page on Facebook the other day, rhetorically wondering what became of Sarah Cleveland. One person commented to the post, offering the only things I could think of, too; Sarah remarried and was buried alongside that husband, or ... there was some disharmony in this marriage, and her descendants elected to bury her elsewhere. 

Above: A photo to indicate that descendants with surnames other than Hamer are buried there, too.

Above: I took and included this image because of the landscaping invested at this plot.

A shot of the arched entrance from inside the cemetery ... and to offer perspective for the photo below. 

Above: I was taking photos of this wall, lining the perimeter at the entrance, when the elderly couple arrived.


  1. I was googling images of Spring Mill and came across your photo so came to read your blog. I love that you took the time to learn the history after you visited. I can't recall which Dilley marker you photographed, but I am descended from that line. Katherine (or Katie) Dilley was my great-great grandmother. My sister, Katy, and my daughter Katie, carry her name. My great-grandparents (Nelson and Mary Sears) are buried there, as well as my grandfather, Clifford Merrell and my aunt. I love bringing my children to visit the park and the cemetery when we're visiting in the state.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Stephanie. I don't get notifications when people leave comments, so I didn't realize you'd posted this until today, Sept. 8, 2015, when I came upon it while checking the post for a different matter. I'm sorry to say that I haven't been able to get back to the park since my 2012 visit, but the cemetery remains my most vivid recollection of the time I spent there, even though it was by pure happenstance that I came upon it ... and that I came upon it on my way out of the park. I think it's a pretty neat treasure for the park.

  3. I too am a descendant (I'm Stephanie's aunt actually). The stones holding up the headstones were placed recently (like 20 years ago) because limestone is not strong and they tend to fall over/break. Many of the headstones also are not located over the "actual" grave. The graves were much more scattered. My mother was buried there 2 years ago and she is in the final empty spot for our side of the line. I believe the other lines have more spots left. The park made an agreement with the family years ago to maintain the cemetery within the park.