Story by Karla Gerdes
Photos by Karla Gerdes, Gary Gerdes, and John Heider
The Gilliland gravestones were found in a plowed field in the Northwest Quarter of Section 1 of Urbana Township in 1962. The stones were rescued from the field and moved onto the property of Frank and Joyce Phares. It is possible the stones were originally located on the township line between Urbana and Somer Townships about ¼ mile north of the location where they were found. A survey of burial locations conducted in 1936, referred to the Gilliland and Brumley Burials that at one time had been located on the township line. At that time a few stones were said to be leaning on the fence line and the land was being farmed. Karla Gerdes took pictures of the gravestones in August of 2013.
The Phares property was sold in January of 2014 and the gravestones were removed and stored until they could be placed in a cemetery. During this time John Heider, a cemetery preservation specialist, created a mold and poured a new piece to recreate the bottom portion that was missing from the Robert Gilliland gravestone. Slotted bases were made to hold the stones of John and Catharine Gilliland.
On September 30, 2014 the gravestones were relocated to Clements Cemetery in Somer Township.
The stone for John Gilliland was very dirty and the top of the stone was broken. The first letter “L” in the Gilliland name is barely visible. You can feel the slight rise where the “L” should be. The top of the stone was broken off but was with the other stones.
The gravestone for Catharine Gilliland, Wife of Andrew J. Gilliland, was hard to read (left photo). After cleaning with water and a soft brush, the wording became more legible (right photo). The front curve in the initial J. of her husband’s name is still hard to make out but there is an indention in that part of the stone. The 4 in 1846 is also difficult to read as the carving on the front part of the 4 was not as deep.
This small stone only had the initials C.G. on it. It is possible that it was used as a footstone for Catharine.
The stone for Robert, son of John and Elizabeth Gilliland had a piece broken off of the top and the bottom of the stone was broken at an angle. This stone was cleaned and was not quite dry when the picture was taken (right photo).
On September 30, 2014, the Gilliland gravestones are brought to Clements Cemetery. The area was dug out where the slotted gravestone bases will be placed (left photo). After the dirt is removed a mixture of road pack type gravel is placed in the bottom of the hole and tamped down to make a stable foundation and provide drainage. Then the precast slotted foundation is put in place (right photo).
A compound is mixed and applied to the inside edges of the precast form. The stone is then placed in the form and braced. Additional compound is filled in around the stone and sloped so that water will run off (left photo). All of the stones have been set and leveled and clamps are placed on the cast base for the Robert Gilliland gravestone. Boards support the two larger stones until the compound dries. (middle photo). The broken piece from the John Gilliland stone was placed back on top of the stone and clapped (right photo).
Dirt was filled back in around the stones and the sod was placed back on top. The small stone with the initials C.G. was placed on the backside of Catharine Gilliland’s stone.
The gravestone inscriptions are as follows:
John & Elizabeth
Sept. 18, 1843
Aged 13 [y?]
Note: the bottom corner of this stone
was broken, but the letter after 13 looks like a "y"
Wife of Andrew J. Gilliland
Feb. 22, 1846.
To the memory of
Jan. 6, 1789.
Jan 16, 1857.
68 Y's & 10 D's
Remember man as you pass by,
As you are now so once was I,
As I am now so you must be,
Remember death and follow me
In October 2015, a monument was placed next to the three Gilliland gravestones to tell the story and explain why the Gilliland stones are in Clements Cemetery. To install the monument, a hole was dug, the monument placed, and hole compacted with dirt.
The Gilliland monument was placed alongside the three Gilliland gravestones. The inscription on the front side of the monument tells where the gravestones came from and displays the inscriptions of the three Gilliland gravestones (left photo). The back side of the monument states that the "Gilliland Cemetery was located on land once owned by Wm. Clements" (right photo).
Thanks go to Joyce Phares Richie, Cecil McCormick and the Clements Cemetery Board, and John Heider for helping save a little bit of Champaign County History and making it accessible to others. The stones that Frank and Joyce recovered stayed on the back of their property until it was sold in January of 2014. Permission was granted by Cecil McCormick of the Clements Cemetery board, to place the recovered gravestones in that cemetery in Somer Township. Carolyn Adams and Karla Gerdes assisted John Heider of R.I.P. Ltd., Monticello, Illinois, a Cemetery Restoration specialist, in resetting the stones.