News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

November 2, 2008

Group works to restore markers in Parke County cemetery

Mecca — The stories of old warriors, farmers and children were polished and set Saturday afternoon, as their intertwined descendants gathered at Hixon Cemetery to sustain a legacy.

“It’s one of these things that everyone agrees needs to be done but someone has to do it,” Mike Lewman said with dirt on his knees and shovel in hand.

Nestled into the trees along Hixon Road, just off of Parke County Road 275S, the cemetery’s land was donated as such in 1853 by William Hixon, Lewman’s great-great-grandfather.

And after retiring from Cummins Engine in Columbus, the area native returned back home and found the cemetery in disrepair.

Considering many of the 700 individuals buried there are family, including 69 veterans of wars ranging from the American Revolution to Korea, Lewman and members of his extended family initiated a board of trustees and not-for-profit corporation dedicated to restoring the grave markers and property.

“It’s like genealogy. You’re either into it or not,” he said, noting the group launched with a workshop involving Roachdale art teacher Jessica Felix and other professionals from Ivy Tech who taught them how to restore the aged stones and reset them without damaging them.

And since that June workshop, the team has participated in “save a stone days” once a month this September, October, November and plan to host one in December before breaking for winter.

Lewman’s maternal family includes the Hixons, Puntenneys and Cooks, making Andrea Ellis Kelley, 27, a distant cousin.

“This is our first time,” she said, noting she is the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Aquilla Puntenney, a farmer and veteran of the War of 1812 who was granted his land there in 1813 by President Andrew Jackson’s administration.

Aquilla, who’s name is alternately spelled “Aquilla” and “Aquila” on different stones, died Dec. 15, 1878 at the age of “85 years, nine months and 12 days,” according to his grave’s marker, which marked age in similar terms to other stones of its era.

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