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Search for Veterans' Grave Sites Underway

TSPR's Emily Boyer

The Illinois War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission is leading a statewide effort to map out the locations of the graves of some 20,000 veterans.   To this point, about 3,000 have been documented.

They are going to put this information together, ultimately, in a website.

It is believed that about 60 veterans of the War of 1812 are buried in McDonough County.

Marla Vizdal with the McDonough County Genealogical Society said she has been able to locate and photograph the graves of about 35 of them in 28 different cemeteries.

“Some are easy to find and some are not easy to find,” Vizdal said. “I can’t just say I got a name, went out to the cemetery and found it. No, it doesn’t work that way.”

Vizdal said she has been working on the project for nearly two years.  She said it's been made difficult by the number of unmarked graves and cemeteries throughout McDonough County.

The goal is to locate a grave, take a photograph of the tombstone and obtain a GPS location.

Credit TSPR's Emily Boyer
John Argenbright (1794-1870), a veteran of the War of 1812 is buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

“It’s not a project for those people who are easily discouraged,” Vizdal said. “You have to have some perseverance.”

During an event at City Hall to celebrate Macomb’s heritage, Marla Vizdal describes an experience she had trying to locate one veteran’s grave site.

Eventually, the information that is collected will be made available online. She hopes it benefits those researching their family history.

“They are going to put this information together, ultimately, in a website so you can go online,” Vizdal said. “You want to find where somebody is; you put it [the name] in and get the GPS. You want to go out, you will be able go to the cemetery you can find it.”

She said the project has been made easier through the significant contributions of Duane Lester, Libby Grimm and Gil Belles.

  • Lester compiled a book in the mid-1970's that documents burials in the various cemeteries across McDonough County.
  • Grimm surveyed the cemetery caretakers, noting the locations of McDonough County cemeteries and how to access them.
  • Belles, with the help of the McDonough County Historical Society, put up signs marking all of the cemeteries in the county.

Vizdal said there’s still plenty of work to do.
“There are still some where we know what cemetery the person is buried in, but we haven’t been able to find the grave site,” Vizdal said. “There are also a few people that we know are buried in the village grave yard. We might know what the village is but we don’t know which grave yard in that area.

She said anyone whose ancestor served in the War of 1812 and is buried in the county to contact the McDonough County Geological Society.

“I would be thrilled to talk to you about it," said Vizdal.  "Because we would like to make sure those people get on our list so we can properly document them and make sure they are available for future researchers."

Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.