Trip Ideas

Historic Tales on the Tombstone Trail

Nature, history and artistic monuments collide in rural Indiana cemeteries.

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Trip Idea Summary

Rural Destinations
East View Map
Lake View Cemetery, Old Kendallville Cemetery, Syracuse Cemetery, Blue River Cemetery, South Park Cemetery, Mount Calvary Cemetery
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About this trip idea

Allow 2-3 days

Historic cemeteries reveal secrets of the past along the Tombstone Trail  in Huntington , Kosciusko , Noble  and Whitley  Counties. Discover the people who made Indiana great, admire the art and craftsmanship that memorialize them and experience the natural beauty of rural Indiana in stately cemeteries along an 85-mile stretch of historic U.S. 6. Guided tours featuring more than 65 monuments and stories are available at 10 cemeteries on the trail. Or, purchase tour books for up to 30 cemeteries and be your own guide, using QR codes at the gravesites to learn more about the monuments and surrounding history.

Stories of the past
Begin in Kendallville, where a peaceful, park-like atmosphere greets you at Lakeview Cemetery  . Dating back to the 1860s, this graveyard is the final resting place for several Civil War soldiers. As you stroll through the cemetery's natural beauty, let the stories of its residents fascinate you. You'll hear the unusual tale of an African-American woman, struggling to find employment, who dressed and lived as a man in the early nineteenth century to improve her position. The beloved owner of Kendallville's Palace of Sweets, popular in the 1950s, is buried here, along with a diner owner who gave free meals to the homeless during the Great Depression. Take the Kendallville Historic Places  tour to see homes and buildings associated with those buried at Lakeview Cemetery.
 
Admire the view of a lake as you roam through 300 historic grave markers at Old Kendallville Cemetery  . Restored in the 1930s by Daughters of the American Revolution, the cemetery's oldest monuments date back to the mid-1800s. Interesting figures such as a member of a vigilante crime-fighting group, an original settler of Kendallville and descendant of William Penn, a War of 1812 veteran and the man credited with bringing the railroad to Kendallville can all be found in Old Kendallville Cemetery.

The town of Syracuse traces its roots back to a 19th-century business partnership. When Samuel Crosson and Henry Ward arrived in the area in 1835, they opened a mill together and named the town Syracuse. Shortly after, Crosson donated the original acre of land that would become Syracuse Cemetery , and he was later buried there himself. Tour the graveyard to visit the tombs of Ward and others, learn why the two town founders were financially destitute when they died and search for the unmarked, unlocated grave of Ward, who served as the town's first postmaster and a Kosciusko County judge.

A whisper of history
In the very large and serene Blue River Cemetery   near Colubmia City, walk among the stones in this quiet space surrounded by cornfields. Established by Nathaniel and Elizabeth Gradeless in 1851, the cemetery's oldest plot is that of their daughter, Equilla Gradeless Pence, said to have been buried on the hill where she played as a child. Among other interesting folks, the cemetery is the final resting place of Roy DeWitt Prater, a helicopter flight engineer who died a hero in South Vietnam when he and his crew were shot down during a rescue mission. On the tour, learn why it took 38 years for Prater to reach his final resting place, next to his wife in Blue River Cemetery.

Romance and tragedy can both be found at South Park Cemetery   in Columbia City. Let the tale of the man from Paris who traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to finally marry and reside in Columbia City enchant you. Then, find out how a Union Civil War soldier accidentally killed his brother during the war - and spent the rest of his life carrying the heavy secret. Roam through four sections of grave markers as you learn about the many famous and not-so-famous people laid to rest here.

Explore unique and beautiful tombstones in Huntington's Mount Calvary Cemetery . Be sure to find the grave of Francis LaFontaine, or Topeah, the last principal chief of the unified Miami Indian tribe, who oversaw the split into the Western and Eastern tribes. Listen as the guide describes how LaFontaine, whose grandfather was a French trader from Fort Detroit, managed to become the Miami chief and what led him to sign the treaty that would ultimately split the tribe. After roaming the cemetery, visit LaFontaine's house across town at the Historic Forks of the Wabash  - the house doubled as the tribe's final headquarters until LaFontaine's death in 1846.

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Featured in this Trip Idea

Lake View Cemetery
260.347.3245 | kendallville-in.org/lakeview
Old Kendallville Cemetery
260.347.3245 | kendallville-in.org/cemetery
Syracuse Cemetery
Blue River Cemetery
whitleycountin.org/blueriver
South Park Cemetery
812.663.4468 | whitleycountyin.org/southpark
Mount Calvary Cemetery
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