Sunday, March 27, 2011

Our Quiet Neighbors

This may not seem like a very cheery topic to write about but we have quite a few neighbors that we never hear a peep out of.....thankfully! Unknown to us when we bought our 6 acres,just up the hill passed the creek is a very old cemetery. Hopewell Cemetery as we now know it is called, sits nestled in a small clearing at the top of a hill over looking all of the farms. The cemetery is very old,and neglected.Many of the dates are from 1799 to 1910. There are many that are so fragile and old I can't make out a name or an age at all. I think I may go back and do a rubbing to see if I can discover more that way.
For a few years it had become a spot for some meanness, especially on Halloween as you can imagine. Thankfully the boom of new construction that happened a few years ago has put a stop to these individuals who used the area for drugs and other criminal acts.

Hopewell Cemetery
 These sick and twisted people destroyed so many head stones by digging them up and slamming them together that many are gone forever. Others were spray painted with satanic signs and symbols. The ground surrounding the area was covered with debris from beer cans to cigarette butts and clothing to many items better left unmentioned.

Well me being me of course thought,NOPE not in my neighborhood.
First however I must tell you where it began for us....and I apologize that this may be a tad longer than my normal post.
 When we began to build after 5 years of owning the property we drove out to meet the fellow who was going to do the perk test. That was when we realized we had a new modular home in front of our property and they were using some of our land. At first meeting we didn't want to jump to a conclusion that these strange people were anything more than just country,but we quickly learned that were criminals and had moved way out here to do criminal acts. Our new home had really put a wrench in their monkey business so to speak,and the grave yard had been their office area for transactions,of the unsightly sort.
Hopewell Creek.
The neighbors next to us had built their home the year before and they began to tell us stories of wild parties and crazy carrying on, much of which was done on our property. Most of the neighbors were simply scared to death of this family and told me they felt they had been held hostage for the three years that they had been here. There had been so many break-ins and thefts in the area, and then it happened to us.
Our very long driveway and a peek of the fence to the right.
Just as soon as our home had started to be constructed things began to happen. Items disappeared,but nothing to worry about mostly lumber and roofing supplies....but hummm the bad guys had new doors to their shed and a new roof. Then one evening we were broken into and all of the copper was stolen from our house just hours after in was installed.Something that a close neighbor would notice. But the meanness didn't end there.The oldest family member and certainly not the brightest decided to shoot a rifle off his back deck directly into our property and hit dangerously close to our workers and my youngest son who were here doing some framing work. THAT WAS IT I'D HAD ENOUGH! Of course that was the first of many calls to the Sheriff's Department.
My son was in this area when they shot the rifle near him.
That began my mission to change this take back our neighborhood. It was an added expense to my husband and I, but with little choice we bought an RV and lived in it during construction. We installed a security alarm and 4 cameras on the house,one pointed toward the front drive and just happened to also cover the bad guys. All of this was done during construction which was no easy undertaking,since we had no electric or phone lines. It happened because of the kindness of our next door neighbor,who we will forever grateful to.
Not a close neighbor but one I pass every day who has oxen and was in our local parade.

I contacted all of the neighbors and had an open house to meet everyone. That was eye opening I think because I discovered that many of the neighbors had lived here for years and years and had never met. That is a breading ground for bad guys. For the first time ever we formed a neighborhood watch group and had a meeting at a local church. It was there that we discovered all of the meanness that had been occurring up at the grave yard.The sheriff doubted us and said a watch group had never been done in a rural setting. But he did admit the department was glad because it would make their job easier.

Meth is growing and has started to move out to the country.This little wide spread rural area has started to watch out for each other,and report what they see. Neighbors exchanged names and phone numbers,it was empowering,and we all felt excited that we were taking back our neighborhood. If you've ever driven through the country you know how folks wave howdy to each other. Well now we wave because we know each other and that feels great!
The back of our property

But prior to all of that we took another costly step by fencing in one side(their side) of the 6 acres with farm fencing.Someone asked me once why we only fenced in one side,I answered that I didn't think they were smart enough to go around and I was right!
Finally just days after we moved in the second oldest not so bright familymember had just been given(or stole) a new hand gun,so what do you think he decide to do? Yep he decided to try it out by shooting into our property, not far from our house. OK NOW YOU'VE DONE IT. I called the sheriff and for the first time they were able to get inside of their house, and thankfully they found drugs and guns. They were all arrested!!
But sadly it took a full year after that arrest and being released on bail before they were gone. With no job,and theft becoming harder and harder they lost their house to a tax sale ( how sad ha ha )and finally the electric meter was pulled and that's when we knew it was over....and soon they would be gone!!!! Hooray!!!
A few of the neighbors have slowly started to go up the hill and care for the sweet little cemetery.Each time we go up now we see signs of repair and maintenance. The horrible spray paint has been covered up,and some head stones have been repaired. A few have been replaced with new small metal markers,one has a new more modern head stone, I feel that must be some of the descendants of that person.

But I think losing the older quaint ones is the saddest part of all. The simple design and shape of the older ones told more about the people and the time period than these new ones do. So many graves now are left unmarked, there may be no way of knowing who is buried there. Being a avid person the loss of these grave stones is a sad loss to future genealogy hunters that may  never be restored.

We noticed on this last visit someone has lovingly gathered up all of the pieces and has laid them all together in a sort of a grave of their own I guess. Almost made me cry to see them there.
I am always sad and happy when we go up to visit these forgotten neighbors. Sad to think about these people and wonder who they are,so many young people and babies and many died around the same time,what happened I wonder. Who were these people,where did they come from and what did they do in this area. I think I need to make a visit to our library to do some research. I really want to learn more about these families,and life during that time. This time we left happy because the dark days up here are over, forever I hope.

We now have a new family in that house who have 3 small children....a wonderful change to our little piece of country heaven..... so now we're back to peaceful, simple days all centered around our much loved Hopewell Creek.


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  2. How weird was this...when I first opened it and left a comment, there was only a quarter of your post showing before the comment box. Glad I came back...GOOD FOR YOU AND YOUR NEIGHBORS. We had that same sort of scenario when we lived in St. Louis, about 16 yrs. back. Scary farm people! :-)

    And I LOVE old cemetaries...the first thing I head for on a trip where I have some time on my hands. Looks like this would be a great spring afternoon, looking at dates and names. Glad there is interest enough in it to clean it up a bit!

    Dropped you two emails yesterday, but don't know if you got them - I need some info from you, if you could get ahold of me. Thanks a million, Rebecca - have a wonderful week! Tanya

  3. Rebecca, you're an activist...good for you. Sounds like with your initiation it was a combined effort to save your neighborhood and the cemetery.

    I learned a lot about my ancestors using, it's gotten more expensive in recent years but there is so much more information available to tap into.

  4. That is so terrible about the graveyard. I love history, and if that had been a graveyard near me I would have been so upset! I don't understand how people can just destroy such meaningful things as headstones... I mean, they're pieces of history, not to mention memorials to actual people who are buried there. I guess people don't think or care about those things.

  5. Your place looks very calming and serene :)
    I would live to live somewhere like you do!
    We live by a cemetary also, its the oldest one in Benicia. It is very nice to walk through also.

    Have a great day and thanks for writing a meaning-full post. I enjoyed reading it :)


  6. its amazing how youve stood your ground, and actually ACTED.
    some of your neighbors havnt even known of eachother for years and years, and here you are, bringing them into a working community together.

    im sorry to hear of all the dangerous & stupid acts you had to deal with, but im glad theyre gone.

    you deserve an applause . (:

  7. Oooh, that would be so awesome to live next to a really old cemetery! Lucky! It really is too bad that people have to ruin everything, though. It figures! I'm glad it's better now though.

  8. do they have any more houses out there for sale? I'm looking to buy a home in a rural area with few to no neighbors.

  9. We live out in what seem to think is the middle of nowhere, we have very few homes and then you will see a lonely graveyard, an old graveyard..they seem to be all around will drive around and all the sudden just see 3-9 tombstones pop up yet nothing but woods around. Its kind of creepy but in the same token, its nice to live with no neighbors!