Forgotten cemetery remembered by local group


JASPER — The secluded Forest Grove Pioneer Cemetery has been largely erased by the march of time. Jasper’s first burial ground, the site has become a seemingly empty plot of land in a corner of the Parklands of Jasper.

Once-forgotten but always important, a local collective aims to commemorate those buried in its soil by placing a 5-foot-tall granite monument at the location. Keeping the memory of the cemetery alive is important to them.

“It’s part of history,” said Matt Hilger, president of the Dubois County Stone Carvers. He said Jim Corn, Stan Jochum, Joe Rohleder and Jim Hedinger researched and identified the lot en route to making the memorial a reality.

The roughly $2,500 marker will be crafted by Schum Monuments of Dale, and will display the names of the 18 recorded men, women and children buried on the grounds. It will also be dedicated to any unknown persons who were laid to rest at the site.

The total cost of the headstone-shaped monument will be supplied by a donor who has a family member buried at the site. Last week, the Jasper Park Board approved the placement of the memorial pending a final approval of the location by an engineer. The Jasper Common Council will also need to approve the donation in the future.

According to excerpts from George R. Wilson’s “Historical Notes on Dubois County,” Forest Grove Pioneer cemetery — also known as the Huber graveyard — was “neglected, forgotten and finally lost to the memory of man” due to various reasons.

The area was probably not entirely cleared, and its boundaries were not well defined or marked. It was not located on a public roadway, and the original settlers who were buried at the site were poor and unable to set gravestones for the departed. The wooden crosses and stakes that were used instead quickly fell into decay.

“The action of the elements of time, wind, rain and frost all combined to obliterate all traces of the interments in Forest Grove,” the document reads.

The cemetery — which is located approximately north of the Jasper Armory, at the top of a hill near the concrete base of the old Jasper County Club’s clubhouse — was never owned by St. Joseph Parish, and was used as a private burial plot for Catholic settlers until a cemetery could be established. People were laid to rest at the site between the years of 1837 and 1840.

Hilger said the Dubois County Stone Carvers formed about five years ago after member Josh Dodd learned the craft of stone carving from a master stone mason in Pfaffenweiler, Germany. The group’s mission is to restore headstones and preserve local cemeteries.

Hilger said the Forest Grove Pioneer Cemetery “just disappeared, and needs to be remembered.” He hopes people who stroll through the Parklands will see the marker and do just that.

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