In 2014 and 2015 we repaired and restored a number of the grave markers in the Dayton cemetery. The cemetery was 180 years old and over the years had suffered from vandalism and the ravages of time and weather. Some stones had fallen over and were embedded in the ground, as was the Gerret J. Harms stone seen above. Others had been knocked over or had fallen as the ground shifted beneath them. John Heider, a professional gravestone restorer, drafted a number of family members as his willing, if not terribly able, helpers. Before we were done, some of us were very able.
Some other before and after pictures may be seen here.
How many people are buried in the cemetery?
There are 221 people known to be buried in the cemetery, as of July 1, 2012. Undoubtedly, there are some undocumented burials, as La Salle county did not register deaths until 1877 and even then not everyone complied. Even when deaths were mentioned in the newspaper, women and children were largely ignored. A child whose parents and siblings are buried in the cemetery, and whose family was known to be living in Dayton at the child’s death, is likely to be buried there. Where there is no confirmation of that, that child is not included with the 221 for whom some evidence exists.
Age at death Number of deaths
0-5 years 37
Causes of death
Of the 98 persons for whom cause of death is known, the seven most common causes were (in order of frequency): heart disease, cancer, meningitis/pneumonia, accident, apoplexy/cerebral hemorrhage, old age, and tuberculosis.
These seven accounted for 62 deaths.
The largest cluster is that of the Green/Grove/Dunavan families, which, with in-laws, includes 147 people. There are ten members of the Warner/Tanner/Luce family, nine members of the Timmons family, 11 members of the Breese/Hoxie family, seven Hoags, and seven in the Bennett/Wilson cluster.
Photos courtesy of Chris Sims
This tiny gravestone, only 12 inches high, stands out in the Dayton Cemetery not only for its size but for its material. It is made of brick and appears to be handmade. John Champaign, the father of little Albert John, was a day laborer in the brick yards in Dayton. Whether he made the gravestone himself or had a friend at work do it for him, it almost certainly was made in Dayton.
John Champaign was born in January, 1858, in Michigan, of French-Canadian stock. In 1870 he was living with his parents and siblings in South Bend, Indiana. On September 21, 1880 he married Louise Haverley in South Bend. Sometime before 1883, John and family came to Dayton, where they were living in 1900. By 1910, they were back in South Bend, where they lived out their lives, John dying in 1938 and Louise in 1947.
One of their daughters, Grace, married James C. McGrogan of Dayton on April 30, 1900, and remained in Dayton when her parents moved back to South Bend.
In September 2014, the Dayton Cemetery Association worked with a professional restoration expert to repair a number of monuments which had been damaged by vandals. Our first effort was the Martin Welke stone, seen above. After the middle section was replaced on the base, attention turned to replacing the top.
And here is the reassembled stone:
We repaired seventeen stones that week and plan to continue the work in 2015.