If you’re an avid Lake Country Journal reader, you may remember our story in the April/May 2016 issue written by regular contributor Julie Jo Larson about the Black Cemetery in Wealthwood Township near Aitkin.
Julie Jo Larson (left), a LCJ contributing writer, stands with Lynda Patterson Baker, Peggy Patterson-Carpenter, Cheryl Frazier-Hunter and Diane Patterson, who are descendents of some of the pioneers buried in the Black Cemetery in Wealthwood Township near Aitkin. The women stand behind the headstone for Sergeant Joseph Henry, a black Civil War veteran, one of about 14 people buried there.
These pioneers, who traveled 800 miles from the Deep South to settle near Aitkin, once numbered about 30 residents in the Aitkin community. Fourteen people are believed to have originally been buried at this cemetery, while two were reinterred to the Lakeview Cemetery in Aitkin, according to Larson’s research.
In early July, I traveled along with Larson to the century-old Black Cemetery in Wealthwood Township. Larson had tracked down some of the descendents of these pioneer families and, while they knew of the cemetery and tried to find it a few years ago, they had never been there. The cemetery is on private property on the edge of the Wealthwood Golf Course.
Sgt. Joseph Henry served in Company D of the 125th United States Colored Infantry. His military-issued headstone is the only standing marker in the small, forgotten cemetery near Aitkin.
It was a beautiful experience to be there when the family members, who traveled up north from the Twin Cities for the weekend, saw the cemetery for the first time. There was a lot of vegetation, including tons of poison ivy, which made it difficult to see where the gravestones were laid. Larson brought clippers and other tools so that we could cut through some of the overgrown vegetation.
Weeds and all, this is sacred ground, not only as a burial site for their loved ones, but as a deeply important part of our Lake Country history that should be preserved. The owner of the property has given the family permission to clean up the cemetery and offered any help they may need during the clean-up process.
The family members have since arranged for a Sentence to Serve crew to clean up the cemetery this fall. According to Larson, the family has also started the process to have the cemetery listed on the National Historic Registry. Larson and the family plan to have a meeting in late July in Aitkin to begin the historical preservation process.
At LCJ, we’re proud to have played a small role in helping the descendents find the final resting place of these brave, pioneer settlers—men, women, and children. We’re also thankful for compassionate and dedicated storytellers like Julie Jo Larson, who gave a voice to these forgotten Lake Country residents and continues to work hard to ensure that their place in history is not only recorded, but preserved.
Their story, after all, is our story, too.
- Jodie Tweed, editor
Large field stones like this one mark the graves of several people buried at the Black Cemetery in Wealthwood Township.
If you would like to read more about Julie Jo Larson’s MsStorian Adventure from the April/May 2016 issue, you can view the article here.