Oldest Burial in Illinois May Have Happened in Decatur

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DECATUR - When Lynn Dixon first became Director of Greenwood Cemetery, it wasn't in the best shape.

"Tombstones on the ground, broken," he said.

Leading him on mission to restore them all.

"I figured that that was one of the first things that needs to be done," he said.  

A couple of weeks ago, workers were fixing the headstone of James Hanks, shoveling the surrounding dirt until they suddenly, "hit something underneath the ground," said Dixon.   "About 2 inches underground.  Knocked the dirt away, and it's a headstone."

The headstone of Mary Hanks. But, it's the year of death that caught everyone's attention.. 1813.

"I thought, wow, there's not another headstone out here that old," said Dixon.  "Not one."

Not just at Greenwood, but across the state.

"I'm finding that the oldest burial in Illinois was 1828."

That would make Greenwood Cemetery home of the oldest recorded burial in the state of Illinois.

"According the internet it was 1828, and I have proof here that it's 1813."

So there could be an older headstone in Illinois that was simply never documented.  Dixon is hoping to put this burial into public records by next week, adding to unique history of Greenwood.

"This headstone was Abraham Lincoln's second cousin."

The headstone is currently being restored, and will be on display at the cemetery by the end of next week. 


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