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Cemetery improving, but still needs help

--- East Delavan Union Cemetery had fallen into neglect

Donna Lenz Wright/The Week

(Published June 4, 2007, 1:24 p.m.)

Last fall the East Delavan Union Cemetery was showing the signs of extended neglect, but a group of committed volunteers has worked to change that.

Much has been done, but there is still much to do, says Sandy Behn, recently of Lake Geneva and a lifelong native of Delavan.

It was a dilemma. Her entire family rests there.

"My two daughters are buried there, my brother, my parents, my grandparents, my great grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins-my whole family," she said.

She saw no other choice than to take on the labor-intensive job herself. So she did.

"This isn't a job I wanted," she said. "But I got it."

Since then Behn has been very busy. She reestablished the long gone cemetery association; gathered every record available; sent out the message that any information anyone may have is being sought; and saw to it that the trimming and mowing are being done.

She's now at a place where what's left to accomplish is more than she can do alone.

"We desperately need help fixing the headstones that have fallen and aged," she said. And there is still plenty of grounds-keeping to do.

What she's praying for is that a civic-minded group willing to take on a very needed project- for example an aspiring Eagle Scout, a Scout troop in general or anyone interested in history, nature or both.

"We really can't go any further without help," Behn says. "We've gotten so much accomplished, but there's still a lot to do."

Delavan's early history makers rest here

The East Delavan Union Cemetery, or its casual title the Old Settlers Cemetery, has strong deep roots in Delavan's history.

Its initial appearance from the road is noble and respectful. The red brick pillars on each side of the entry open to a drive down the center of the grounds. The gravestones are not overgrown and no jungle is approaching.

On a closer slower look, the toppled stones are there and stone-eating algae has approached.

In a letter to the editor of the Delavan Enterprise (March 1991), L. Gates and B. Kahl of Delavan rebutted insults of the cemetery's deteriorating condition by reminding everyone "that perhaps with gravesites 100 to 200 years old that there is no one to do or pay for the upkeep on those graves."

That is the case with most of the gravesites there.

In its very first days, the years before 1832, the entire southwest corner of the county was Delavan.

As Elkhorn is the county seat for us today, Delavan was in then, according to the "Delavan Township History," Behn provided.

Claude Brown had the only general store. His father, Joe Brown, was born in Delavan and was a homesteader until 1841.

The senior Brown is buried there.

Postal service finally arrived about 1873. The first postmaster was Samuel Utter.

Imagine how much everyone loved to see him. Imagine how sometimes they didn't. Imagine his role in Delavan history.

He's buried here too, as is Israel Williams, founder of Williams Bay.

And what about the veterans in East Delavan Union Cemetery, veterans from the War of 1812: Seth Hollister, Robert Russell, David Reynolds and six known others; John Gant, Mathew Hamilton, Henry Virgil and the 31 other known veterans from America's subsequent wars?

Anyone interested in helping or for more information, call Behn at 248-1154.

About the cemetery
--- Most burial sites are believed to have been identified.
--- Plots are now available.
--- The association is still seeking those who have purchased plots for cross-referencing.
--- The association now consists of: Dan Billings, Delavan; Larry Rademaker, Williams Bay; Sandra Behn, Lake Geneva; Elizabeth Cox, Williams Bay; Dave Lepic, Delavan; Ralph Mortlock, Delavan (deceased May 7, 2007); Chuck Williams, Delavan; and Bev Derge, Delavan.

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