Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Cemetery gives Springfield a sense of history

by Chris Schultz

September 29, 2011

SPRINGFIELD — This is the kind of shady, peaceful place where children join parents and grandparents for a final, silent family reunion.

Usually called Union Cemetery in Springfield, it was originally named Evergreen Cemetery when it was founded in October 1857, said Tim Schinke, the cemetery sexton. The original two acres of burial ground were donated from the farm of David Olp, he said.

However, although called Evergreen Cemetery, a copy of the cemetery organization papers shows the original cemetery association was called the Union Cemetery Association in 1857.

The name Union Cemetery began catching on sometime after the Civil War. The Schinkes believes the name became popular when veterans of that past unpleasantness began to make it their final resting place. Now as many as 17 of the old soldiers are buried there among the 200 or so others who also make the cemetery their final resting place. Henry Olp, a relative of David Olp, is one of them.

Walter Johnson of Elkhorn is the president of the 10-member cemetery board. His grandparents are buried here.

Tim and his wife, Karen, also own the Pedal & Cup, a bicycle rental and snack shop in this small, crossroads community. They and other descendants donate considerable volunteer time keeping watch over their ancestors, Tim Schinke said.

It's all part of this community's sense of continuity. Although it never quite made it as a village, Springfield still has a sense of history and sense of place.

"The cemetery has been here since 1857 and it will be here forever, as far as we're concerned," Tim Schinke said.

Karen Schinke said she and others in Springfield are working on a brochure for the cemetery.

There's plenty of historical interest in the cemetery because of the Union soldiers who rest here, she said.

The Schinkes and other Springfield residents have been trying to convince the Walworth County Genealogical Society to do a walk-through at the Union Cemetery.

The original two acres are well-sheltered by a stand of trees.

In addition to the original two acres, the cemetery also owns an adjacent four acres to the north, bought from a neighboring farmer in the mid 1980s, Tim Schinke said.

The newer 4-acre lot was devoid of trees, until this summer, when Tim and Karen planted three pine trees on the northeast corner in the memory of Karen's mother, Wilhelmina Peters.

The big one was named Fluffy, said Karen Schinke. A white pine goes by Whitey and Ollie is a Norwegian pine, she said.

Peters, who often worked with her daughter at the Pedal & Cup, died in June at 89.

The Schinkes said they would like to see the newer section of the cemetery gain some tree cover so it begins to look more like the older section.

The cemetery has been filling up slowly, but surely. Being the grave digger here would not be a very taxing job. There was one burial in 2010, and this year, so far, there have been two, Schinke said.

With the modern riding mower and trimming equipment he now uses, Tim Schinke said it takes about five hours to mow the entire cemetery.

Once upon a time, mowing was done with a push mower, he added. No estimate on how long that took.

Schinke said he dug the graves in the old section of the cemetery, where there are spaces that were too tight for the excavator. A more modern excavator now in use by the cemetery can now get into those tight corners, he said.

This has been more than a job for Tim Schinke. It's more like a family calling. Schinke said he's worked in the cemetery, mowing the grass, tending gravesites and even digging a grave or two, since he was 12.

An arch with the name Evergreen Cemetery is supported by two brick pylons, on one of which there's a bronze plaque in the memory of Charles Ames and Walter Schinke, Tim's dad, who each held the position of cemetery sexton between the years 1920 to 1997. The cemetery is funded by the sale of burial plots, burials and donations. And that doesn't pay for a lot of extras.

Anyone interested in donating time, money or buying a section of cemetery fence should contact Walter Johnson at 1228 Pinecrest Lane, Elkhorn, 53121, or call him at 728-4798. Or, iinquiries and donations may be sent to Tim and Karen Schinke at PO Box 30, Springfield, 53176.

Johnson said the cemetery plans to sell sections of new aluminum fence at $300 per 8-foot section. Those who buy a section of fence will get the family name or name of a loved one engraved on a plaque that will be affixed to the fence, he said.