YUTAN – When Cindy Barnes first moved to Yutan in 1967, she remembers there were still members of the Parmenter family around to take care of the Parmenter Cemetery.
Cathi Dunton was one of those relatives. Dunton, the daughter of Annabelle Parmenter Yocum, spent the summers of 1970 and 1971 recording the cleanup of Parmenter Cemetery and researching it’s history.
In Dunton’s writing, she talks about how the project began during a conversation with Guy and May Vorse at the beginning of the summer of 1970. Guy explained that when visiting his mother Viola Vorse, who is buried at the cemetery, he “found it almost impossible to even enter the cemetery.”
Viola is the daughter of George W. Parmenter, who donated this land specifically for the family cemetery. Dunton’s mother Annabelle is George’s great-granddaughter, making Dunton the great-great-granddaughter.
Shortly after Memorial Day in 1970, Dunton and Guy Vorse began a summer’s worth of work.
“We stood at the gate of the cemetery, saw, axe and clippers in hand, took a very deep breath and charged in! We only lost each other once or twice in the tall overgrowth of plum bushes, but always managed to find each other. It was quite a challenge,” Dunton wrote.
Dunton passed away in 2015 after a battle with lung cancer.
Now, 50 years later, the cemetery is once again overgrown and is in the hands of Saunders County. According to Assistant Highway Superintendent Andy Nordstrom, the cemetery, along with about 14 other cemeteries in the county, gets mowed once a year before Memorial Day weekend. The county has been the prime caretaker for the cemetery for at least 30 years.
In a recent Facebook post on a Yutan community page, Barnes expressed dismay at the disarray the cemetery has been in and asked if there were any groups in the community who would be interested in the project. After about 46 comments, there was still no plan for the cleanup.
According to Carol Copeland, who often rides her horse past the cemetery, red crosses have been put up in the last year in the cemetery by an anonymous source. In the past, Copeland has put up a metal sign signifying the cemetery because she said she understands the importance of preserving cemeteries for history.
Barnes first became interested in the cemetery because she learned one of the inhabitants buried on the northern side of the cemetery was a one year old girl named Gracie Redick. According to Barnes, the Redick family moved on to Lincoln after she passed away.
“I feel sorry to have a little girl just, you know, being passed over,” Barnes said.
While Dunton’s 48-page research about the history and inhabitants of the cemetery does not include Redick, it does give the history of the 68 other graves in the cemetery.
The oldest grave belongs to Charlie W. Charling, who was buried in 1875 and the most recent grave shelters George Wilgus, who was buried in 1921. The oldest person buried in the cemetery is James Wilgus who was about a month shy of 94 years of age. The youngest person was the infant of J.W. and C.M. Wilson and was only one day old.
Dunton’s daughter and George Parmenter’s great-great-great-granddaughter, Brandy Wagner Schulze, is one of the only remaining relatives of the Parmenter family in the area. Up until recently, Schulze had been living in Omaha. She and her husband Matt recently built and now live in a home near Yutan on Parmenter family ground with a child on the way.
Since moving back to her hometown, Schulze said that she and her husband have been discussing her family history more and talked about potentially being involved in taking over the caretaking for the cemetery.
“I have been wanting to learn more about (the cemetery) and just see if there’s something that we can do to help with that,” Schulze said. “Hopefully we can be part of that discussion, and see how we can help with the family cemetery.”
In the opening words of Dunton’s research, a short history from her mother and Schulze’s grandmother, Annabelle, is cited.
“George Parmenter gave his land for this cemetery. It was not for himself, but for his family and many fine friends and neighbors he found surrounded him. Although many of the Parmenter friends and neighbors are buried in the cemetery, it has always been called a “family cemetery, (including) everyone as brothers and sisters.”
While the cemetery and the Parmenter name have almost been forgotten, Annabelle reminds us why the cemetery remains an important souvenir for all.
“We should all take pride in our cemetery. It is most beautiful and holds lovely memories for many,” Annabelle wrote.
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