The Indiana State Historic Architectural and Archaeological Research Database (SHAARD) allows users to search cultural resource information on known historic and archaeological resources throughout Indiana. You can search for information concerning cemeteries in Spencer County. To access the data: HTTP://bit.ly/WrOp8D and type SHAARD for the user and guest as password.
Article from The Rockport Journal, June 24, 1927, Author - The Rambler
How would you like to raise up from your grave sixty years after you were buried to find no marker except some blackberry bushes, on your grave? The Rambler took a stroll through Rockport's first cemetery the other day and found just such a condition. He was able to find only four upright markers, and four lying flat on the ground and badly broken. On these monuments appear the names of John H. Smith, Lucy Smith, Leo Tarleton Smith, S. D. Smith (a soldier), the wife of Daniel Willmot, B. H. Walters, Sarah Walters, Joseph A. Gray, Nancy Gray and Sophia Frederika Ruebenaker.
Sunken spots indicated other graves but no markers were discovered. Where are the graves of Daniel Grass, Doctor Stephen or Joseph P. Cissna and other pioneers who were buried on this plot? Is the city of Rockport showing proper reverence and respect for the remains of those who first settled here? Blackberry bushes are not respectable monuments to the dead. If the graves cannot be accurately located, why not clear away the bushes and erect a large monument which will memoralize all those who are buried in Rockport's first cemetery? Only willingness on the part of the present day citizens is needed to do the job.
The above newspaper article from 1927 is still applicable in 2013. Though many efforts have been made by the Spencer County Historical Society, South Spencer High School students, and an Eagle Scout, the Olde Rockport Pioneer Cemetery is overgrown again.
The above photos were taken January 26, 2013 and show the overgrown cemetery. The top picture is of the left side of the cemetery and the second photo is of the right side. The bottom photograph is a close-up of Daniel Grass' grave. Below is a list of the work that started in 2003.
Olde Rockport Pioneer Cemetery Manuscript
This is an excellent document that contains detailed information about the cemetery. Dakota spent many hours cleaning up the cemetery and doing research to complete the above historical document.
February 28, 2004 Work Day
Nine Historical Society members reported for another work day. More brush was hauled and trash was cleaned up from the grounds. No Key Club members were present. Two members worked on the property on February 23. The grounds are looking much better but a great deal of work remains. Of concern is the regrowth of shrubs and stumps that have been cut as Spring is near. A member found two new stones that appear to be carved bases under trash and trimmings that had been dumped. No words were on them. Over 126 hours of work has been devoted to the project.
January 24, 2004 Work Day
Twelve people showed up for a work day in the cemetery. Our goal was to clear brush and pick up trash. Five of the people were members of the South Spencer High School Key Club. These young, energetic people were a great help. The temperature was in the 30's but the sun was out and you could keep warm by working.
Seven truck loads of brush and wood were removed from the hill. One load of trash was removed. Grapevines as large as your arm were cut. About 40 man-hours were contributed and great progress was made.
Everyone was excited when a high school girl found a fallen tombstone of Stephen Cissna who died in 1841. It was reported that Cissna was the first doctor in Rockport and the stone was found on the right side of the main hill in the cemetery. More information about him can be found in the above manuscript by Dakota Schmitt. This answers one of the questions in the 1927 newspaper article above--where is the grave of Doctor Stephen P. Cissna?
In 2019 while researching the first doctor in Spencer County, it was found that Dr. Cissna had a tombstone at Sunset Hill Cemetery. It is located on the west side of the road near the north entrance. Apparently, Dr. Cissna's body was moved from the old cemetery to the new Sunset Hill when it opened. His old stone being left behind.
(Note: The above photo was taken January 31, 2013 after the stone was relocated.
Another work day or two will have the primary hill cleared of brush which will help in the location of any other stones.
This odd stone was found in the cemetery. It appears to have been a part of a monument at one time but now has odd carvings on it. The years 1951, 1984, and 2003 are on it along with other symbols and letters.
These two views are from the west,
2003 Work Day
In 2003, the Spencer County Historical Society started cutting brush and marking stones with vinyl markers. They have contributed over 50 hours on the project. Remnants of the old iron fence that surrounded the cemetery have been found along with stones that have fallen over. A dumpster has been moved and no dumping signs will be posted. The South Spencer Key Club is going to be involved on scheduled work days.
These two images show the Daniel Grass stone before and after cleaning.