PORTAGE | For Betty Conley, it was the end of a long journey for some of her relatives.
A great aunt she never knew and the first wife of her great grandfather were two of the 25 honored and remembered Thursday afternoon during the dedication of a monument and memorial for those buried at the James/Schrock Cemetery.
It was another great aunt, Maime Magneson, who first protected the graves of her ancestors decades ago. Magneson, of Chesterton, said Conley, protested the original route of the Indiana Toll Road. It would have gone right over the James/Schrock Cemetery. Magneson won and the highway was detoured by a mile to go around the burial place of some of Portage Township's earliest pioneers including her half sister Mary Hoeckelberg, buried there in 1878 and Mary's mother Anna, buried in 1875, the same year Mary was born.
The James/Schrock Cemetery fell into disarray over the years since its first burial in 1838. The last burial was in 1884. Vandalism and time caused headstones to be shattered, gone missing and covered in soil or overgrown by weeds and trees.
In 2008, the Portage Township Historical Society ordered a monument honoring those buried at the small cemetery, said Kathy Heckman, a Historical Society member. But, they knew they couldn't erect it at the cemetery because it would likely also be vandalized.
She began working with Portage Township Trustee Brendan Clancy, township cemetery director Debbie Clem and others to clean up the original cemetery and find a place for the marker.
The new monument and memorial was erected at the township-run McCool Cemetery. Clem said while 25 names are listed on the monument, two more, both infants, were also found and will be added. Up to 40 people are buried there and as their information is discovered, their names will also be added.
The Rev. Andrew Corona of Nativity of Our Savior Catholic Church offered a blessing over the memorial.
"The tragedy isn't that they died," he said. "The tragedy would be if they were forgotten. Now they will be remembered in perpetuity."