Invite your ancestors to your family reunion! by Edith Wagner

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Include your ancestors in your family reunions. Go to them!

The importance of cemeteries to reunions is one of enormous fascination. They are places where proximity to history and ancestors is compelling.

Cemeteries particularly can be of high interest and not least as fascination for the children. A good example is the Iddings Family Reunion.

When 250 descendants of George Washington’s right-hand man, General “Mad Anthony” Wayne, had their first Iddings Family Reunion they didn’t mind that their ancestor was described as “mad.” Suzanne Gordon told the story about the three-day family celebration in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, the heart of the family home that dates back nearly 300 years.

A tour included visits to Iddings family homes, Wayne’s birthplace and cemeteries. The focus was to engage children with Wayne’s colorful history. They were fascinated. They saw one of Wayne’s graves at Old St. David’s Church cemetery. According to historical records, Wayne’s bones are buried in the family plot at St. David’s; his flesh is buried in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1796. The kids thought details of Wayne’s internment were definitely “cool.”

One family of Killoughs was massacred by outlaws in 1838. Their burial spot, outside Jacksonville, Texas, was declared a State historical site during the 1930s when a monument was erected by WPA workers. Almost twenty years later, John A. Killough was appalled to find monument grounds overgrown and hardly distinguishable from the surrounding forest. While clearing the cemetery, the reunion idea was born and the first one organized in 1955.

According to Juanita Killough Urbach, a procession on reunion Sunday winds along a narrow blacktop road to the Killough monument. At this hallowed spot they annually listen to State Historian, and honorary Killough, Jack Moore, recite the story of the Killough massacre as he has for many years. Upkeep of the cemetery is the responsibility of the family corporation whose perpetual fund assures its future. With such foresight and enthusiasm, Killough history is sure to survive.

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