Rural Revelations in Country Cemeteries

Driving along a gravel road just outside of Vesta in southwestern Minnesota, the city cemetery lies to my right with the town's grain elevator complex in the distance.

Along a gravel road just outside of Vesta in southwestern Minnesota, the city cemetery lies to the left with the town’s grain elevator complex in the distance, just over the hill.

As a young girl, I remember fearing cemeteries, that place where my paternal grandpa was laid to rest atop a rare prairie hill when I was just nine.

A bit of history in the Holden Lutheran Church Cemetery, rural Kenyon.

A bit of history in the Holden Lutheran Church Cemetery, rural Kenyon.

But my view of cemeteries has evolved over the years so that today I see these earthly resting spots as places of faith, art, history and personal stories.

A snippet of the fence embracing the Urland Lutheran Church Cemetery in the Sogn Valley area.

A snippet of the fence surrounding Urland Lutheran Church Cemetery in the Sogn Valley area.

I no longer focus on the bones buried beneath my feet or the newly-departed lying under a heaped mound of dirt. Rather, I find myself reading tombstones, marveling at carved stone, wondering about the lives of those who lie within the often fenced boundaries of graveyards.

The Valley Grove Church Cemetery near Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is especially picturesque during the fall.

The hilltop Valley Grove Church Cemetery near Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is especially picturesque during the fall.

In particular, I am drawn to country cemeteries that my husband and I happen upon during leisurely Sunday afternoon drives in rural Minnesota.

Another favorite graveyard, Trebon Cemetery, sits next to the historic Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary west of Faribault.

Trebon Cemetery sits next to the historic Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church west of Faribault in Shieldsville Township.

Spot a spire spearing the sky and we typically find a cemetery tucked behind or aside the church. Convenient and comforting.

Folk art in the Trebon Cemetery honors Christ and the deceased.

Folk art in the Trebon Cemetery honors Christ and the deceased.

During this Holy Week, when Christians worldwide focus on reflection and repentance and the suffering and crucifixion of Christ, it seems fitting to revisit some of the Minnesota cemeteries I’ve explored.

In 2007, I photographed these roses left at the base of the Milford Monument west of New Ulm. The memorial honors Milford settlers who died in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

Roses left at the base of the Milford Monument west of New Ulm on Memorial Day weekend in 2007. The monument honors Milford settlers who died in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

There is much to learn here about those who went before us—those we loved and those we never knew.

Next to nearly every country church, you will find a cemetery, including at Vista Evangelical Lutheran Church in southern Minnesota.

Fields and a cemetery embrace Vista Evangelical Lutheran Church in southern Minnesota.

Words to ponder in a cemetery in Thielman.

Words to ponder in a cemetery in Theilman.

I always appreciate handcrafted signs like this one marking the Cannon City Cemetery.

Some cemeteries are marked by handcrafted signs like this one in Cannon City.

Cannon art in the Cannon City Cemetery denotes a Civil War soldier's grave.

Period appropriate art in the Cannon City Cemetery denotes a Civil War veteran’s grave.

A simple in-ground marker at Urland Lutheran Church.

A simple in-ground marker at Urland Lutheran Church Cemetery.

In all my cemetery wanderings, I don't think I've ever spotted a gravesite as lovely as this one at Trebon Cemetery.

A well-tended family plot at Trebon Cemetery.

There's something compelling about this weathered statue of the Virgin Mary at Trebon Cemetery.

There’s something compelling about this weathered statue of the Virgin Mary at Trebon Cemetery.

You'll find art of all sorts on tombstones like this one in a cemetery on the west side of New Ulm.

You’ll find art of all sorts on tombstones, like this one in a cemetery on the west side of New Ulm.

A military marker at the Vesta City Cemetery honors my father, a Korean War vterans.

A military marker at the Vesta City Cemetery honors my father, a Korean War vterans.

Stone against stone at Hauge Lutheran Church in the Monkey Valley near Kenyon.

Stone against stone at Hauge Lutheran Church (the Old Stone Church) in the Monkey Valley near Kenyon.

A sculpture at St. Michael's Catholic Church, Buckman, Minnesota.

A sculpture of Christ overlooks St. Michael’s Catholic Church Cemetery, Buckman, Minnesota.

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Streets.mn is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

6 Responses to Rural Revelations in Country Cemeteries

  1. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary April 16, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    I grew up about 10 miles from Valley Grove, and it was a popular destination for a summer bike ride through the country. It’s a beautiful place, and I was pleased to see it among your photos.

    • Matt Steele April 16, 2014 at 9:35 am #

      Me too. I was married at Valley Grove. That burr oak is stately, and we did photos in front of it.

      • Minnesota Prairie Roots April 16, 2014 at 10:12 am #

        Matt, what a lovely place to be married. Lots of weddings are scheduled in upcoming months to the end of September at Valley Grove, according to the VG website.

        I think that burr oak is one of the reasons I especially like this cemetery. That and the hilltop location from which to view the beautiful surrounding countryside. As I recall, the last time I visited the cemetery, chains were holding some of the branches in place on that oak.

    • Minnesota Prairie Roots April 16, 2014 at 10:07 am #

      Sean, Valley Grove is such a beautiful spot, especially in the fall. Have you ever attended the Country Social there in September?

  2. Samuel Geer
    Samuel Geer April 17, 2014 at 2:00 am #

    What a beautiful post. These kinds of places are really special and unique.

Note on Comments

streets.mn welcomes opinions from many perspectives. Please refrain from attacking or disparaging others in your comments. streets.mn sees debate as a learning opportunity. Please share your perspective in a respectful manner. View our full comment policy to learn more.

Thanks for commenting on streets.mn!