Answer Man: Where is Townsend Cemetery?

News-DemocratJune 29, 2013 

I talked with a delightful lady today, Alice Jerome, about my German immigrant ancestors. I have been having difficulty finding them, but they were listed in a book of transcribed records from St. Paul's UCC in Belleville. I asked Alice if she knew where the Townsend Cemetery is located, and she had not heard of it. There's no location on the St. Clair County Genealogical Society website. Alice suggested I contact you. -- Dr. G

Thanks to the always excellent work of Belleville Public Library archivist Dana Prusacki, I have not only resurrected the location of a Townsend Cemetery but am also able to offer you a photo as well.

As you likely know, when early area settlers died they weren't buried in community cemeteries with comforting names like Mount Hope or Lake View. No, their bodies often wound up in small family plots on their own property with stones now weather-beaten by time and hard to find amidst the overgrowth of weeds and brush.

Such is the fate of Townsend Cemetery. It is immediately to your right on Illinois 4 just as you cross the Madison County line almost exactly three and a half miles north of the four-way stoplight in Lebanon.

Unfortunately, as I feared, you can't see it as you zoom by on Illinois 4. I was hoping to get a glimpse Friday morning, but there was nothing but dense greenery. It's there, though -- and you can see a picture of the white markers if you go to graveyards.com, which lists the location of thousands of Illinois cemeteries along with many pictures and a few in-depth tours. Click on "Cemetery List," "Madison County" and then "Terrapin Ridge Cemetery."

Terrapin Ridge is an alternative name. But according to Daisy Whiteside, who filed a cemetery report on May 7, 1936, it apparently was popularly known as Townsend Cemetery because it's just north of Townsend Road, which is in St. Clair County.

If you're interested, I will send you the inventory of the cemetery, in which Whiteside found 12 names -- 11 members of the Lucy family along with James G. Robinson. Of course, there's always the possibility of other Townsend family plots, but none that Prusacki or I am aware of -- or listed at cemeteries.com.

Most of the Illinois license plate numbers now contain seven digits. But I own a car with a six-digit number that has been in my family since 1920. My other car has a four-digit plate dating back to 1951. Is the state not issuing lower numbers anymore when they become available? Are they trying to get everyone to have a seven-digit license number? -- Kent McVety, of Shiloh

When you have more than 11 million vehicles in a state, trying to issue everyone a six-digit license plate is a numbers game you're going to lose even if you throw in a letter or two.

"At some point you run out," said Secretary of State spokesman Henry Haupt.

So now when someone applies for a randomly issued state plate -- as the vast majority of state residents do -- they are given a seven-digit tag. It's a change that began in June 2001 for passenger cars and October 2010 for B-class trucks.

That doesn't mean lower numbers are being phased out entirely. It's just that you'll have to pay more for them if and when they are available.

Here's the reason: If you go to cyberdriveillinois.com, you can request a vanity plate or a personalized plate. With vanity plates you have your choice of up to three numbers or up to seven letters (no mixing). With personalized plates, you can request up to five letters and a number from 1 to 99 or six letters and a single-digit number.

Naturally, you're going pay for the honor to drive around with CRDFAN 1 or ILVCATS. Not only is there a major initial investment ($76 personalized, $123 vanity), but you'll pay a bit more each year -- which is why you'll see more and more seven-digit plates.

Of course, seven-digit plates are really nothing new. If you look up "Illinois license plates" on Wikipedia, you can find examples as early as 1931. At least you won't see a jumbled mix of numbers and letters -- such as 4H67W2T -- as you do in some states.

"That makes it more difficult to recall if, for example, you see a hit and run or something like that," Haupt said. "So it's our goal if possible to allow a combination of letters and numbers but not a jumble of them."

Today's trivia

What was the first product ever checked out in a store by its UPC bar code? When?

Answer to Saturday's trivia: Sarpourenx is a tiny commune of 270 people in southwestern France, but it will go down in history as the first place to make dying a crime. On Feb. 13, 2008, then-mayor Gerard Lalanne issued an order forbidding death within the commune. Violators faced severe punishment. It seems that Sarpourenx's small cemetery was full and a judge ruled that it could not expropriate nearby private farmland as new burial ground, so Lalanne issued his decree as a symbolic protest. By the way, he broke his own law by dying 10 months later.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 239-2465.

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