Highland News Leader

A Thought to Remember: Roland Harris, the News Leader’s Highland history columnist, set to turn 90

On the left is Roland Harris as a young corporal in the U.S. Army. On the right is Roland today, just shy of his 90th birthday.
On the left is Roland Harris as a young corporal in the U.S. Army. On the right is Roland today, just shy of his 90th birthday.

I was born on July 2, 1925 and raised in Alhambra. I graduated from Highland High School with the class of 1943, then joined the U. S. Army Field Artillery, serving in the Philippines in World War II.

After the war, I graduated from College of Mortuary Science, June 11, 1947. I married Lorna Ritt on June 17, 1947 in Highland, and in September 1948, started with Tibbetts & Co. in Highland.

In 1953, I bought the business and changed its name to the Roland Harris Furniture and Funeral Chapel, later Harris Funeral Home, which operated for many years at 920 9th St., where Lorna and I and our four boys made our home. I later sold the business and joined the First National Bank of Highland as a personal banker, retiring in 1990.

I’m having my 90th birthday celebration on Sunday, June 28 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 2454 State Route 143 in Highland from 2 to 4 p.m. Everyone is invited, and “no gifts” is my request. If you insist, consider a donation to Highland Area Community Foundation for Anderson Cemetery Association.

We hope you can drop in for some refreshments. Our sons and most of their families will be in attendance and will be happy to see you. Paul lives in Oregon, John in Affton, Mo., Mark in Winnetka, Ill., and Luke in Glen Carbon. We have 14 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Since retirement, as you probably well know already if you are reading this, I have continued to write a weekly Highland history column for the Highland News Leader. I recently finished my 1,000th column.

I have also been helping with local cemeteries, then restoring “forgotten cemeteries” in the area, with Anderson Cemetery being my latest, and ninth, cemetery on which I have worked.

I hope to see you on Sunday, June 28 at the K of C Hall.

More on Anderson Cemetery

We now believe Anderson Cemetery was started in 1816, before Illinois was a state.

We have recently found a section of a tombstone, that reads, “died in 1816,” but we have not found the top half, that would have the name. We believe this old tombstone belongs to the father of Maj. James G. Anderson, Gilmore Anderson, who was born in 1768.

Gilmore Anderson and his family, came to Looking Glass Prairie in January 1816. He purchased the 160 acres, in Section 17, now called St. Jacob Township. His fourth oldest son, Maj. James G. Anderson (1803-1847) later became the owner of this farm, where Anderson Cemetery is located today.

James G. Anderson volunteered for the Black Hawk War, 1831-33, and rose to major. He farmed and was the first blacksmith in the St. Jacob area, working with William Faires, a wagon maker, and they also made wooden mold-board plows.” (This quote from the book, St. Jacob, Page 271.)

“Major Anderson also served on the Madison County Commissioners, up to his death on Sept. 25, 1847 ,at the age of 43.”

Many of the Anderson family are buried at Anderson Cemetery, including Maj. James G. and his wife Hannah McAdams Anderson, the daughter of Revolutionary War veteran Pvt. William McAdams. Their son, William C. Anderson, and his wife, plus a daughter, Elvina, a twin of Elvira, born in 1831, several son-in-laws and grandchildren, plus other relatives and neighbors, are all buried at Anderson Cemetery. Probably more than 100 persons.

We recently have been probing deeper than at first and have found, two more veterans’ tombstones, both from the Civil War, four to eight inches underground. These two military stones are in excellent condition, since they have been cleaned. We are waiting to reset them. They are for Civil War veterans Pvt. Andrew J. Hays of Company K, 117th Illinois Voluntary Regiment, and J. R. Arterberry, Company D, 59th Illinois Infantry.

Since retirement, I have just finished my 1000th Highland history column for the Highland News Leader, and I have been helping with local cemeteries, then restoring “forgotten cemeteries” in the area.

Anderson Cemetery is the ninth cemetery that we have worked on and it is in need of total renewal, as it has been in a pasture for years. Only one tombstone was standing upright when we started. Now, have 28, more have been repaired and awaiting installation. The real problem is that there is no road back to Anderson Cemetery, a ½-acre in St. Jacob Township, southwest of St. Jacob.

Please do not drive back to Anderson Cemetery at this time, because corn has been planted. The old Goshen Road from Alton to Shawneetown, Ill., on the Ohio River, started in 1808, went on the north side of Anderson Cemetery and formed the Anderson Cemetery, north boundary. This area of the Goshen Road was deleted, after they gave names to townships, and St. Jacob Township started making straight roads every mile apart, in most areas.