Summit Cemetery: Memories of a Rural Past

It catches the eye.  Nestled amongst more elaborate headstones in Summit Cemetery is a small wooden grave marker.  It is simply engraved “Lena Smith 1915 – 1932.”  One cannot walk by, but feels the need to stop and ponder about this young girl and her simple monument as the smell of corn from the nearby fields drifts in the air.   

Located on the corner of Utica Ridge Road and Blackhawk Trail this small piece of land contains not only the cemetery, but historic Summit Church as well.  Built in 1858 – 1859, this building is a reminder of the small country churches that once dotted the local landscape.  Once known as the Summit Presbyterian Church it is owned and maintained today by the Scott County Historical Society. 

It feels as though a church service could begin at any moment (regular services ended in 1972).  One can picture in the mind’s eye the sanctuary windows open to allow the summer breeze to flow through the room.  Listening to the sermon, a glance out of the windows on the right side of the church would provide a picturesque view of farms and growing fields while the view from the left would be a reminder of the past as the headstones of the cemetery gleam white and black against the green of the trees and fields nearby.

In the midst of all the white and black headstones is that of Lena Smith.  The wood of her marker a dull gray with green summer moss and cracks marring its surface but not hiding the name and date so deeply cut into its face. 

We have learned through research that Lena was the second of seven children born to Dawson and Laura Smith.   In the 1930 census it is recorded that Lena lived on a farm with her parents and siblings in Allen’s Grove Township in Scott County.  The Daily Democrat and Leader published a small article on her death on August 19, 1932.  17 year old Lena had been ill for two weeks before passing away at noon on that day.  She had been born and reared in Scott County and was a student at Davenport High School.  Arrangements were pending.

A glance at the Davenport High School yearbook for 1932 does not show Lena as a member of that year’s graduating class.  During that time period only graduating seniors were pictured.  She cannot be found in any of the activity or club photos either. 

Only Lena is buried in Summit Cemetery.  Her family appears to have moved outside the area within a year or two of her death.  We currently do not know where they relocated. 

Summit and other rural cemeteries are wonderful places to explore.  A small adventure while enjoying the beauty of our area and remembering those who came before us.

If you would like to explore Summit Church and Cemetery an opportunity exists as the Scott County Historical Society will hold its annual Ice Cream Social and Fundraiser at the site on Wednesday, July 20th from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.  Please see our Blog Calendar of Events for more information.

It is a wonder in some ways that Lena’s small wooden marker still stands so strong with the intense weather changes our area experiences every year.  In 2012 Lena’s marker will have stood in Summit Cemetery for 80 years marking a life that ended far too young.   

(Photo by Amy Driskill)

(posted by Amy D.)

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