View of the St. Hedwig's Country Cemetery looking from Highway X from south to north. This was the latest addition to the growing cemetery. One may notice the straight rows of trees and monuments. It was through the work of Father Masalewicz and Mr. John Badzinski that this was accomplished. Since 1963 the cemetery in cooperation with the Monument Companies has been laying the foundations for the stones. Cemetery Index, another history by Leon Konieczny.
ST. HEDWIG'S CEMETERIES
Excerpt from the "History of St. Hedwig's Congregation, Commemorating the Diamond Anniversary--1891-1966)
Contributed by Janet Rogalski
The history of St. Hedwig's Cemeteries corresponds with that of the Church. Today there are two beautiful cemeteries. One, the oldest is located in Posen (Twp of Withee) circumventing the country Church and the Rectory; the newest one is located in the City of Thorp on Cemetery Road, on the northeast outskirts of the city. Both cemeteries have been brought up to date in appearance and beauty. The task of accomplishing this was long and arduous.
When in 1891 Messrs. Pietrosiewicz and Slupecki granted the, land for the building of the first wooden church of St. Hedwig's, there was enough land also to establish a cemetery As the Polish settlers cleared the land for their church, they also cleared the north side of the church for the cemetery. It was their wish, that living in this community, belonging to their parish church, they desired to be buried near the house of God. These beliefs and traditions they brought with themselves from their native land of Poland and Lithuania. That first clearing remains a part of the present cemetery located near the church. Many of the wooden crosses are gone that served as markers or monuments those days, replaced by the modern stone, but most burials are recorded in the Parish book of internments. The writer has listed the first burials on the parish cemetery during the pastorate of Father Jachminiak in 1894.
Very little is recorded about the growth and progress of the cemetery. There were not too many burials in the early days, as the population was much younger. The average deaths for the first five years amounted to about five burials. Minor issues on control might have been present in the early days with some disagreement between the trustees and the place of burial. The Thorp Courier reports as a news item something a bit humorous in their August 2nd, 1894 edition: "Mrs. John Moronczyk, residing northeast of the village, died on Thursday last and was buried at the Polish Church cemetery on Friday. After the funeral cortège arrived at the cemetery at 10:00 a.m. a dispute arose as to the place of burial of the deceased between the husband and the Church trustees which was not decided until night fall; the remains resting all the day in the sun while the dispute was going on. " No comments, as those were disturbing days in the history of the parish.
As the parish grew in numbers more deaths occurred and so the cemetery north of the church began to expand to the west, to accommodate all the burials. In 1899 under Father Korczyl a new fence was built around the cemetery to keep the cattle away. In 1912 the cost of a lot was raised from $5.00 to $25.00 for parishioners, under the pastorate of Father Pudlo. In 1918 it was agreed at the parish meeting to enlarge the cemetery. Work began to clear the area farther to the north west of the church in order to provide room for years, to come. This is the area going west from the altar and crucifixion scene towards the western boundary along the Soo line tracks. One may mention that following strictly the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, those who were not worthy of Christian burial, for years to come, were buried along the fence dividing St. Hedwig's land from that of the Railroad Co. One ma may find stones and markers there to the present day.
In 1927, a rule was passed at the parish meeting that no lots would be sold to those who were not parishioners of St. Hedwig's. This rule was later changed as the cemeteries expanded and room became ample for burials.
During Father Kulig's time the cemetery continued to be enlarged. The beautiful trees that are west of the church rectory were planted there by Father Kulig in straight rows in order to divide lots into 20ft x 20ft. Monuments were better controlled and more in uniform lines. One may walk through the cemetery and notice the progress made in height and make of the monuments. Father Kulig loved the garden and trees and spent many hours seeding, planting and caring for the plants created by God.
On January 24, 1937 a discussion was carded on concerning the building of a permanent Crucifix and Altar on the cemetery in order to make it more sacred in character and honor the dead in a Christian manner. After all, St. Hedwig's Cemetery was Christian and Catholic in Character. The Cross that was built in the early days from wood was deteriorating and a new one was needed. On the recommendation of Father Kulig the project was approved and a special collection was inaugurated for that cause.
In 1960 Father Disner developed an agreement with Lauren Vaults to supply fiber glass vaults for burials on St. Hedwig's Cemetery. Lauren Vaults established a factory in Thorp a year before that, sponsored by the Business Men of Thorp in order to bring new industry into the community. Prior to this fiber glass vaults were not used but concrete vaults produced by Wilburt Vault Co.
Father Disher in order to produce income for the cemetery insisted that all who were to be buried in St. Hedwig's Cemetery must use the fiber glass vaults, otherwise they would be penalized with a fifty dollar payment. This created much dissension in the parish and community, so much so that the matter went to court. Even the Diocese of La Crosse stepped into the issue and would not permit this to be done. The Lauren Vault Co. went out of business in 1962. Father Masalewicz when he was presented with the issue immediately cancelled all fines and allowed the people to choose either a concrete or fiber glass vault. In the time the issue slowly died and peace again was restored both in the parish and community.
Returning to the story of the Altar & Crucifixion scene, the collection throughout the year netted as follows: The Societies of St. Hedwig's donated the sum of $235.00; donations from the members of the parish amounted to $946.05. The total cost of cemetery and altar and crucifixion scene cost $1,254.55.
On October 17, 1938 Father Kulig celebrated an out door Mass on the cemetery and dedicated the altar by blessing it in the presence of the parish. Present also were Rev. Stanislaus Pawlowski, Rev. Stanley Andrzejewski, of Junction. The altar and statues depict Christ on the Cross, the Blessed Virgin, kneeling beneath the cross, and Mary Magdalene and St. John standing. The statues are five feet tall, skillfully and artistically cast. The altar is set about 100 feet from the front of the cemetery and road facing east.
With deaths increasing in the parish, the cemetery continued to expand during Father Piekarski's administration. In 1943 land was cleared and the cemetery continued into the southern area of the parish, today known as Section D and E of the cemetery.
Running out of space in the country cemetery, Father Piekarski purchased land in the extreme northeast corner of the city limits of Thorp. The purchase price in 1952 was about $1,500. 00 including the surveying and other costs. This is what is called the new cemetery of St. Hedwig's in the city of Thorp.
The land was cleared of trees and stumps by Father Piekarski, Mr. Bernie Dulek and a few men of the parish. The first burial took place in 1953 on the new cemetery though the country cemetery continues to be used because of the purchase of lots by members in advance which as yet have not been filled.
Father Francis Disher purchased and installed the Cross on the new cemetery in 1960. It was torn down by high winds in 1964 and rebuilt, painted and installed in concrete during Father Masalewicz's time by John Badzinski. In June of 1961 when Father Masalewicz took over the administration of the parish cemeteries very little was done. The ordinary upkeep was continued as equipment and money was scarce. With Mr. Huls who then was the caretaker and Janitor, Father Masalewicz and Mary Ann Rudawsld used all available makeshift equipment throughout the summer and fall to keep the vast areas trimmed of grass. The cemetery fund had the only available money in the sum of $800. 00. It was decided that summer that before the completion of Father Ed's term, the cemetery will look as it should.
The author recalls how much time Mr. Huls spent in putting together old mowers and the broken down little tractor so that the grass could be cut. The first act in order to raise money for the cemetery was to put on a drive for the payment of Perpetual Care. At the Parish Board meeting it was decided on charges to be assessed against lot owners; and the method of collection.
In the beginning, much difficulty was met, but in time with education and explanation plus the gradual improvement of the cemetery, good results began to show themselves. By the end of 1961, the Perpetual Care Fund had $1,240.09 and the Cemetery Operational Fund contained $518.47.
The year 1962 saw the purchase of a new lawn mower to simplify the work of cutting grass. How often the writer remembers the strangers whom he met on the cemetery who were shocked to see the Pastor in dirty clothes, with perspiration flowing down his face, cutting the cemetery grass because the funds were low. Yet this did not deter the continued hard work on the cemetery. The many hours Mary Ann Rudawski spent in trimming the monuments of grass and weeds, will be recorded by God alone.
The summer of 1962 also saw Mr. Huls and Father Masalewicz measure the old cemetery into lots and graves in order to map the cemetery. Maps were scarce and what existed was of no value. it took most of the summer and fall to complete the task of measuring, copying names of monuments in order to locate lots and graves on the map. The task of drawing up the maps on paper was left to Father's able assistant, Mary Ann Rudawski. The maps the parish contains today, are due to the hard work of Mr. Huls, Marv Ann Rudawski and Father Masalewicz.
The winter of 1962 and spring of 1963 were spent in making the necessary books of lots and graves. Special ledgers were purchased for this purpose. The cemeteries were divided into Sections, namely the old cemetery into Sections A, AA, AAA, B, C, D, and E. The new cemetery in Section A new. For each section there was a special book of all lots, graves, Perpetual Care Payments, lot payments and receipt numbers. Again the research on the past lot payments, entries into the book was the work of Miss Mary Ann Rudawski. Unfortunately her departure in 1967, left the continuation of this work to Father Masalewicz.
In 1963 a new Cadet Tractor was purchased. The laying of foundations for monuments was taken over from the monument people and given to Huski Bros. of Thorp. By this means the specifications for all monuments would be more uniform and better control of order on the cemetery could be kept by the authorities. Black dirt was hauled in by Mr. Jerry Rademaher in order to level and fill sunken areas of the cemetery. Father Masalewicz recalls the many hours he spent hauling dirt with the Cadet tractor and small trailer through the cemetery.
By the end of 1963, the Perpetual Care fund had $8,100.00 and the Cemetery operational Fund $1,027.71. The cemetery was now operating independent of St. Hedwig's Parish and in the black.
In 1964 new regulations for the cemetery were published in the Annual Report for better control of the cemetery and for keeping its neatful appearance. Praise finally began to flow into the ears of the Pastor on the success of beautifying the sacred homes of the dead.
In 1965 more regulations appeared in the annual report and posted on all the cemeteries for the benefit of lot owners. Foundations now were laid by the Cemetery itself and the work done by the Janitor, & John Badzinski.
By the Diamond Jubilee Year 1967, the cemetery was in very fine condition. It was well cared for and funds were now made available for landscaping. By the end of 1967, the Perpetual Care Fund stood at $19,111.00 and the OperationalFundhad$6,305.50. The total Fund reached $25,416.50.
The cemetery has over 1500 graves but only about 800 are recorded on the maps that were made in 1962. Since burial permits came later than the beginning of the cemetery, the archives have over 750 burial permits. One must remember that these figures will not agree with the deaths in the parish from 1891 to 1966 which totaled 1428, as some deceased are shipped to other cemeteries and vice versa. The author must stress that these figures presented are estimates, that are pretty close to accuracy. No one will realize unless lie vividly remembers the condition of the cemetery, how much work has been done in the six and one half years of Father Masalewicz's administration. The little that is recorded will never bring out the heartaches, the sweat, the determination and disappointments in accomplishing this goal. Only God will have these deeds recorded. To the Janitors, Mr. Bill Huls, &. John Badzinski, Mary Ann Rudawski and Father Masalewicz, the Parish should ever be grateful.
View of the St. Hedwig's Country Cemetery from Cemetery Rd. and graves looking directly west between the Church and rectory. One may notice the uniformity and cleanliness of the cemetery as confirming the work of 1962. The cemetery is a sacred place and therefore demands care at all times.
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