WCPL video series explores the county's buried history

Denver Henderson, local history assistant at the Williams County Public Library, displays a map of the county’s cemeteries at the library in Bryan. WCPL’s new documentary series, “Lay Me Down To Rest: The Cemeteries of Williams County,” tells the interesting stories about the people who are buried in the 63 cemeteries around Williams County.

History is where you find it and every Tuesday morning Denver Henderson and Tyson Horton are hitting the road and hoping to find more of it for the Williams County Public Library in local cemeteries.

The library’s new documentary series, “Lay Me Down To Rest: The Cemeteries of Williams County,” premiered last week and they will be posting a new video at 3 p.m. every Tuesday on the WCPL Facebook page and YouTube channel.

“There are tons of fascinating stories from the 63 cemeteries in Williams County and our goal is hit all of them,” Henderson said.

Their first video, in Edgerton’s Maple Grove Cemetery, featured the story of William Carr, who, 170 years ago at the age of 17, decided to explore the world on his own.

“He walked to Indiana, Illinois and the western states then ended up going to Japan, Cuba and South America,” Henderson said. “After his wanderlust, he came back to St. Joseph Township, bought a farm and lived there the rest of his life.”

Next week they will be going to the allegedly haunted Buck Cemetery in Springfield Township, but don’t expect any ghost stories.

“We’re strictly sticking to history and interesting facts,” Henderson said. “We want this to be a permanent part of the public record, always online, always available. If people have ancestors buried there but can’t get to it, at least they will have this.”

As the library’s local history assistant, Henderson has led annual tours of Bryan’s Fountain Grove Cemetery since 2017 “and that fueled everything,” he said. “Lots of people tell me stories afterward. I write them down and keep them in a file. It’s not the largest cemetery in Williams County but I have enough for another five years.”

Last March, when the library was closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he started researching the county’s other cemeteries with Richard Cooley’s “The Cemeteries of Williams County” as his primary source. “It’s just information facts but when I went through other resources I started finding fascinating figures, like William Carr,” he said. “We have some incredibly noble people in Williams County and some incredibly dastardly people. Those are the interesting stories and I’m always looking for more.”

Specifically, he’s looking for stories about the women of Williams County. “We always talk about the veterans, mayors and congressmen but rarely about the famous women of Williams County,” he said. “They are seriously underrepresented but no less interesting.”

You can send tips to Henderson by email at denver@mywcpl.org. “I can’t put every story in but I’ll try my best,” he said. “If you have interesting facts, send them my way.”

He’s also looking for the grave of Andrew F. Tyler, an itinerant fortune teller who was convicted of murder and hanged on the courthouse square in 1849. “Everybody loves a crime story and it’s the only execution carried out in Williams County,” he said. “We have no idea where he was buried.”

James Robert Engle, who killed librarian Emily Abernathy in the basement of the Bryan Library in 1946, is buried in Jefferson Township’s Shiffler Cemetery.

Henderson started filming with Horton, the library’s information technology manager, in October. “He does all of the drone work, videography and editing,” Henderson said. “I just look up facts and talk, but he really creates the look of it and deserves equal credit.”

The library’s Local History Center is still open, by appointment only during the pandemic, for anyone who wants to do their own exploring. Call 833-633-7323, ext. 175 to schedule access.

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