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Oconto County Historical Society Receives Grant

The Oconto County Historical Society (OCHS) is pleased to announce that we have received a grant of $20,525 from the Leon H. and Clymene M. Bond Foundation to fund the creation of a Potter’s Field Memorial in Oconto’s Evergreen Cemetery. The Leon H. and Clymene M. Bond Foundation is a family endowed foundation committed to the growth and improvement of Oconto County and its surrounding areas. To date the Foundation has given over $4 million dollars to support our local community.

The Memorial is designed to honor the memory of the more than 300 people buried in unmarked graves in the cemetery; people that for too long have remained unknown and unrecognized. The proposed design includes a granite boulder monument with a bronze plaque mounted on it and a plaza of granite paver stones engraved with the name and interment date of each person buried there. In addition, two small gray granite columns will be set into the ground to mark the boundaries of the original potter’s field.

Potter’s fields were common in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but today, the location of most of them is unknown to the public. They were common ground sections for burial of the poor, destitute and disenfranchised; the people who had no one to pay for their burial and most of whom are buried there without a marker or stone. The Evergreen Potter’s Field, is located in an area that appears as if it is just vacant space but current records at Evergreen show that beginning in the 1850’s, over 200 people have been buried there while scores more have been buried in other “poor ground” areas located throughout the rest of the cemetery.

This “Potter’s Field Memorial” will be a blessing for our entire community, says OCHS member Peter Gabrielson who has done considerable research on the potter’s field in Evergreen Cemetery. Pete stumbled on to its existence while doing research for another article he was working on and was completely surprised. “My reaction was; a potter’s field, you mean we have a potter’s field here in Oconto?” Since then almost everyone else he meets has had the same reaction. “I thought, this is something people need to know about.”

Our hope is that the Potter’s Field Memorial will be completed by this autumn. We know that under the current conditions there may be some uncertainty in the timeline as we move forward but we have no doubt that it will be completed. It is our belief that this project will be a great benefit to the people of Oconto and that it is an opportunity for us in this day and age, to affirm our empathy and compassion; values that show our humanity and are a reminder that we need to treat all people as equal in the eyes of God. The time has come for us to give these individuals the recognition and respect that they deserve; in fact, have deserved for a long time.