A nearly forgotten cemetery on Old Cemetery Road in Milford has been cleaned up, but the caretakers have to continue fighting weeds, and now an incident of theft, to maintain its historical value.
Five years ago, it would have been nearly impossible to find Postles Community Cemetery.
But thanks to the efforts of the Cedarfield Ruritan Club and a few descendants of those buried there, the 19th-century cemetery has been brought back to life.
“This [cemetery] goes back so far there’s no close family or relatives who would come back and do anything,” said Ralph Willis, a member and past president of the civic group. “It’s a great community project [for the Ruritans].”
In the spring, the small cemetery is covered by daffodils, and without consistent upkeep, vines and weeds quickly overtake the historic gravestones that mark the resting places of some ancestors long forgotten.
The Ruritans effort to maintain the cemetery began after Newark resident Barry Thomas visited the site in search of the grave of great-great-grandfather’s grave, Nathaniel Bowman Thomas.
What he found was a cemetery filled with trees, vines and yellow jackets.
“When I went there, I literally had to cut my way into the cemetery,” he said. “His was the last one I found.”
As he hacked his way through the property to document his family’s history, some locals joined in the effort.
Charles Postles, a local whose ancestors owned the property nearly 200 years ago and who are buried there among their neighbors, helped Thomas with the clean-up and contacted the Ruritans to get involved.
Postles was the last consistent caretaker of the cemetery, and since the initial clean-up efforts a few years ago, the Ruritan Club has been maintaining the site as a community service project for the last four years.
As a child, Postles visited the cemetery with his father, but as he started his own family, he wasn’t able to keep up with the rapidly spreading weeds. A neighbor mowed the lawn for a while. But when he stopped, it didn’t take long for Mother Nature to reclaim the land.
But it’s not just nature’s forces that the new cemetery caretakers are battling.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, the cemetery’s antique, iron-rod fence went missing. Postles and Willis immediately contacted Delaware State Police, who are currently conducting an investigation into the theft.
“It’s aggravating,” Postles said. “That old, rod iron fence was part of the character. You won’t be able to replace that.”
Willis said the club was in the process of having the fence repaired, and isn’t sure what the next plan of action will be concerning its replacement.
But regardless of the recent theft and relentless overgrowth, Postles and Willis said it’s important to maintain the cemetery.
Postles said having family buried at the site gives him a close link to history and his heritage that needs to be kept alive.
“It’s important to keep all old cemeteries,” he said. “That’s the heritage. It’s about respect for the past, the heritage and what’s gone before. It’s just important to maintain the cemetery for respect for the past.”
MORE ABOUT POSTLES COMMUNITY CEMETERY
LOCATION Old Cemetery Road in Milford
SIZE About one-third of an acre
NUMBER OF RECORDED BURIALS 28
FAMILY NAMES Bell, Condin, Cropper, Davis, Holmes, Jester, Mitten, Postles, Smith, Thomas, Walker, Watson and Webb
FIRST BURIAL RECORDED Zadoc Postles in 1812 (born 1777)
LAST BURIAL RECORDED Elizabeth Postles in 1890 (no birth date recorded)
Source: Cedarfield Ruritan Club member Ralph Willis, as obtained from Delaware Public Archives