Parker Cemetery on the Spoon River, Knox County, Illinois

The Parker Cemetery on the Spoon River in Illinois is probably my favorite discovery from our recent road trip.

My husband has the most interesting family history by far and of course only a mild interest in his genealogy. He’s wonderful – I wouldn’t want to count the number of hours he’s waited while I looked up “just one thing” (times about a hundred) in a courthouse or library. Recently we took a marathon road trip from California to Chicago and back, hitting as many cemeteries as we could.

The Parker cemetery we found on this trip is a tiny, almost abandoned family cemetery on the banks of the Spoon River in Knox County, Illinois. We needed our GPS to find this place, at the end of a rutted lane too small for our car. It was really a lovely peaceful place, with wild violets and deer and the river running just below the cemetery’s bluff.

Parker Cemetery on the Spoon River, Knox County, Illinois

Mary Kinsley Curtis’s tombstone at Parker Cemetery

I found exactly who I was looking for: my husband’s great-great grandmother Mary Kinsley Curtis, who died at the early age of 42. Her widower never remarried – at least not that I’ve discovered yet. Her husband John wrote her a love letter just before they were married that a relative has.

I also found fourteen of my husband’s Mackie line in Parker Cemetery and I’ve added all of them to FindaGrave.

But what was truly wonderful is that Edgar Lee Masters could have written The Spoon River Anthology on that very spot. Some of you may recall that Masters wrote a volume of poems set on “The Hill” – a cemetery on the banks of the Spoon River – and each poem in the collection is delivered by the dead speaking of themselves. Masters actually lived and wrote in another Illinois county, but I’m hoping that at some point he made it to the Parker Cemetery for inspiration.

The Curtis line on my husband’s maternal side has a number of colorful characters you’ll be hearing more about.

About the Author:

Nancy Loe has an MA in American History and an MLS in Library Science and Archives. She has appeared on PBS’s American Experience, at Rootstech, SCGS Jamboree, and state and regional genealogy conferences. Her website was featured in Family Tree Magazine's “Social Media Mavericks: 40 to Follow.”


  1. […] sources said my husband‘s great-great-great-great grandfather Medad was a Shaker and others say he was the only […]

  2. Sassy Jane Genealogy 17 June 2010 at 2:08 PM - Reply

    No! I’m sure she would have loved a surprise visit from an invisible Internet friend of her sister, covered in cemetery mud and brambles.

  3. Nicola O. 17 June 2010 at 10:40 AM - Reply

    You were about 5 miles from my sister’s house when you were here. 🙂

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