Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Oct. 30, 2000

Getchell Cemetery begins long road back

"The deadly scourge descended like a swarm of locust on the farm in Sumter Township. The dreaded disease, diphtheria, raged through the entire family. Emma died on July 1, 1875, at the age of 14 years, 3 months and 3 days. Her sister, Henrietta, 11, was struck down on July 12. Due to the arrival of the threshing crew, the bodies were laid out in the cellar until such time as they could be given a proper burial. ­ Johnson family history

Abandoned since the late 1920s, Getchell Cemetery, located in the field of the Ken Terlinden farm in rural Glencoe, has been rediscovered since Sandra Sandman and Sue Engholm, both of Hutchinson, walked the one-acre plot as part of a massive countywide cemetery transcription project.

"From the road, the cemetery looked like a mound of green," Sandman said, remembering when she first saw it. "Getchell was in the worst condition of the cemeteries we know about. It was sad how it had been abandoned."

Sandman and Engholm shared their story about the rural pioneer cemetery with Kay Johnson, entertainment and feature writer for the Hutchinson Leader. Johnson had a particular interest in the cemetery because she is a great-great-granddaughter of William Johnson, whose daughters Emma and Henrietta are buried there.

Sandman and Johnson have joined forces to form the Getchell Cemetery Restoration Society to restore the one-acre plot.

To help with the clean-up effort, Duane Radtke, who is in charge of McLeod County's Sentence to Serve program, was contacted to help. His crew came in last fall and helped to clear the overgrowth, but almost a year later, the cemetery is again covered with a mixture of weeds and lilacs.

At this point, Sandman and Johnson are developing an overall strategy to restore the cemetery to its original condition.

Unlike many cemeteries in the county, Getchell saw its first burial in 1866 and its last interment in 1911. It is not associated with any church, but was used for the burial of area landowners and their families. The primary families associated with this cemetery were: Abbott, Beihoffer, Colby, Getchell, Grunberg, Johnson, Langley, Merrit, Nash, Schmidt, Stith, and Walker.

The cemetery is named for John H. Getchell, who had homesteaded the surrounding area.

One of the highlights of working at the Getchell sit has been the discovery of the grave of Civil War veteran Henry Abbott. Abbott was an original member of the famous First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Division that held the Union line at Gettysburg, preventing a Confederate break through, and suffering an 82 percent casualty rate ­ the highest of any Union division in the war.

To learn more about Getchell and the people buried there, Sandman has traced the stories of the families through old records at the McLeod County Courthouse, newspaper obituaries, and church records. To date, she has learned that the people buried at Getchell range in age from 3 months to 94 years.

The cause of death includes such afflictions as diphtheria, jaundice, paralysis and consumption. Tragic accidents also claimed a couple of lives. John A. Getchell, 29, was a fireman on the Northern-Pacific railroad when he was killed in a train crash in Evanston, Utah.

Amos Nash, 36, had the misfortune of setting out to shoot a hawk that was hovering over his premises only to stumble, discharging his revolver, and suffering fatal shots as he fell.

Johnson has focused her research exclusively on the life of Henry Abbott, tracing it from enlistment as a citizen solider in the First Minnesota, Company 1, though his military career when he fought in the major Civil War engagements of First Bull Run, Chancellorsville, Fredricksburg, Antietam, and Gettysburg. Abbott was wounded in the leg during the famous charge at Gettysburg July 2,1861.

Through military records obtained through the National Archives in Washington, D.C., Johnson learned that Abbott spent several months convalescing at the General Hotel Hospital on Camden Street in Baltimore, and in 1864, was mustered out with his division one year before the end of the war.

Abbott returned to the Rich Valley area where he sought a government pension because he could no longer perform manual labor due to his war injury. He died in 1870, at the age of 27, when he fell off the bridge near "Old Hooper's Place" and drowned in the Crow River.

Sandman and Johnson are available to share the restoration story of Getchell Cemetery with area civic groups and organizations. For more information call Sandman at (320) 587-2301 or Johnson at (320) 587-2831.

To visit Getchell Cemetery, follow Hwy. 22 south from Hutchinson through Biscay to Co. Rd. 4. Take a right on 4 and follow to the Kenneth Terlinden farm, the second homestead on the left. As a courtesy, Sandman suggests to call first to let them know you are coming.

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