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American History
Stones have a tale to tell

BY JILL TATGE Burlington Bureau

We've all done it driven past a lone cemetery out in the middle of nowhere and wondered why that spot had been chosen for such a purpose.

One such cemetery is located on Raynor Avenue between Highway A and Highway 20 in the town of Dover. There is no sign above the entrance and no church nearby.

But the small cemetery obviously means something to somebody. The grounds are well kept and memorials, which appear to have been recently placed, adorn some of the graves.

It is what is left of the United Presbyterian Congregation of Dover and Yorkville, established by the Scottish settlers who moved to the eastern part of Dover in the mid-1800s. Here rest some of the areas first residents.

The land was also once home to a church, known as the Scottish Settlement Church, built when the Scottish settlers and nearby Irish settlers combined into one congregation in 1849.

Historical records indicate that church goers were required to rent pews to sit in during service. Smaller families usually paid $3 for smaller sections of pews in the main body of the church; larger families rented longer sections of seats along the sides for $5.

With time, the congregation dwindled, and in 1901 services ended. After repeated acts of vandalism, the decision was made to destroy the building. In 1976 it was burned down.

The contents of the church, including the old pump reed organ, were donated to the State Historical Society. An exact replica of the church now stands at Stonefield, in Cassville, Wis., where the furnishings are on display.

The cemetery is still being maintained by descendants of the original settlers. Until last year, Clarence Bird was responsible for cutting the grass and doing part of the upkeep. Others have since taken over the task.

Bird, 87, still lives in the home his father built in 1908, on land his grandfather bought in the mid-1800s.

Most Scottish settlers were attracted to the area because of its small groves of oak trees and its fertile soil. After arriving from Scotland (or from Scotland by way of Canada as in the case of the Bird family) the settlers built homes in their customary manner some distance from the highway.

It is for this reason that the tiny cemetery seems so alone. And while you might not hear people say that they are from the Scottish Settlement, evidence of it still exists.

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