Now is a good time to appreciate our past

The beginning of a year is usually a time for looking forward and resolving to make changes.

But I think it's also a good time to look at the past that brought us to where we are. I recently had the opportunity to learn more about our local past with a very bright group of elementary school students.

Sara Parnell's fifth grade AIG students at Mount Pleasant Elementary School have been studying landmarks, from world famous to local. Along the way, they learned about a landmark right in Mount Pleasant that not many people even know exists.

St. John's Lutheran Church was founded in 1745. However, at that time, when America was still an English colony, only Church of England houses of worship could be called churches, so the early Lutheran settlers called their building the Dutch Buffalo Creek Meeting House. It wasn't at the current site of St. John's, but further east, near the intersection of Mount Pleasant Road and Fisher Road.

Today that piece of land is private property, except for a small piece that belongs to three Lutheran churches and on which stands a monument erected in memory of the earliest members of the community.

To get to the site, the students rode on a tractor-pulled wagon, arranged for them by Ronald Hurlocker who owns the property. After a very bumpy ride, they found the monument which was erected in 1894 and is inscribed as "sacred to the memory of the members of the Lutheran and German Reform Churches who are buried here prior to 1750."

Over the years, the monument has been appreciated and vandalized. In the '50s or '60s the property was cleaned up as part of an Eagle Scout project. Sadly, there is visible evidence of the monument being used for target practice.

Still, it's pretty inspiring to stand on a piece of property that was important to the earliest settlers of this part of the county. The Dutch Buffalo Creek runs nearby and you can see where the Great Wagon Road was located. Settlers traveled the road, looking for land and along the banks of the creek were the places they chose.

John Suther, a member of St. John's Lutheran Church and descendant of those settlers, accompanied the children to the monument and gave them a tour of the current St. John's cemetery. He estimates that there are more than 6,000 unmarked graves at the current cemetery site, which is the third location.

He can only guess at the number of people buried at the first site where the 1894 monument stands.

The students were quite impressed to learn about this important monument, which is to them like hidden treasure. They were suitably upset to discover it had been vandalized and emphasized the importance of preserving markers and remnants of our history.

As Mackenzie Matthews explained, the more we know about our history, the more we learn about ourselves.

I think that's a pretty wise approach to a new year: learn from the past to make our future better.