TILDEN — The mission: find all registered graves at Tilden Lutheran Cemetery. The problem: two graves were missing.
According to findagrave.com, Tilden Lutheran Cemetery had a number of perpetual residents. The two not found were the ancestors of Travis Hakes and Martin Treptow.
Treptow and Hakes began cleaning and photographing the headstones earlier this year. But they realized, in the process, that two graves they thought belonged to two quintessential family members weren’t there. The two freshly cleaned graves belonged to other family members.
“When we cleared the graves, we discovered that they were two different people. They were two small children,” Treptow said. “They happened to be the children of William and Paulina Kressin.”
While researching for a book he is writing, Treptow realized that he and Hakes could not find the tombstones of Mathilda Albertina Caroline Treptow Dallman and her husband William Gustav Dallman.
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But there were photos of their headstones on findagrave.com.
Treptov said he was dismayed that he could not find these two graves. Treptow and Hakes wanted to find the missing pair of ancestors. They knew they existed. But they didn’t know where their headstones were on the property.
Thinking about it, Treptow realized that graves are often overgrown with bushes. Treptow said he remembered going to a cemetery in Cadott where his cousins were buried. An overgrown bush became a bit of a discussion between Treptow and his cousin.
“I told him to come in and clean this up,” Treptow said.
When Treptow and Hakes realized they couldn’t find two headstones at Tilden Cemetery, they turned to the bushes.
Hakes decided to measure the length from plot to plot. He said the plots were about the same distance apart. So he took his measuring stick and went in every direction. It turns out that the two missing graves were exactly where they belonged, under an overgrown lilac bush.
Hakes and Treptower waited for a family of birds to leave the bush. They didn’t want to disturb the nest, they said.
The bush died early this fall.
Treptow said he took that as a sign. That’s where they had to look. Mother Nature would tell them where to look.
They went in and started pruning the lilac bush.
They brought shovels and brushes to start looking for the missing tombstones.
“We did a bit of scratching and all of a sudden ‘clink’. We have found the first stone. We measured and ‘tinkled’, we found the second stone,” Treptow said.
“These lilac bushes were probably planted here in honor of Matilda and William go back to the early 1900s and just invaded,” Treptow said. “I think it’s probably quite common in cemeteries. Nature takes over. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with Mother Nature.
Hake and Treptow are fourth cousins. In between, they are related to almost everyone at the cemetery.
“We realized that we were related to over 75% of the residents of the cemetery,” Treptow said.
The cemetery is easily accessible by car. It’s not very big. But it means something to locals like Hakes and Treptower. And responsibility for maintaining the premises is a family affair.
Hakes leads the cemetery committee. Hakes said he mainly mows the lawn, cleans up debris and maintains the fence.
The cemetery has been cared for by members of the Kressin, Dallman, Gehring and Kelm families since 1945. It is currently cared for by descendants of John Kressin.
There are approximately 40 people buried in the cemetery.
The cemetery was once associated with a church. But the church moved to Bloomer decades ago.
In 1945, the church sold the cemetery grounds to the Tilden Lutheran Association for $1.00. The Association was officially formed and registered in Chippewa County on May 7, 1945.
Although signage for Tilden Lutheran Cemetery is dated 1886, the cemetery has existed since 1869, Treptow said. And maybe sooner.
Treptow has become a family history enthusiast in recent years. His great-uncle, also named Martin Treptow, received a Purple Heart for his actions during World War I, in a ceremony in Bloomer in July 2022. The process of getting this Purple Heart awarded to his ancestor helped Treptow – he began to research his ancestors and what they had accomplished.
Treptow and Hakes took care of clearing the cemetery. Now all of the family members Treptow and Hakes thought were buried at Tilden Lutheran Cemetery have been found.
In recent years, the living Martin Treptow has become a family history buff.
“People think I’m crazy for caring. But I do. They are my ancestors,” Treptow said.
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