Chapter 24 – Buried Bones

Tracing my Mormon pioneer roots because my story began with those who came before.

Daniel Wood marked off a quarter acre of his homestead for a cemetery to hold the bones of those he loved most. Daniel asked God to protect them until Christ’s second coming when each would rise again, spirit and flesh made whole. The Daniel Wood Cemetery is one of the oldest burial plots in the Woods Cross area of Utah.

Daniel was healthy most of his life. He even survived several Diptheria outbreaks, which claimed the lives of family members younger than him. Even at seventy-five, Daniel’s strength enabled him to work alongside men much more youthful than him. He was grateful his aging eyes allowed him to read the scriptures, which he said were the only books he read.

Weeks before his death, Daniel took slow walks on the street near his farm. At his cemetery, he spent hours in a rocking chair under the shade of a tree he’d planted decades before.

While there, I wonder if Daniel reflected on the brevity of life or wrestled with regrets. Eventually, his health declined, forcing him to spend most of the day in bed.

In April of 1892, Daniel died at home at age ninety-two. He was surrounded by loving family when he gently took his final breath.

On a Wednesday afternoon at the East Bountiful Tabernacle, a few days after his death, his family and community gathered for his funeral. Daniel’s body was dressed and laid in an open white casket decorated with sheaves of wheat and an arch of flowers. The “Welcome Home” banner draping it conveyed the message Daniel was returning to his Heavenly Father and family who had passed before.

The family placed pots of blooming flowers and cut bouquets on both sides of the pulpit. One of the six men who eulogized him was Heber J. Grant, a church apostle who later became the church prophet. Speakers called Daniel a true friend to his fellow man and reminded the mourners of his courage and faithfulness to God. Tears flowed for him.

A hearse carrying his body led over fifty cars in a solemn procession to the gravesite. His children honored his wish for burial beside his first wife, Mary.

After Daniel’s death, his son John forged an iron fence with oak leaves and acorns which he placed around the cemetery. The family also build an impressive monument to honor Daniel, the family patriarch.

Over a period of sixty years, the family continued to bury loved ones in the Daniel Wood cemetery, including wives, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, daughters-in-law, adopted children, a stepson, and even a hired hand.

Small graves for two grandbabies were the first to be dug. Next was Daniel and Emma’s son Nathan, who died after falling off a wagon at eight months old.

Tombstone of Nathan Wood, Daniel’s son who died after falling off a wagon at eight months old.

Although the family went on to sell the land around the cemetery to developers, they honored Daniel’s desire for this quarter-acre to remain in the family’s care. A website provides detailed burial records. When I called the number listed, the person who answered told me Daniel and Peninah’s descendants still care for the grounds using their own time and money.

Daniel Wood mattered to those who planned his memorial, built a monument, and continued the cemetery’s upkeep. As someone who appreciates history, I was giddy with excitement over the details of Daniel’s funeral, including the details such as the lilac-colored lettering on the banner draping his casket. It made it easy to imagine myself there among my people.

And yet, that familiar discomfort stirs again, white guilt perhaps? That same feeling some parents and politicians are hell-bent on keeping white children from experiencing.

Fearful school boards can ban books and curricula. Cowardly politicians can pass laws, but neither changes the truth that not all lives are honored in America.

Not all deaths come peacefully. Not all bodies are laid to rest with dignity and care. Not all family members can visit the bones of their ancestors in cemeteries with tended graves.

2 thoughts on “Chapter 24 – Buried Bones

  1. Oops! I think there’s a typo regarding Daniel’s death: it should probably read 1892 instead of 1982. It’s been interesting to follow your story…thanks!

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