ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (KWQC) - A Quad City resident is selling a house with tombstones in the backyard, and it has nothing to do with Friday the 13th. TV6 Reporter Montse Ricossa did some digging into the topic and found there are no bodies in the backyard. In fact, it was relatively common to have tombstones as patio decor in the 1900s.
These three tombstones were found in a ditch by a cemetery near Orion, now in a backyard in Rock Island to honor those who died.
"The first thing people think of is 'is someone buried here?' especially if they're more upright and on display," said cemetery expert Minda Powers-Douglas.
However, that's not always the case. Tombstones were previously used as sidewalks or stones for patios. Powers-Douglas explains this started in the 1950s at the Dane County Asylum in Wisconsin because of a groundskeeper: "He said, 'you know these stones are a real issue to mow around. Can we take them out to make it easier to mow?' and management said 'sure' and took them off and piled them up. I don't know if that was the same guy or someone else, but someone said 'these would make really good things to use in your yard' and they got dispersed."
About 400 tombstones were removed from that asylum. In this case, though, it's likely the original tombstone was thrown away for another reason, "If the Vandam name would've been misspelled and it's a stone nobody needs, it'll be pitched somewhere near the cemetery or go into a ditch. That's normally what is the case. Sometimes it could be there's a family cemetery on the land at one point 150 years ago. But usually it's something like we were allowed to take them, we took them and use that. So it's strange, but it's true."
The Rock Island family says they found three tombstones in a ditch by a cemetery in Orion and wanted the people to be honored instead of thrown on the side of the road.
"I believe a person should be remembered. That's why I do what I do and share things with people. These people lived, made a difference to people, they need to stand up, show them they were here, I'm a person and I'm important!" said Powers-Douglas. She's also the founder of The Cemetery Club.
John O'Sadnick's new tombstone is in St. Mary's cemetery along with his wife, Ella. His old one in Rock Island, where the family plans to leave it, "since it's my dad's house, I'm not taking them and I don't think he is so it may stick with the owners. They can keep this little piece of history," said Brittny Condon, whose father owns the house.
Powers-Douglas says tombstones are found in metropolitan areas like the Quad Cities every 10 to 15 years and are much more common in rural areas because a few decades ago there weren't laws against burying family members in backyards.
If you happen to ever find a tombstone in your backyard, you can reach out to your local historical society and they can either take it or direct you to the right place.
John O'Sadnick was a resident of Moline and died in 1946 after an illness of five months.