A window to the past, the cemetery remains the final resting place for at least
450 individuals. The cemetery has a unique history that began with an Indian
burial ground and became a place to bury the dead of the American Bottoms. A
mausoleum built into the bluffs has endured hard times and today still stands as
a local landmark. The story behind Eagle Cliff-Miles Cemetery is one that
although neglected over time, holds a place in history.
The exact time the cemetery was formed is unclear;
however the first known burial was that of Rachel Bond who left this world on
March 27, 1806. The earliest birth of those recorded in the cemetery is that of
Solomon Shook who was born 1761 and died April 15, 1836. The last known burial
was that of Muriel Ludwig in 1977. Shadroch Bond Sr. passed away on May 27,
1812 and is also buried there. He was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, a
soldier in Col. George Roger Clark’s expedition, a justice in St. Clair County,
a representative in the legislatures of the Northwest and Indian territories,
and the uncle of the first governor of the state of Illinois.
A vault was built on top of the bluff to house the remains to
Stephen W. Miles and his descendents. Major Yrasillion, a civil engineer, was
employed to build the vault. Yrasillion later joined General Grant’s army and is
credited with helping to plan the capture of Vicksburg. The mausoleum was built
at the cost of $25,000, a small fortune for the time. The vault is covered in
Italian marble that was shipped to New Orleans and then brought slowly and
costly by steamboat up the Mississippi. Oxen were then used to pull the marble
from the Mississippi to the top of the bluff. Miles himself died three months
before the mausoleum was finished. That winter he was kept in the parlor at the
family home until the vault was completed. Rumor has it that the housekeeper
became accustomed to dusting his coffin that winter; it was also said that he
grew a three inch beard by the time his body was laid to rest within a vault.
Fifty-six vaults are housed within the walls of the
mausoleum, twenty-four on both the left and right sides and eight on the back
wall. However the majority of the vaults were never used and left empty. Miles
himself, his two wives, and other descendents are buried within. Fannie his
colored servant was also buried in a vault. A slab within the mausoleum is said
to have read, “Anny, a pious, honest and upright colored servant of S.W. Miles,
Senior. Died October 18,1847 aged about seventy five years.” A Miles descendent was buried beneath the steps of the entrance to the mausoleum
and remains there to this day.
It is believed that some of those buried within
the vault were buried elsewhere and later transferred to the mausoleum, as some
individuals died before the vault was completed. Only the front of the mausoleum is visible to
onlookers and this faces the edge of the bluffs. The rest of the mausoleum is
covered by earth. The name S.W. Miles was inscribed above the entrance and a
large marble panel to the right of the doorway stated that it was a memorial to
S.W. Miles and his decedents; it also stated that the eldest living heir was to
manage the memorial. A similar panel to the left of the doorway was dedicated to
stating information to the visitor.
On the top of the door of the vault, biblical versus were also inscribed. A
wrought iron fence surrounded the entrance to the mausoleum and fenced off a
portion of the top of it.
John describes the mausoleum
and its remains as they were in the early sixties:
“The floor is littered with pieces of broken marble
slabs, rotting bits of wood from walnut coffins, and some of the decorations
from them. There are numerous bones with shreds of dried flesh still clinging to
them, cloths that may be the remains of shrouds, bits of glass that once sealed
the coffins, and other assorted debris. A must smell pervades all. Ghouls and
vandals certainly have done a thorough job.”
It has been said that Eagle Cliff-Miles Cemetery is
haunted and it appears on many local haunted websites as many have claimed to
have experienced haunting there. The Ghost Hunters website reports that the only
ghostly activity they encountered was whispers and whistling.
There have been reports of digital pictures that have strange smoke lines that
are not visible to the eye, appearing on photos. Perhaps these reports of
hauntings lie in the fact that “devil worshipers” burned the Miles family’s
remains or because when you step into the mausoleum it is eerily cold.
The cemetery remains open to the public from dawn
to dusk. It is accessible only from a small rock road. A large stone with a
plaque on it is the only indicator from the road that the cemetery is nestled
within the small congregation of houses.