We were just two weeks into stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. I thought I was adapting okay, but as that second week drew to a close I felt myself going a little stir crazy. I felt a strong need to get away for a while. But where could I go?

My wife suggested I just take a long drive. “If you’re in your car, there’s nobody to infect you and you can’t infect anybody.” Brilliant. So that Saturday afternoon that’s just what I did.

I don’t like to drive aimlessly. I need to have a destination. So I chose one: the abandoned US 40 bridge west of Plainfield, Indiana, and the Civil War-era cemetery hidden near it. It’s about 40 minutes from home, giving me a good long drive there and back. I’ve never encountered another soul there anytime I’ve visited, so it would be a safe place to go. My Pentax ME Super was loaded with Kodak T-Max 400 at the time so I brought it along. The wonderful 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M lens was attached.

Abadoned US 40 bridge

The bare-tree months are my favorite time to visit this bridge because it’s so visible. In the middle of summer this is mighty overgrown. You can’t even see the bridge from modern US 40 then. But at this time of year it’s easy to see.

Abadoned US 40 bridge

This bridge was built in 1923. It doesn’t look too bad for having gotten zero maintenance since it was abandoned, which was sometime between 1939 and 1941.

Abadoned US 40 bridge

Iron’s Cemetery is just northeast of the bridge. Little spring flowers grew all along the path leading to it.

At Iron's Cemetery

Inside the cemetery, you can see the other side of the bridge. At least you can during the bare-tree months.

Abandoned US 40 bridge

Except for the sound of an occasional passing car, the only sound here is the wind. It was lovely to be out in the world in a peaceful place.

At Iron's Cemetery

There are always lots of interesting details to photograph in an old cemetery. Gravestone letterforms of the 1800s fascinate me. They have such style!

At Iron's Cemetery

Unfortunately, many of the markers here are in poor condition. Some of them are broken and lying on the ground.

At Iron's Cemetery

I hate to see any old cemetery in this condition. It’s funny — I won’t be buried in one when I’m gone, it seems like a waste of good ground. Cremate me and scatter my remains to the wind. But for those who did choose burial, good heavens, provide for the maintenance of those graves!

At Iron's Cemetery

But enough of that maudlin stuff. It helped me regain my internal footing to make this trip. I lingered here well past I stopped finding photographic inspiration, just to enjoy the quiet and the outdoors. Then I got into my car and drove back home.

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21 responses to “An abandoned bridge and a forgotten cemetery”

  1. J P Avatar

    These pictures all have an eerie, haunting quality about them.

    I believe that elected township trustees are charged with the maintenance of cemeteries that are not otherwise being cared for. It looks like the grass has been kept cut, but I don’t think townships repair broken markers. I would suspect that with as mobile and fractured as families have become the descendants of those buried here may not even know about these graves.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The grass is always cut when I’m here, but the markers haven’t changed over the 10 years or so I’ve known about the place. There were fresh-looking plastic flowers on some graves so I bet that some people remember the people here.

  2. tcshideler Avatar

    I too love old cemeteries. At my request, I took a brief course on repairing and resetting old tombstones through the pioneer cemetery committee of the local historical society I volunteer for. It is a process that is very easy to do improperly, causing more damage, and very tricky to do right.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m surprised to hear that it’s tricky to do right! But good on you for taking the course. I run into too many old rural cemeteries in sad shape and wish more people could and would do the restoration work.

  3. DougD Avatar

    Nice idea, maybe we’ll go for a long drive next weekend because I’m feeling the cabin fever now.

    I always feel sad when seeing old stones that say things like “Forever in our hearts” because if you’ve been gone more than 100 years nobody remembers you.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      This is why I want to be cremated. Why waste a plot of ground on my body when 100 years from now nobody will remember me anyway?

  4. Marc Beebe Avatar

    That bridge is a nice monument to quality construction.
    As for old cemeteries … one always expects to find a stone with the name “Ozymandias” on it.
    Nothing lasts forever.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It helps a lot that the bridge only saw traffic for about 15 years!

  5. Rich Avatar

    Great shots, Jim. I just took my 4 yr old great grandson on his first fishing “expedition” and took my “NEW” Pentax ME Super w/.50mm f 1.7 lens. Shooting TMAX 400 (at rated ASA), I shot a test roll and will get it developed by a commerical lab (not Wally-World!!) We’ll see what happens.

    Keep up the great work.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Excellent — happy you got to make your first outing with the ME Super!

  6. seatacphoto1951 Avatar

    My next blog is about an abandoned cemetery. Now I know how it feels to get scooped by a rival newspaper. There are thousands of these cemeteries. I was opposed once to being buried but my kids want a grave so I doubt I will argue after I am gone.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Lol, it’s all a matter of random timing! I wrote this post two weeks ago and it happened to go live today!

      I’m sure it happens all the time that a person’s final wishes are superseded by the kids’ wishes after the person is gone.

  7. M.B. Henry Avatar

    Wonderful pictures, I would LOVE to take a stroll through that cemetery.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Next time you explore the National Road in Indiana!

  8. brandib1977 Avatar

    This is a great way to safely get out of the house! I go for a drive most weekends and always take my camera along. Missed it this Saturday – had to run errands in the morning and ran out of energy due to a sinus issue. Glad you got out for some adventure!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I haven’t been out for an adventure since that day. Life’s just too busy, with important things I can’t ignore. Here’s hoping things settle down soon.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        Here’s hoping! I’m grateful to be responsible for just myself and that life isn’t so demanding right now that I can’t get out for a Saturday drive or hike.

        Perhaps you can pencil in a couple of hours for yourself soon? Or take your wife for a drive and a milkshake! :)

  9. Photography Journal Blog Avatar

    I also love looking through cemeteries but intend to be cremated, or something along those lines.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You and I are living proof that the two things are not mutually exclusive.

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