A Brief History of the Free German Cemetery
Town of Rantoul - 1987
The Free German Cemetery, Town of Rantoul, was originally an Indian burrial ground, but all evidance of this has been gone for at least 80 years as of this date (1987). The first grave of a white man was that of Mr. Claus Kleist, Sr. (August 10, 1801 - January 3, 1868). Two babies, Claus Ostermann and Claus Thomsen were also soon burried there, and by the year 1864 talk started going around Potter and all of Rantoul Township that it would make a good cemetery. On January 22, 1870, a meeting was held at the home of Claus Menke for the purpose of forming the Free German Cemetery Association. The first officers were: Claus Menke, Chairman; Henry D. Kleist, Secretary; Mathies Thompsen, Claus Miller and Henry Kasper, Trustees. It was decided at that first meeting that a January meeting should be held each year, and it was a tradition long kept. The property was officially purchased from Claus and Henriette Kleist in 1874 for the sum of $100.00.
On January 29, 1944, the Free German Cemetery Association decided that the Township would be better able to provide care and manage the affairs of the cemetery. The cemetery board put up the offer for $1.00 price. At the annual meeting for the Town of Rantoul, a vote was taken and 135 were in favor of the town board purchasing the cemetery with none against. The signing over of the property took place on April 12, 1944.
The Kliest Family has often had a hand in the care of the cemetery. Others who were often helpful were Carl Schaefer, Herman Kalk, Otto Thiel, Jacob Kasper, Otto Mathies, and many, many other.
2009-Today, the cemetery is still maintained by the Town of Rantoul. Otto Maas has been the caretaker for many years. Mark Wunrow manages the cemetery.