May they rest in peace

John Kubal/Register: Karen Hernandez (left) and Georgiana Olson, her mother, show off the “potter’s field” monument that Olson had erected at Greenwood Cemetery in Brookings.

Plaque, monument marks ‘potter’s field’

BROOKINGS – “And after they had consulted together, they (the chief priest and elders) bought with (the 30 pieces of silver paid to Judas – and later returned – for betraying Jesus) the potter’s field, to be a burying place for strangers. For this the field was called Haceldama, that is, the field of blood, even to this day.” Matthew 27:3-8, Douay-Rheims Bible.

Brookings today has such a burial place, at Greenwood Cemetery, where land is set aside in Scriptural fashion: “Potter’s Field – 1887 to 1972: Burial place for people who were impoverished, unclaimed or unknown. 60 graves, 34 names known, 26 names unknown. Rest in peace.”

“Hundreds of people going to Greenwood Cemetery every year pass by these graves,” explained Brookings resident Georgiana Olson, who donated the monument and plaque. “Until a few weeks ago there was no marker telling who these people buried here were.

“Cemetery manager Dan Billet told me this was the potter’s field. I felt there should be a plaque telling the story.” The reference to “potter” comes from the high quality of the clay found in the field Matthew cited; it was used to make pottery.

Lisa Friedrich, of Brookings Monument, provided Olson with some very basic information about the 34 names that are known: there are 25 men (eight of them veterans), three women, three babies and three identified by their surnames. 

“Many people have never heard of potter’s fields for burial,” Olson added. “There must be many stories of why those unclaimed or unknown ended their days in a field in Brookings. Where were they from? Were families somewhere hoping to see a loved one walk in the house?”

(Editor’s note: Georgiana Olson told The Brookings Register on Tuesday that sometime between Friday afternoon and Sunday afternoon, the two planters, one at each end of the monument, had been stolen.)    

Contact John Kubal at [email protected]

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