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Eagle Cliff Cemetery and Miles Mausoleum

It’s not too often that I go wandering through cemeteries. They always give me a creepy vibe. I can’t help but notice the fresh dirt and wonder if something just went in or just came out.

Earlier this week, my girlfriend (who doesn’t quite have an obsession with cemeteries) asked me to go with her to Miles Mausoleum (apparently known as one of the most haunted spots in Illinois, but I will get to that later). She actually found it by mistake a few months ago. She was driving around Columbia, Ill. looking for photo ops when she saw it on top of a bluff.

It is about a 30-45 minute drive from our house. After getting off of the interstate, you wind down a long road until there is nothing but farmland and a few hills. Then you turn off the main road and go up one of those hills. Eventually you turn down what looks like a gravel driveway. At the end of the drive, you pass through two wooden posts that serve as entry gates to the cometary.

As you enter the cemetery, there is a sign that gives a brief history:

Eagle Cliff / Miles Cemetery
Eagle cliff graveyard was established as a public graveyard on land donated by Truman Miles

The first person to be buried in Eagle Cliff Graveyard was Rachel Bond, wife of Judge Shadrach Bond, Sr. on March 17, 1806.

The vault was built for Stephen W. Miles, in 1858, by Major Yrasillon for the sum of $25,000.

The most recent burial was Charles Louer in 1978.

The cemetery is restored and maintained by, Eagle Cliff / Miles Cemetery, Inc. founded in 1994.

The first thing I noticed as I was walking around was the age and condition of the tombstones. First off, they were somewhat scattered everywhere. Some of them had been severely vandalized. Others were just rocks serving as grave markers.

miles_graveyard1

miles_graveyard2

The next thing that caught my eye were the military tombstones. Most of them had been replaced by the state with newer stones. There are soldiers buried here from the Revolutionary War, The War of 1812 and The Civil War. There could be others but not all the graves are accounted for.

miles_revwar

miles_1812war

After wandering through the graveyard, we finally got to the bluff where the mausoleum is buried into the land. My girlfriend told me that it had become a popular spot for teenagers to get drunk at all hours of the day so we weren’t sure what we would find. Fortunately there was no one hiding in the crypts but the amount of graffiti was disturbing.

miles_outside

miles_inside

Okay. So why is this place haunted. The legend goes that the brush grew so thick on this bluff that the cemetery and mausoleum were forgotten for many years. In the 1960’s, it was rediscovered and people looted the tomb (only 11 of 56 total vaults were ever used). The bodies were found scattered all over the place. Shortly there after, a cult took the remaining bodies outside of the mausoleum and lit them on fire trying to raise them from the dead.

Is this true? I have no idea. I got the information from this guy. I think he got it from The Daily Egyptian, the student paper for Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, who wrote this article about the cemetery in 2002. It makes a great story though.

And so the legend lives on.

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45 Responses

  1. It is up to you if want to post this or not but I would if I were you. Be advised that the dusk to dawn law is being enforced without exception. Because of web posts like this there are far too many late night visitors to the cemetery. The road back there is in fact a private property drive and although it is used for day time access it is not to be used after hours by anyone to access the cemetery. So the police are on board with this and will respond each time and the violators will be arrested and the car towed so please pass the word that this property is not to be violated after hours. If you wish to validate this please feel free to contact the Monroe County Sheriff dept. Thank you

  2. Anonymous property owner,

    I appreciate your concern and insight. However, I hope you do realize that this post was no way intended to encourage illegal behavior. Please note that I did not visit the cemetery after hours nor did I vandalize the property. I even mentioned in my post that “the amount of graffiti was disturbing.” I didn’t even give exact directions to the cemetery.

    I like to think of my blog as a public forum of discussion and welcome your thoughts (usually on photography). However, I do think it is important to note that this cemetery contains quite a bit of history. I understand your concern but I honestly believe more harm comes from withholding information than from sharing it.

    My links and synopsis of claimed ghost stories are possibly just that – stories. However, it becomes an interesting part of the history connected to the cemetery – true or false. It would be irresponsible for me to not share it.

    I wish the police and the community the best of luck at catching whoever violates the laws. The Eagle Cliff Cemetery and Miles Mausoleum should be respected and protected. It has already suffered far too much.

    If you are directly connected to the cemetery in any way (care taker, community member, etc.), I welcome the opportunity to photograph and tell your side of the story. Please contact me if you are interested.

  3. Has any thought been given to the restoration/Cleaning of this historical structure? Although difficult and no doubt a little pricey, I would love to see/be a part of giving dignity back to such a wonderful landmark…

    • Stacy,

      Thanks for bringing that up. There is a group that is working to do just that.

      If you go to the cemetery, there is a mailbox in the parking area that contains brochures with information about the cemetery and mausoleum. On the back of that brochure, there is information about Eagle Cliff/Miles Cemetery Incorporated.

      As a synopsis of what it says, the group formed in 1994 with the purpose of restoring and maintaining Eagle Cliff Cemetery and Miles Mausoleum. They are attempting to raise enough money to establish a trust fund to pay for the perpetual care of the cemetery. They sell memberships ($10 per year), hold yard sales and accept donations to raise money and are always looking for people to help with the maintenance and restoration effort. The organization meets on the second Thursday of the month at 7pm at the United Church of Christ in Columbia, Illinois.

      If you want to contact Eagle Cliff/Miles Cemetery Incorporated, you can reach them by mail at:

      Eagle Cliff/Miles Cemetery Incorporated
      P.O. Box 246
      Columbia, IL 62236

  4. I’m so glad you wrote this blog! My boyfriend and I went to the cemetery this weekend and were reading all the tombstones. Hhe and his sister had been there before, but I didn’t realize the reason. One of the people buried there is named Joseph W. Alexander. My boyfriend’s name is L. Joseph Alexander, also from Illinois. We wanted to contact someone and find out what they knew of the person buried there. Your blog gave us that! Thanks so much. I also would like to see and help preserve this place. What a wonderful piece of history – I feel like I’ve discovered a treasure.

    • Linda,
      The cemetery is absolutly a hidden gem in Illinois. I’m glad I was able to provide you some information to find what you needed. If you find more information about preserving the cemetery, please share with us.

  5. Hey there, Max, this is Laurie Robinson from the Ghost Haunters. I have to say I was pretty upset by your picture of the Mausoleum. I am only holding out hope against hope that your visit was not very recent. I have been to Miles quite a few times, it’s on my site, and I our pictorial artist even created a painting of it to help Miles raise funds (see Haunted Art section on my site). The Mausoelum and grounds had been cleand up quite well, and remained that way until my last visit. The outside of the Mausoleum certainly did not look like what it does in your picture post. I would just appreciate knowing when you went. Miles is a “pet” cemetery of mine, and close to my “ghostly’ heart. Thanks for your time, Max.

    Laurie
    wwww.ghosthaunters.com

    • Laurie,
      I don’t remember the exact date I shot the photos but it was right around when I published this post (May 2, 2009). I saw the photos on your site and the mausoleum is much cleaner. It is sad that people disrespect it the way they do. When was your last visit?

  6. i go out there quite often with my friends to just admire the mausoleum and take pictures, it’s sickening seeing what people do to such a great artifact, my mothers friend is in charge of cemetaries in monroe county and is trying to have it closed do to vandals

    • Courtney,
      It is a tremendous piece of history for Illinois. I think there should be efforts to preserve it. That being said, I’m not sure closing it is the best idea. The way I see it, that will only fuel fire in the vandals. The reported history says that the mausoleum and cemetery have been vandalized for decades. Once there was an iron fence up but that has been cut down and scrapped by vandals. Sealing off the mausoleum may just encourage them to break back in.

      Instead of putting time, effort and what is likely a large amount of money to close it (the mausoleum itself I presume you’re talking about), I would suggest some sort of positive action. For example, better organizing or strengthening the group that is in place to take care of the property. Or push through action to get the land declared as a federally protected historic site which would likely mean steeper penalties that the young criminals may not want to face.

      I think there needs to be discussion by the local community and local politicians to ultimately decide what is best.

  7. Just went here today for the first time. It’s an amazing place! Unfortunately the graffiti seems as though it may be even worse now than in the pictures you have posted. I just loved the ones that said, “2010.” It amazes me that to this very day some people are totally clueless when it comes to preserving history; not to mention the total lack of respect involved in vandalizing cemeteries. I volunteer at Cahokia Mounds and amazingly there are still people that try to ride their dirt bikes and four-wheelers over the mounds, and it’s a state park that’s recognized world-wide as a UNESCO site!

    *sigh*
    I just don’t get it.

  8. Sad. I grew up near the cemetery and remember when it had much less graffiti. Fantastic place. Don’t try to watch the sunset from the mausoleum though. The guy that lives in the house on the road next to it will chase you out, literally. I can understand though, he probably thought we were going to ruin it even more.

  9. My family visited this cemetary in 2003. The Stephen Miles that built the mausoleum is one of my husband’s family ancestors. It is such an interesting piece of our family history. I am saddened to see the terrible graffiti…much worse now that in the photos I took back then. I was doing a scrapbook page to document our trip and stumbled accross your blog…Thanks!

  10. I went this weekend with my friends who also share the last name Miles. His ancestors are buried here and we wanted to see the masoleum. We were blown away at the sheer size and architecture of it. Seeing it from the road, it looks the size of a house. We were also amazed at the history and interesting facts of the people buried here. I am not a huge history buff, but this was really interesting to read up on. There were several caves and waterways along the bluffs which we stopped to explore. Great adventure.

  11. Every October my family takes a Fall hayride – my brother-in-law drives us around on the backroads of Waterloo (where he and my sister live), and the surrounding towns) in a wagon hooked to the back of his pick-up truck, in which we sit on hay bales (each year we usually have a new member in our party to introduce to the sites, we enjoy the beautiful weather and scenery, and take in the gorgeous Fall colors of the trees. We usually make several stops along the way to do some exploring, one of which, is always Miles Cemetery – we are intrigued by the history we learn there – one year we learned the word consort from one of the tombstones and we debated the meaning all day long, and the vintage of many of the graves. We are also so inspired by the beauty of the property, and we are appalled and sickened by the vandalism that has occurred there, particularly the broken headstones and the graffiti on the outside and inside of the mauseleum – we always wonder about why anyone would want to do such a thing, and what pleasure they get from it. We cannot imagine a person with such a lack of respect, reverence, and decency. We fully appreciate the meaning and thoughts that were given to establishing this landmark – and it is always a highlight, actually our favorite on our annual outing, even though we are always saddened to see the damage that’s been done there that mars the beauty of the property. Our hayride was on Halloween day this year (10/31/10), and we visited there again – we were happy that it didn’t appear that any more damage had been done to the cemetery from what we remembered from last year.

    My brother-in-law’s father lived the entire 90+ years of his life in Columbia, – his family has a long history in that town – and was aware of the cemetery from his young adulthood and visited it numerous times during his lifetime – sadly, he is no longer with us now – 10/11 marked the first anniversary of his death. He said he remembered it well before it was ever vandalized. For many years he joined us on our annual hayride and he always enjoyed telling us this story about the cemetery’s owners and origin: He told us that the elder Miles once took his son up on that bluff, and told him that he owned all of the land as far as his eyes could see from that vantagepoint. He also told his son that on top of that bluff is here he wanted his final resting place to be, and that after he was gone, all of that land would belong to him to do with whatever he wanted. So we assume that it was the son that had the mauseleum built in which his father’s body was placed after his death and that he also donated the rest of the area as a public cemetery. Supposedly the rest of the immediate Miles family was to be laid to rest inside there as well as their long-time servants. We further assume that the son’s body was among the number that were laid to rest in the mauseleum.

    Hope this information helps and is factual. We thank you so much for creating this site. We are praying for the preservation of the cemetary so that we may continue to enjoy it on our annual outing. we would also like to know if the info my brother-in-law’s father gave us was accurate, and would love to learn more about the history of this site and the Miles family, and even about any of the other people that are buried there.

  12. Several of my ancestors (The Shooks) are buried in this cemetery. My question does anyone have any of the written records of burials and approximate location of graves?

  13. Is there anything that can be done to remove that spray paint, possibly solvents, presssure-washer? I’m assuming that since it’s marble, and poreous, the paint may have soaked in. I would love to do whatever it takes to clean this up. I was there a few days ago, and the front facade was very disturbing, visually, and mentally. They really need to rig a transmitter, ( hidden ) inside one of the highest crypts, that would transmit to the caretaker’s house. It’s the same principle of the baby monitor. As a matter of fact, he would get the needed range by using a scanner to receive the signal. It would pick up conversations from outside also. Just a thought. Anxious to hear any response. This beauty is such a jewel.

    • B.J., There is a group that does work to maintain the property (or so say a flier that I picked up while there). They are Eagle Cliff/Miles Cemetery Incorporated. You can reach them by mail at:

      Eagle Cliff/Miles Cemetery Incorporated
      P.O. Box 246
      Columbia, IL 62236

  14. that u so much for everything that everybody has done for the cemetary that is a Big part of my family history . there are alot of my ansester that are barried there and i ma just finding out about all of this . I am hoping to make it there to see everything for my self . u all have answerd alot of my questions about the cemetary with i apprecitae alot. thank u

  15. I grew up near Miles Cemetery and I am deeply saddened by the current state of the mausoleum. I have seen so many sunsets and storms come in while sitting on the steps of the mausoleum. I have also passed on my love of the peaceful cemetery and sunset views to my children. I live in another state, but almost every time I come home I visit the cemetery.

    The current condition of the mausoleum is disturbing. A recent article was written up in a local paper regarding the state of the mausoleum as efforts are being made to raise money to restore the mausoleum to it’s former glory. I would love to see that happen. 🙂

  16. I was just there today, and my daughter and I took pictures. I had heard about it in high school (the 80’s), but had never gone up there. Recently I’ve been wanting to visit some of the local ‘haunted’ sites, and it was such a pretty day today, I decided to take a drive up to the cemetery. I had expected to see the graffiti, and damaged markers from what I had read about the cemetery on other sites. Yet, I was still surprised and shocked by the damage and graffiti. The grounds were nicely kept and mowed, no litter anywhere. The mausoleum though even had more graffiti than in the picture you had posted. It seems I see some pics with a little graffiti, and some with a lot. It appears as soon as it is cleaned off, someone comes back up and sprays it more. When we arrived we were the only ones there, but after a little while, a car of teenagers came in, running through the cemetery acting fools.

    I had read the iron fence was stolen in the 30’s. I was telling my daughter (20) about the desecration of the bodies, and all that I had read that had happened to them. She was completely appalled. I plan to return and take more pictures.

  17. I visited Eagle Cliff Cemetary numerous times in late 70s and early 80s with my friend Doug. We would sit cliffside and admire the view of the valley below for hours. It was the happiest time of my life and I would like it to be my final resting place. Tis my favourite spot on this earth.

  18. I stop by Miles quite often on my motorcycle during nice weather to enjoy the grounds and the view.
    I saw a bobcat there one evening this summer – very memorable.
    You’ll be happy to know that the outside of the mausoleum has been cleaned up a good bit lately (graffiti faded away mostly with chemicals) and video surveillance installed to monitor it.
    I would also like to thank the volunteers for their continuing work on the site.
    There is one gentleman in particular (I met him once but can’t recall his name) who mows using his own gas, finds buried gravestones using divining rods, and was working by himself on the graffiti removal – bravo, sir.

  19. Thank you for posting this. I love old cemeteries. I live in St. Louis but we have property in Hecker Illinois and I finally went here myself for the first time in Sep 2011 with my parents and toddler. There was a LOT of graffiti at the time. A gorgeous old place rich in history. Too bad we can’t set up traps where when people try to graffiti the mausoleum they get sprayed with paint themselves.

    The last poster to this blog is pathetic. Good for you, that dead animal smell when we were there must have been leftover from one of your amorous trysts.

  20. Thanks for this post! I received the book Weird Illinois as a Christmas gift, which featured an entry about this place. I wanted to see what I could find online about it. Your pictures are great. Too bad about all of the disrespect being shown to the place. Hopefully, there will be a way to discourage vandalism going forward.

  21. I was once a resident of mistadt and this place has an amzing view over the river over looking where i grew up in jefferson county missouri. Not only is it a place to get drunk (i was taken there by my local drunken neighbor, good guy tho) and the acoustics in this place are beyond description. Been very much wanting to go back and rock out. The 2 hour drive and uber maze of back roads keeps me from the follow thru.

  22. I will be going out to ECC on Thursday(5/24/2012). It is one of my favorite places on the area. I love to go up to the Mausoleum sit and look out at God’s gorgeous handywork. On a clear day you can see almost 200 miles and even make out the curve of the earth.

    I have a friend coming in from out of town and I will be showing him the area which will include a drive up to ECC. If you are interested I will send pictures of what I find. You can’t come to Monroe County and miss that view.

  23. I was at ECC on Thursday (5/24/2012) and I am very happy to report that all the graffiti has been removed inside and out. There are two visible cameras on posts outside the mausoleum and one camera inside the mausoleum. I have a gut feeling there are more hidden within the trees.

    A sign has been installed that details the Preservationsn Societies plans for the future. The next bit of restoration to is rebuild the walls above and to the sides of the building. (There were a few pallets of stone bricks off to the side). After they reconstruct the walls the plan is to replace the iron fencing that was originally around the mausoleum.

    The sign also has pictures of what the Mausoleum looked like originally.

    Kudos to the members of the Preservation Society for they efforts to restore this wonderful part of Monroe County history. And especially the grounds keeper tha works so hard. They place looks wonderful.

    I will send Mr. Gersch photos that I took Thursday as well. Perhaps he will post so you can get a better idea of the tremendous work they have done.

  24. I visited this beautifull place for the first time last week. Stunning is the word that comes to mind to describe the view. The history and beauty are so worth saving. A local man, Delane Doerr, is the one who is doing a lot of the work out there. I contacted him and offered to help him whenever I can. I hope he calls and lets me know when the next work day is. It sounds to me like there are a bunch of people that have visited this sight that feel the same way, why don’t we try to help him preserve this historic gem.

    • Mike, please post another comment when you hear about helping out at the cemetery. I think you worded it right when you called it a “historic gem.” Hopefully there is a plethora of people wanting to help preserve that chunk on land.

  25. I grew up about 3 miles from Miles Cemetery. It is NOT haunted. I remember when the door was still intact and people crawled through the right arch to get in. I remember seeing boxes with bones in them but I wasn’t old enough to know what they were made out of. I also remember we never even thought of touching anything inside there. It’s a wonder we didn’t catch some disease or sickness just by going inside it.
    This is a BEAUTIFUL place. The view is simply spectacular! Go see for yourself, but remember, this is the last resting place of many – don’t desecrate their final resting place. Be respectful.

  26. Most of what you read here is true and family knowledge being a direct niece of Stephan W Miles. I am so happy after all these years others find the beauty and amazing history of the family and cementary interesting,and keeping the Miles Spirit alive after all these decades…

    PB Miles

  27. Please keep me updated to new posts I love collecting information on my family and there is a lot of it every where. Also thank you for doing this wonderful blog.

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