KANSAS


 

 HISTORY  ALIVE  AND  WELL  AT  COUNTRY  CEMETERIES

Howard Dresher's grandfather donated a plot of land for a cemetery back in the 1880s.  This stone is dated 1897 and states:  Lottie K. Dau. of B. A. and M. E. Myers.  Died Aug. 14, 1897, Age 20 years, 8 mos., 1 day.  'Weep not.  She not dead by sleeping.'

Age-worn and weather-faded, the epitaph on the small marble headstone in Lodiana Cemetery tells its story.

Little Mildred    Little Winford
daughter and son
JN and C Banta
March 3, 1890   Aug 7, 1890

The farm neighbors of JN and C Banta must have gathered together to offer words of comfort on that summer day so long ago.

Could anything soften their grief as the couple gently lay little Winford and Mildred in their tiny grave and left them at Lodiana Cemetery located in Wilson Township, rural Rice County?

Dotted across the prairie, country cemeteries carry the history and hold the remains of early-day families.  Those who were passing through Kansas and those who stayed.

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote in The Scarlet Letter, about how those early cemeteries had their beginning:  "The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human happiness they might originally project, recognized it among their earliest necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery."

Those who have heard the history of Lodiana said a holy roller church, a shool, and maybe a post office were located near the cemetery.

Clarice Mathews, Hutchinson, lived on a farm near the cemetery for fifty years.  In all that time no new graves were added.

Now the cemetery site surrounded on three sides by gree wheat.  Spring breezes and singing birds pass over the graves.  Some of the names and dates are no longer legible.

The quietness of the country echoes the epitaphs.  Those who dwell in Lodiana now 'Rest in Peace.'

DRESHER'S  PLOT

Howard Dresher's grandfather Orlis "came to this country" in 1885 from Johnson County, Ohio, along with several other families.

"Grandfahter Dresher donated a plot of his farmland for a Church of the Brethern (Dunkard) church and a neighborhood cemetery.  Their faith practiced footwashing as a part of the communion."

In time, just like so many other country churches, the group disbanded.  Some families moved away.  A few graves were relocated to nearby Lyons City Cemetery.

Only nineteen marked burial spots remain in the cemetery plot located east of Lyons.  Dresher pointed to the grave of a little girl who died in 1909.  Over the years he has thought about her.

Dresher, now 77 years old, continues to burn off the grass in spring and stop to enjoy the purple and yellow iris which have bloomed each year for as long as he can remember.

He said a wildrose marks the place where the church once stood.

"It's been mowed and graded and sprayed but it keeps coming back year after year."

The Stage Manager opened Act Three of Thorton Wilder's (Our Town) by naming the family plots in Our Town's country cemetery...'the Herseys and Cartwrights and Gibbses.'

Dresher does the same as he walks through the cemetery in his farm field, "The Boons, Vannamans, Orndorffs, Workmans and Brubakers...they all came to this country from Johnson County, Ohio."

PEACE  CREEK  CEMETERY

On the Stafford-Reno County line north of Sylvia, rural Peace Creek Cemetery has survived.  The cemetery history, researched and published by the late Creel Brock, said ten families, all of the Church of Christ denomination, came from Norborne, Missouri, in 1874.

They arrived late in the fall.  With no time to build shelter, that first group lived the winter in their covered wagons.  They used buffalo hides to cover themselves to keep warm.

More families followed in 1875.  They established a church, a post office and a store.  The Church of Christ denomination remains strong in the area yet today.

Of the more than one thousand graves in Peace Creek Cemetery one stands unclaimed.

Dwilet Paulson, Stafford, said an unidentified man was found drowned in a cattle stock tank on Quivira Wildlife Refuge many years ago.  His body was buried in Peace Creek Cemetery.

Four townships, East Cooper and South Putnam in Stafford County and Hayes and North Hayes in Reno County lie next to the two acre cemetery.  A longtime search has never uncovered the certificate of incorporation for the cemetery.

PEACE  CEMETERY

A cemetery called Peace, in Walnut Township, Reno County, also dates back to the turn of the century.  Longtime township resident Vernon Taylor remembers digging graves by hand, with a pick and shovel.

No matter the weather, summer drought when the dirt was dry and cement-hard, or winter when the ground was frozen, friends of the family of the deceased gathered to dig the grave to a depth of about six feet.

Taylor said in early days, people chose a wooden box for a casket following the scripture, "dust to dust."

"The thinking was the sooner the scripture was fulfilled, the sooner the soul would get to heaven."

Taylor remembers a tale he heard of some of the relatives who moved a grave from way out west.  When they opened the casket, the deceased's hair reportedly had grown several inches.

He also remembers the eerie feeling he had when he was out on the pairie alone, breaking up sod.  He dug into an unmarked grave.

Another time the grave diggers hit an underground brick wall placed there years before.  An early day township resident known to all as Grandpa Klingman, said it had been put there years before as a retaining wall to keep the dirt from caving in on the diggers.

ROCKVILLE  CEMETERY

The Rockville Cemetery , south of Little River, lies at the end of a dusty trail in an abandoned limestone quarry.  Randall and Alice Olander, rural Little River, keep a file which has a diagram of grave locations and dates.

Earlier called Union, the cemetery was mapped by a Don Young who found more than 30 graves dating back as early as the 1870s.

Worn limestone posts mark the area where a fence once surrounded Rockville.  Rust has permanently sealed the iron entrance gate.

Olander said when Martin-Marietta Company bought the quarry years ago, they restored tombstones broken by age and vandals.  Many families ha Clay Hodgson family.

As the stone was quarried on three sides the cemetery stood like a remote mesa.

This spring, the fragrance from a yellow-blossomed currant bush perfumes the air at Rockville Cemetery.  Frogs croak greetings from a nearby quarry pond.  A bed of old-fashioned day lilies has turned greem with new growth.

In the poem "Thanatopsis," William Cullen Bryant linked nature and death.  He warned against meeting death like a quarry slave.

Although no one remembers any slaves in the quarry at Rockville Cemetery, Bryant's meditation on death carries a hopeful message.

"So live, that when thy summons comes to follow that innumerable caravan,
Which moves to that mysterious realm where each shall take his chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not like the quarry slave at night, scourged to his dungeon,
But sustained and soothed, by an unfaltering trust,
Approach thy grave like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams."
(The Hutchinson News ~ Saturday ~ September 23, 1995 ~ Page 8)
 

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