Blackhawk County, Iowa

Mount Zion Union Cemetery

(E. Waterloo)

This page contains a number of sketches pertaining to the cemetery.


History of Mount Zion Union Cemetery Association, Inc.

Photo taken from "History of Mount Zion Union Cemetery", by Orrin E. Miller

Commentary by Nancie Smith-Dobyns

My first curiosity came about from our annual Ackerman reunion in Dunkerton, Iowa. As usual, I had my pen out and a stack of papers to hand out for those who wanted to ensure that their family history was recorded correctly when print time finally arrives.

Well to my dismay, as the conversation began to go deeper and deeper into the past, it seems some of my ancestors were laid to rest...only to have their eternity disrupted! It seems someone bought some land and wanted to build it where a cemetery, was located. One of my ancestors who was protesting, past away herself before anyone could obtain permission from her to build there.


It was said that two premature, twin Ackermans were buried at Mt. Zion. They were so tiny that they were buried in but a shoebox. The actual confirmation of this can not obviously be made, but who am I to doubt family stories pasted down.

The stones gone, only the trees are a symbol of what once was. It is now time to do some intense research and find out just where they are peacefully at rest....OR ARE THEY?

The Forgotten Dead
Because I have died, do you forget me?
Because I have died, do you leave me to waste?
Because I have died, do you not wish me a
Peaceful Rest for Eternity?

The first information that I received on this cemetery was from Michael Magee, Correspondence Secretary at the Northeast Iowa Genealogical Society in Waterloo, IA. The second was from Janice Nugen who also has an interest in the cemetery. I too have family still buried under the unmarked cemetery. And it is in their memory that I bring this information to others interested in the cemeteries and resting places in Blackhawk County.

In Memory of:
Louis Ackerman
Bert Ackerman
Fred Ackerman
and all others who lie forgotten and unmarked

The following is the complete contents of a report made by Orrin E Miller. For additional information, Michael Magee with the Northeast Iowa Genealogical Society may be able to help.



by Orrin E. Miller

The following pages relate an unusual story about a cemetery that legally exists today and so do the bodies.

Man started burying his dead when he started planting crops, or 11,000 B.C. For the most part graves since then have been regarded as somewhat sacred. Today there is wreckage at the bottom of the East River in New York City dating back tot he Civil War. The treasure has not been brought up yet because of the 80 to 100 skeletons still on the ship. They have not yet decided what to do with he remains, so everything is on hold.

When you land at the St. Louis Airport you fly over an old cemetery at the end of the runway. The airport pays to use the airspace over the cemetery as they were not allowed to disturb the graves.

This is how other places view the sanctity of the dead who, by the way, do have rights. However in Iowa numerous cemeteries have been covered over with farm ground and planted in crops every spring. If the farmer ever tiles his land, as has happened, the tiling machines can plow a furrow deep enough to tear through any casket or vault like it didn't exist.

What is worse was the lack of concern for the dead in the community that I encountered while researching this. As things stand now in Iowa, any cemetery in existence can be vandalized and plowed under and it is no big deal unless of course we are talking about your mothers grave, then it becomes a different situation.

What you are about to read would not be possible without the help of William H. Lemke, who wrote the following page. He will also be writing the legal opinion to this under a separate cover. Special thank you�s go to others who shall remain nameless, and to the Attorney General of Iowa and the Blackhawk County Attorney�s Office.

Orrin E. Miller


The sketch of Mt. Zion Union Cemetery
by Charlotte Turner Lichty



Daniel and Mary Hewitt received a deed in October 1882, for an eighty acre farm. It is my understanding he was the first owner of the land and purchased it from the Government. Daniel Hewitt and Mary E. Hewitt then deeded some land on their farm for use by a newly formed Lutheran church. This transaction took place November 8, 1883. (Land Deed 43; page 424). This is how the Mount Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church got started. One of the founders of the church has been a Lutheran minister before going into farming and raising a family. His family must have been raised by 1895 because he became active in the Methodist Church as a minister, and the Lutheran Church became a Methodist Church in 1895 or early 1896.

Daniel and Mary Hewitt then deeded the land to the Mount Zion Methodist Episcopal Church on April 30, 1896. (Land Deed 55; page 5) The founding minister then left to minister in a church in South Dakota in 1896 after this time.

In the court house records I was told this land was 7.5 acres and is recorded in 2-4 on page 95. Subsequent numbers needed to look this up were 33-1601-00-096-00-0. A new number to describe this parcel will be 891209476002, future date of use is or was unknown. Anyway this land is the S.E. S.E. 989-12. It is my understanding these acres were for the church, cemetery, and to the South a parsonage or house. A division within the church was starting to brew two years earlier. John and Elizabeth Emert conveyed lots 1,2, & 3, in block 14, within the town of Dewer, to the Mt. Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church on August 16, 1894. These same lots in block #1 changed ownership again from Mt. Zion E. Lutheran Church too Mt. Zion Methodist Episcopal Church on April 25, 1896. (See Abstract #117758, page 6, item 11 & 12). The split was started by Amos Adam and John L Maurer, who wanted the church in the town of Dewer. The farm families between the church and Waterloo wanted the church to stay. (see last page on historical side notes).

By 1900 the split in the church was really starting to widen. A Quit Claim Deed was recorded August 19, 1901, (60-568) in which Charles L. Walker, Mary B. Walker and Nettie A. Walker, transferred to the Methodist Church 3/4 acre of land for $100.00. This deed was probably just for the cemetery itself in order to protect the graves in the future. The split became final in 1905 when the church building was moved to Dewer and its present location. The parsonage was left as it was not needed. I have enclosed a picture of the church provided by Mrs. John L. Winder, taken in 1944. Please notice the six sided open steeple. The congregation of the church was disbanded about 1945 as lot 2 and 3 in block #1 were sold October 19, 1945, to the Hemsath family. The building became the Dewer town hall about 1947 or 1948, and because of roof leaks the steeple was removed many years later.

When the church was moved a lot of the congregation traveled to church in Waterloo and the small community could not keep the church going. (Personal note...we have held some of our Ackerman reunions in the building)

With the church moved, we now have 3/4 of an acre of land where there is a cemetery. What is unique about this is that the area for the cemetery is marked with Red Cedar trees. These trees grew along the river named the Red Cedar River, now known as the Cedar River. It is believed these trees grew along the river originally and were moved here by the church founders as a landmark.

Of the original eighty acres, 36.96 acres of land "EXCEPT THE CEMETERY" started changing hand within the Turner family in 1932.

Cecil Brown owned it for awhile and sold it to Frances June Carlson in 1960 on contract. Deed transaction 126-334, "EXCEPT THE CEMETERY".

Ms. Carlson (480-699 "EXCEPT THE CEMETERY" ) sold it to Edith O. Barringer (519-304 "EXCEPT THE CEMETERY") who sold it to Mr. Buehler Feb. 6, 1975. He in turn sold off thirty plus acres to Mr. Jim Ryan on Dec. 19, 1983, who owned the adjoining farm. Mr. Buehler kept the area where the parsonage, church, and cemetery were for a house that he built.

Please keep in mind the cemetery stones were in place when Mr. Buehler purchased the land surrounding the cemetery. His land purchase was "EXCEPT THE CEMETERY". When Mr. Buehler built his house and the cemetery stones cleared away the relatives were outraged.

A Warranty Deed was drawn up (book 526; page 769) conveying the cemetery from Kenneth and Kay Buehler to Kenneth and Kay Buehler for the sum of one dollar. This was signed by the Buehlers and W. David Tyler (lawyer/Notary Public) on the ninth of February 1976. (See deed next page).

Eldon Ebert heard about what was going on and tried to talk to several people in the area but nobody would tell him anything, so he dropped it altogether. In going through the files at the Blackhawk County Court House, I pulled the yellow card on this property. (see yellow card next page below deed). The cemetery land has always been and still is today exempt from taxes. A notation on the card said, "B526-769 Buehler to Buehler deed has no legal backing. Cemetery not vacated- no legal paper selling to Kenneth Buehler." Somebody ten years earlier wrote that for someone like me to find, and I found it.

I expressed my concerns to the Attorney General of Iowa in Nov. 1985. This was not the only cemetery problem in the state, but I did not know it at the time. Anyway, what was in past years a felony, became a simple misdemeanor with Iowa Law 566.31, 566.32, 566.33 & 566.34 dated March 20, 1986. I will not even go into how many people could have been jailed for letting this happen in the county.

A record of this cemetery can be found or easily located if you know where to look. The Mayor�s Conference Room in City Hall (Waterloo) has a large colored map on the wall of Blackhawk County made in 1983. Follow N. Elk Run Road to the green cemetery area and read the red script. This map made eight years after cemetery was cleared off. Or you can refer to the Blackhawk County Plot Book. In 1985, Mt. Zion Union Cemetery is featured on page 10, with a cross marking where the cemetery exists or is supposed to exist.

The best one I like to refer to is the United States Dept. of Agriculture Soil Survey of Blackhawk County, Iowa. The one I looked at was issued in December 1978 and the cemetery is marked with a cross on sheet number 26. Keep in mind these are actual recon aerial photographs you are looking at. By the way, U.S. Government Soil Survey's are recognized in the courts as proof or evidence.

All of the information written about so far is only maybe half of what Bill Lemke and myself collected in all. The letters from attorneys stating laws, opinions, and precedence within Iowa fill a briefcase.

I want to emphasize and say thank you again to those who contributed but must go unmentioned because of their job or position. This thing could have been buried and a lot harder to find if it was not for those who wanted it known.

There are two more cemeteries in Blackhawk County that are lost and planted in corn. There are two more cemeteries in adjoining counties that are also planted in corn. There is no use in pursuing the others if nothing is going to be done about this one.

I talked with several relatives who gave me the names of people they believe to be still buried in the cemetery. Some of the names were repeated to me more than once. There still exists one living relative who remembers attending funeral services as a child in the 1890's at the Mount Zion Union Cemetery. He is Howard Bunn and was about age 94 when I talked to him in early 1986. He was born and grew up close to the church. He was baptized June 28, 1901 in the church, and his sister is still buried in the South-East corner of the cemetery. Below is a partial known census of Mt. Zion Union Cemetery:

Cora Bunn, died age three, 1883, first grave S.E. corner
Charlie Clinton Myers, born 11-24-1884 died 1-16-1885
Oscar Jackson, born 3-18-1838 died 2-26-1893
Josephine Shorpening Barron, born 1-3-1846 died 2-19-1898
David Ausin Barron, born 12-27-1844 died 6-10-1899 (Josephine & David were married)
Alvin Wesley Myer, born 6-27-1900 died 7-30-1903
Henry Myer, age two, dates unknown
Bert Ackerman, child, dates unknown (b. 8-2-1907 d. 8-3-1907
Fred Ackerman, child, dates unknown
Louis Ackerman, child, dates of these Ackerman children died in a slew burn-off
Warren Russel Brooks, infant, dates unknown (***uncle to Janice Nugen) (she also notes that her great grandmother, Brooks was moved to Elmwood Cemetery)
John Turner, age 45, died about 1900
Amy Turner, infant, died about 1900
Bertha Turner, infant, died about 1900
May Turner, infant, died about 1900
John Veach, adult, died 1880, interned 1900, see last page of historical side notes
Sara Veach, John's wife, died 1916, may be interned, see last page of historical side notes
Baby brother of a Mr. Claude Holdiman
Hattie May Myers Holdiman, born 1-25-1888, died 9-26-1915
Miss Thornberry, died as a young girl 1915 or 1916
Loyde Myers, 5-19-1912 died 11-15-1912
_________ adult male, victim of suicide, about 1900

Friedly family members buried here, according to Howard Bunn, no names recalled (*** family of Janice Nugen - three graves)

The graves still in existence could number thirty or more, with no one around to remember them or the dates that they lived.

A Land Deed Record #71, page 354 dated December 11, 1912, rededicated this land from the MOUNT ZION METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH too the MOUNT ZION UNION CEMETERY, a corporation and association. The trustees of the church became the corporation and they signed this deed stating, ..."we do hereby covenant to WARRANT and DEFEND the title to said real estate"...forever. One thing I have learned about churches in general is that people that do not tithe do not matter, and the dead do not tithe.

A Charlotte Turner Lichty, born 1912, remembers cleaning the cemetery as a child and her Uncle Louis Turner saying that he feared some day people would forget about those buried in the cemetery. His fears are now realized. Charlotte also remembers flags in the cemetery and feels Civil War Veterans are buried there. She drew the picture, next page, from memory at age of 74, and is representative from the way she thinks it was and based on what she saw at age 9. Please keep in mind the church was already moved when she saw this area, so the barn really sat farther left.


The Waterloo Courier

The Waterloo Courier on Sunday February 23, 1986, carried a headline, "An Old Cemetery that Disappeared." The Methodist Church officials say recordkeeping "fell through he cracks." Another headline March 5, 1986 was "Attorney's finding that cemetery belongs to church disputed by man." On March 12, 1986 a headline was, "Lawyer says he's dug up proof of cemetery ownership." Then on November 26, 1986 was "County could have cemetery on its hands." Finally on May 21, 1987 the Courier headline was "Property Owners offer cemetery compromises."

All these stories have brought us to this day when we must decide what to do about these graves or burial sites and how to protect and preserve them.

At issue are three distinct points:

  • The Cemetery as a whole: 198 feet north and south and 165 feet east and west, comprising 3/4 acre
  • The graves themselves: 25 and possibly 30 to 35.
  • Location of the graves within the cemetery.

The Iowa Code clearly states in s566.33 "A governmental subdivision or agency having a burial site within its jurisdiction for which protection or preservation is not otherwise provided, shall preserve and protect the burial site as necessary to restore or maintain its physical integrity as a burial site." (Emphasis added).

Over the years time and weather may have obscured some of the names on the stones of this cemetery, but one man buried them all, thereby destroying the integrity of the cemetery and losing forever the exact location of the burial sites.

I would propose the following solution:

  • The cemetery land must be surveyed and permanent boundary stone markers be erected. These markers should be large enough and permanent in structure to discourage vandals.
  • A common memorial stone large enough to contain the name of the cemetery and the names of all known persons buried there and dates as known. Also there should be room for additional names as they become known. This stone should be located close to the road and visible. It should also be engraved that the exact location of the graves is unknown but that all is consecrated ground within the bounds of the cemetery. The cemetery should be bounded by these stones after Mr. Buehler has returned them as required by Iowa Code S566..34, Confiscation and Return of Memorials. "A law enforcement officer having reason to believe that a grave memorial is in the possession of a person without authorization or right to possess the memorial may take possession of the memorial from that person and turn it over to the officer's agency. If a law enforcement agency determines that a memorial it has taken possession of rightfully belongs on a grave or burial site, the agency shall return the memorial to the site or make arrangements with the agency having jurisdiction over the grave or burial site for the return of the memorial."

It is indeed sad that laws to protect the graves themselves have had to be enacted in 1986. Other than unthinking juvenile vandals tipping over stones it is rare that anyone would try to steal a cemetery itself.

It has been contended that graves have been moved to other sites. Common sense tells us this is not so, as few of us have ever seen any graves moved in our lifetimes.

It has been contended that the heirs should look after their loved ones - - but many were children and have no heirs. Thus it is society that must step in and protect the graves from common use.

The law is slow and ponderous. there are sometimes lapses, and this cemetery was desecrated during one of these lapses. Now we must do what the law and common decency demand. The cemetery must be returned to the consecrated status that ll cemeteries must have through all time, whether they be Christian, Jewish, Moslem or non-denominational. And if these various entities cease to function then it is clearly the duty of the state to protect and defend the grave from unlawful use.

It has often been said that the only sure things in life are death and taxes. The only thing that you will ever have through all eternity is your grave. It is the duty of those that follow to protect your grave just as we must protect those that have gone before us.

We must tell Mr. Buehler and others like him that he cannot own nor use this cemetery.

Some discussion of adverse ownership by Mr. Buehler of the cemetery has taken place. Let us also consider conversion: the unauthorized assumption and rights of ownership over personal property belonging to another The dead do in fact have rights. Not many, to be sure, but one of them is the right of undisturbed rest in consecrated ground and that their monuments or markers be left undisturbed.

Now let us require Mr. Buehler to replace those stones that he caused to be removed. Re-mark the cemetery boundaries, restore and maintain its physical integrity as a burial site. It is not necessary to locate each individual grave, as some have been lost forever. This is why the entire 3/4 acre must become as a common grave and be dedicated to those graves it holds, both known and unknown.


    Information included from William H. Lemke

County Could Have Cemetery on its Hands
  By Ron De Christopher, Waterloo Courier Staff Writer
  November 26, 1986

An abandoned cemetery that has been a couple's front yard the past 10 years might have to be preserved and maintained by Black Hawk County.

An Iowa attorney general's opinion on new state law might make the cemetery at 2137 N. Elk Run Road the county's responsibility, said Peter Burk, attorney for the county Board of Supervisors.

Property at that address - on which Mount Zion Union Cemetery was established in 1883, but later abandoned - now part of the residential property of Ken and Kay Buehler.

The Buehlers, who deeded the cemetery land to themselves in 1976, live in a house they built on adjoining property.

Their lawyer, Dave Tyler of Waterloo, said the Buehlers found no evidence of an existing cemetery and removed a few weathered, illegible tombstones so the property could be landscaped.

Ken Buehler has said bodies were removed from the cemetery when Mount Zion Methodist Episcopal Church was moved from the site to Dewar in the early 1900's.

Over the years, according to county records, the property has changed hands numerous times. Recorded deeds, however, indicate that the cemetery in each instance was excluded from the transfer of ownership.

The cemetery became an issue in February, after a search of county records showed it's still owned by the Methodist Church. The county Auditors Office contended the Buehlers don't have clear title to the land.

Burk in mid-July, unaware of a state abandoned-cemetery law that went into effect July 1, issued an opinion that the county had no responsibility for the cemetery.

After being told about the law, though, Burk in August requested the state attorney general's opinion that was handed down about a week ago.

A letter from Burk to Tyler states, "The county may have a duty and obligation to protect and preserve the Mount Zion Cemetery - if it can be established that there are, indeed, bodies buried in the cemetery.

"I would like to propose some sort of scientific test to be conducted to determine whether bodies are buried in the cemetery."

Ways of determining if bodies remain at the site include poking the soil with a probe, looking for signs of settling above graves, or removing some of the topsoil to reveal a grid pattern of graves.

Burk concludes that if bodies are found, but no agreement can be reached about caring for the cemetery, the matter might have to be decided in court.

The county, according to the new state law, may maintain the cemetery or let a public or private organization do it.

Burk said the cost to the county could be 'quite substantial."

Tyler declined to comment on the matter until he reads Burk's letter and the attorney general's opinion.

Said Burk, "I want to visit with Dave Tyler and let him do some thinking about it. We want to be sensitive to the interests of a number of parties here."

Burk added, "we think that the Buehlers have attempted to comply with the law by the action that they have taken. I'm quite sure they will be surprised by this statute."

Kay Buehler declined to comment until Tyler studies the latest development.

Expressing surprise at the attorney general's opinion, Burk said, "It could place quite an onerous burden on counties, because there may be other cemeteries that we don't know about out there that we could suddenly be responsible for caring for."

Created by TreeVines Genealogy in cooperation with
the IAGenWeb Project--BlackHawk County

Small Notes

From the Waterloo Courier
June 10, 1987

In other business, supervisors set August 4, 1987 as the date for a public hearing on a plan to "preserve and protect' the Mount Zion Cemetery on North Elk Run Road.

The cemetery, which is more than 100 years old, is in the front yard of the Ken and Kay Buehler residence.

As part of the continuing controversy, the Buehlers have submitted a plan to maintain and mow the property and leave it fre of structures. However, some people have said the property is not properly maintained and the county should assume responsibility.


Couple's Cemetery Plan Encounters Opposition

by Eileen Ambrose, Waterloo Courier Staff Writer
August 5, 1987

A proposal to settle a controversy over an abandoned cemetery hasn't laid to rest the fears of some who say their relatives are buried there.

The 104-year-old Mount Zion Union Cemetery is the front yard Ken and Kay Buehler at 2137 N. Elk Run Road.

The Buehlers propose to put a restriction in the deed that would prohibit any building or excavating on the land. The couple would also put up an historical marker with he names of those who are proven to be buried there.

The cemetery would be open for people to visit as long as they didn't disturb the Buehler's house, the couple's attorney said.

The proposal was discussed at a public hearing before the Black Hawk County Supervisors Tuesday. The supervisors must decide whether the Buehler proposal satisfies the state; requirements that the cemetery be preserved and protected. If the supervisors decide against the plan, the county would be responsible for the cemetery's upkeep.

The Buehler proposal was made to appease those who are upset that the Buehlers removed some old tombstones and landscaped the property. The Buehler's built their home adjacent to the 3/4-acre cemetery in 1974-1975.

The Buehlers' attorney, Dave Tyler, said the couple could find no evidence of an existing cemetery before they landscaped the property.

The last time someone was buried in the cemetery was in 1915, Tyler said. Since then, some of the bodies have been removed and the land reverted to agriculture use, he said. Tyler and county board attorney Pete Burk estimated at least 14 people are still buried in the cemetery.,

Some attending the public hearing believe the number is higher and are suspicious of the proposal.

"As soon as a few years go by, they (Buehlers) will probably do something. They will continue to use it as a yard. They might remove the memorial and they won't let us in it," said Evelyn Winder.

Winder says her aunt, two uncles and a cousin are buried in the cemetery.

Phyllis Morgan said her mother's brother, who died about 80 years ago, is also buried there.

"You would have to come up with some kind of record before you can even get your name on that marker. I'm not aware that my mother can even come up with a record of it because she was only five years old when her little brother died," Morgan said.

The supervisors will continue the public hearing at their next meeting, awaiting historical information from the county auditor, said Supervisor John Rooff.

Rooff said the Buehlers have been maintaining the property, but concedes the decision on whether they should continue to do so will be difficult.

"We are not just dealing with property values here. We are dealing with sentiment, memories," Rooff said.

"on the surface it looks like they are maintaining it. I think to the people that were at the hearing it looks as if it's being maintained," he added. "But the integrity of the cemetery is gone and I think that's what their complaint was."

Created by TreeVines Genealogy in cooperation with the
IAGenWeb Project--BlackHawk County


The Forgotten Dead

Because I have died, do you forget me?
Because I have died, do you leave me to waste?
Because I have died, do you not wish me a
Peaceful Rest for Eternity ?


Much of my information was given to me by Michael Magee of which he has collected from the Waterloo Courier. Below I will try to give a brief outline into what happened to the gravesite of our ancestors who were laid to rest at this forgotten cemetery.

Recently we attended our annual Ackerman reunion in Dunkerton, IA. As usual, I had my pen and pen out and a stack of papers to hand out for those who wanted to ensure that their family history was recorded correctly when print time finally arrives.

Well to my dismay, as the conversation began to go deeper and deeper into the past, it seems some of my ancestors were laid to rest...only to have their eternity disrupted! It seems someone bought some land and wanted to build it where a cemetery, was located. One of my ancestors who was protesting, pasted away herself before anyone could obtain permission from her to build there. WHERE DID MY ANCESTORS GO?

It was said that two premature, twin Ackermans were buried at Mt. Zion. They were so tiny that they were buried in but a shoeboxes. The actual confirmation of this can not obviously be made, but who am I to doubt family stories pasted down.

The stones gone, only the trees are a symbol of what once was. It is now time to do some intense research and find out just where they are peacefully at rest....OR ARE THEY?

What I speak of is the Mt. Zion Cemetery in Waterloo, IA. With a 'very special' thank you to Michael Magee, Correspondence Secretary for the NorthEast Iowa Genealogical Society; I am trying to piece together a part of my family history which disturbs my family, our family tree, and most of all some ancestors.


Background and Historical Notes

From Orrin Miller's Material

The church for which this cemetery became a part of was started in 1883.