Union Cemetery Association's Records Reveal Interesting Subscription Lists

Among the historic cemeteries in this area is Union cemetery, three miles south of Maquoketa, in Bloomfield township of Clinton county.  The oldest grave is that of the son of Josiah Brown, who died Sept. 11, 1842.  Several interments are made there each year.

The problems faced over the years by trustees of a rural church and cemetery are clearly evidenced in an old book now in the possession of Miss Nell Dice, secretary of Union Cemetery association.

The title entry, in clear, flourishing style of penmanship, announces that this is "The Seckrtarys Book of the Brookfield Evangelical Union Society Organized Jan. 2d, 1863."  Within its covers are reported church and cemetery meetings from that date until 1900.  Another book is now in use.

Donate to Church

Before that organization meeting held that January day 85 years ago, it had already been decided to build a church.  First sentence in the book states:

"Persuant to previous appointment the Subscribers who have signed a certain Subscription with amounts set opposite their names for the erection of a house of religious worship near the Shipard graveyard met at the Sackrider schoolhouse to organize a Society to build a house at said graveyard."

Jacob S. Staman called the meeting to order.  A few moments later he was elected secretary, an office he was to hold for 20 years.  One of the donors was David Gish, who contributed the lot.

The church was to be used by each "evangelical denomination" in proportion to the amount of money conducted by its adherents.  In February, however, the constitution was amended to read, "All Funeral take precedence, then the denominations shall occupy the house equally."

Burying Ground Society

The new building was dedicated July 4, 1869 by a Rev. Swerengen, and there were present "A number of Reverends and Noted Gentlemen and Ladies, and a large audience."

Cost of the structure had been $2523, with $1825 in subscriptions.  To complete payment and provide furnishings and fencings, 93 additional subscriptions were made on dedication day.

Meantime the members were also interested in another association, meetings of which are recorded in the same treasured volume, identified merely as "The Burying Ground Society."  First record available is dated Jan. 4, 1873, when S. R. Bader reported he had received a deed from "Henery Shipherd" for the acre purchased, at price $110."

Subscription Lists

During the years that followed, many "subscription lists" were to be circulated in the community served by the church and cemetery -- it was a large area, because at one time the canvas covered a dozen school districts.

There were contributions for fencing, hitching posts, the new organ, and, every five years, for insurance.  Periodically an extra one was conducted "to erase the debt." Bentley, Staman, Anderson, Hurst, Bowman, Edleman, Kauffman, Lockwood, Sackrider, Hattfield, Phillips, Gish, Beaver -- these were among the names that appeared year after year.

At least one of those subscription lists resulted in a slight profit for the association! Among the souvenirs attached to the book is a small sheet of lined paper with the penciled notation "For Watter Closet at Union Church."  Names of 31 persons are listed, each of whom donated from twenty-five cents to two dollars for the worthy purpose, a total of $15. 75.

Attached is a receipt dated April 13, 1896, "Received of Noah Goodrich Fifteen dollars in Full for Material, and Building of Privy. J. F. Kauffman." Net seventy five cents.

The Lost Carpet

Another receipt shows that on March 26, 1891, the Union church purchased and paid for 23 1/2 yards of 3-ply carpet at Goller's store in Maquoketa.  Mr. Goller himself handled the transaction, with the notation that a 15 percent discount was allowed "on a/c of church purpose", dropping the cost from $23 to $19.55.

That new carpet was the pride of the community.  Forty years later the "old timers" were dismayed to learn that vandals had entered the long-unused church and taken the carpet!

For some years the church was under the Reformed denomination, but services were discontinued after its members joined the new church in Maquoketa.  And in 1939 the building was sold for $325 and dismantled.  The last church service had been held in 1917.

But once each year a faithful few whose loved ones are buried in the peaceful country setting hold the annual business session of the Union Cemetery association.  Yes, the church is gone; and the hitching posts are gone; but the "burying ground' is kept in a manner befitting the devotion given by those early trustees.

This is from ca 1958.  The source is unknown to me but probably from the Clinton Herald or other local newspaper.