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 Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, May 25, 2017, Pages 1 & 9

The Story of Patrick Cemetery
By Angie Hynek
Ringgold Co. Pioneer Cemetery Commission Chair

The Land (1846-1856)

Before removal, the last native people to claim this ground for hunting were Pottawattamie. Then in 1846, Iowa became a state, but the southern boundary was disputed by Missouri. An arch in the survey line that stretched across the state created a Ringgold County nine mile wide discrepancy between Iowa and Missouri known by locals as "The Nation." Perhaps because if Missouri tried to collect taxes from settlers, they said they were Iowans, If Iowa tried to collect taxes, they said they were Missourians. Thus, they were their own Nation.

In 1849, the Supreme Court settled the "Honey War" and ruled in favor of the original straight Sullivan survey line of 1816. By 1850, a wooden marker was placed every mile across the state with every 10th marker made of iron. Three iron markers were placed in Ringgold County with one of those placed in Athens (Riley) Township. The iron marker was obelisk in sharp with M-I-S-S-O-U-R-I stamped vertically on one side and I-O-W-A stamped on the opposite side. Thereafter, the Nation's strip of land was declared Iowa and the land that became Patrick Cemetery remains as a remnant of this history. Unlike the surrounding land, this one acre is the same now as it was then.

The People (1856-1935)

The roots of Riley Township reach back to Marion County, Ohio. William and Love Riley made their living as farmers and raised their children: Mary and George died as babies, John and William Jr. grew up to farm in Ohio, and Nancy, Patience, and Robert headed west. After their mother, Love Riley died at age 31 in 1830, William married Hannah Moore. To their union, three children were born: Rebecca, Lawrence, and Benjamin who died as a baby. William died when his daughter Patience was just 17. A year later, Patience Riley married neighbor Jesse Patrick in 1845, and thus the Riley-Patrick bond was formed.

Hard times fell upon Marion County, Ohio in the early 1850s from a cholera epidemic due to stagnant canal water coupled with a great drought in the Ohio Valley.

The sibling Riley and Patrick families grew to be good friends and farmers. With the railroads' glowing advertising campaign of cheap fertile land in Iowa, the group struck out to find a better life. They traveled in covered wagons, crossing Indiana and Illinois before ferrying the Mississippi River at a river town like Burlington, Iowa. The five covered wagons arrived in Athens Township in the fall of 1853 to stake claim and erect log cabins before winter. There was Nancy Riley; single, independent, and the oldest; Jesse and Patience Patrick with their children Nancy R., Lovie Ann, and William H.; Robert H. Riley and pregnant wife Rachel with 2-year-old Sarah; Harmon Patrick and wife Matilda with children Maria and William; and newlyweds Martin and Margaret Patrick. Jesse and Patience had their fourth child, Mary E. Patrick, in Iowa in 1855.

It took three years for Athens Township's land to become available for purchase in 1856 when the group traveled to Chariton, IA to the Federal Land Office. On June 3, 1856 the land office recorded the purchased land patents of the group: 46 acres in Sec. 28 and 80 acres in Sec. 23 were issued to Nancy Riley, 360 acres in Sec. 22 and Sec. 23 and 40 acres more in Sec. 22 were issued to Robert H. Riley, 240 acres in Sec. 23 were issued to Harmon Patrick, and 160 acres in Sec. 23 and 80 acres in Sec. 13 were issued to Martin Patrick.

Tragedy struck when Jesse Patrick died on June 2, 1856 at [page 9] age 29. It is assumed Jesse purchased his land shortly before his death, but the paperwork was not recorded until the day after his death. Jesse was buried on his land in Section 22. Thus, this one acre of land was forever set aside as Patrick Cemetery.

This was the only community cemetery in the area for the next 30 years with Patrick and Reynolds being the most common burials. In 1887, a mile west of Patrick Cemetery, the Mount Zion Cemetery was opened with the Mount Zion Methodist Episcopal Church built along the east side.

The Riley family immediately responded to Patience's dire situation. Her sister, Aunt Nancy Riley, moved in with her to help care for the four children. When word reached their unmarried 24-year-old half-brother Lawrence D. Riley in Ohio, he moved to Iowa to live with his sisters and help them farm. In 1859, Nancy sold her 120 acres to Lawrence.

By 1862, Lawrence heeded the call and enlisted at Fort Leavenworth in Company H, Fifth Kansas Cavalry to ride and fight for the Union. Unfortunately, Nancy and Patience both died in 1864 while he was absent. Nancy had named Robert H. Riley her executor and neighbors Harmon and Martin Patrick assessed her estate. Her estate filing revealed she had loaned money to each of the men in the original group at one time or another, an exceptional feat for a woman of her times.

Robert H. and Rachel Riley had seven children: Sarah E., James C. B., William L., John V., Nancy E., Hamilton A., and Robert H. Jr. They sold their land to Lawrence Riley in 1865. In March 1873, they left Iowa and traveled by covered wagon to the windswept prairie of Kansas and founded the town of Oberlin, KS where they lived out life and were buried there.

Harmon Patrick and wife Matilda had three children: Marie E., Thomas M., and Hamilton B. Then Matilda died while giving birth to twins. The twins, Matilda and Charles, died 4 months later. Harmon remarried the 18-year-old neighbor Mary Bonner. They had nine more children: John L., Sarah A., Lydia P., William H., James E., and four dying in infancy (Birtie, Martin L., Nella M., and Harmon E.).

Harmon Patrick and Robert H. Riley enlisted Oct. 14, 1862 and served with Company C of the Southern Iowa Border Brigade during the Civil War, a potentially volatile border that not only divided slavery and freedom, but also North from South. These men remained home while serving as minute men, ready to defend Iowa's southern border from Confederate invasion, although no problems were had. After 40 years on the farm, Harmon and Mary retired to Mount Ayr and were buried in Rose Hill Cemetery.

Martin and Margaret Patrick had three children: Elizabeth A., John H., and Mary M. After only ten years of marriage, Martin died at age 35, in 1865. Margaret never remarried. The entire Martin Patrick family was buried in Patrick Cemetery. Their oldest daughter Elizabeth Ann married neighbor Oliver Farmer and were the last two burials in Patrick Cemetery in 1935.

During the Civil War in March of 1864, while scouting on the Saline River near Mount Elba, Lawrence D. Riley was taken prisoner and confined for 10 months and twenty-five days in Tyler, Texas. Meanwhile Patience died on July 13, 1864, leaving her four children orphaned. Daughter Nancy R. Patrick was 18, Lovie Ann was 13, William H. was 12, and Mary E. was 9. After Lawrence was honorably discharged in April 1865, he returned to Ringgold County. On Nov. 8, 1865, Lawrence married Julia Ann Argabright, a native of Mahaska Co. They bought Robert Riley's land and moved into his homestead. Lawrence then owned 240 acres. To their union, nine children were born: George W., David A., Hannah C., John W., Rebecca E., Elsie M., twins Alfred and Albert died in infancy, and Roy (born in OK).

In 1869, a re-arrangement of Ringgold County's townships was made to exactly one congressional township. It was then that Athens Township was divided and the southern half created Riley Township. Riley Township was named in honor of Lawrence D. Riley, a 3-term member of the Board of Supervisors for Ringgold County. Lawrence was very community minded and held many offices. His generosity extended to opening his home to his widower father-in-law George Argabright until his death and his orphaned niece Mary F. Patrick until her marriage in 1874. Eventually, Lawrence sold his land and moved his entire family to Britten, Oklahoma where he and Julia were buried.

For the next 80 years, the Patrick Cemetery was forgotten, being minimally maintained with a bush hog or mower pulled by a tractor. To prevent gravestones from being hit and shattered, they were gradually moved and placed in piles. Damage also occurred when cattle entered the cemetery due to a deteriorated fence and broken stones. The cemetery was partially recorded by the WPA in 1939-1940. Not until 1981 did concerned local historians Betty Ruby and Ruth Haley record the Patrick stones and place the listing in the Mount Ayr Public Library. They reported extensive damage with stones nearly all broken.

In 1997, the Ringgold County Pioneer Cemetery Commission was formed and Patrick Cemetery was at the top of the list to be restored as funds became available. Bob Pottorff cleared brush and rebuilt the fence in 199. Creston's Fredricksens' Memorial worked from 2001 to 2005 to repair and reset stones. They referenced the 1981 Ruby/Haley map and grouped the stones by family, sometimes being able to match the broken base with the top half.

In 2002, Raymond Banner, Mike Gilliland, and Mitchell Gilliland surveyed the cemetery for the Historical Society's book Cemetery Gravestone Recordings of Ringgold County, Iowa. In 2017, the name Patrick as welded into the gate by Weeda's Welding. Tony Mercer photographed the stones and Sharon Becker posted them on the IA GEN website. The Patrick Cemetery continues to be visited by dozens and dozens of people digitally, who attach the photos to their family trees on Ancestry.com. The Story of Patrick Cemetery is now in your hands.

Patrick Cemetery is located in the NE 1/4 Section 22 in Riley Township on the 310th St. dirt road that turns off 320th Avenue, travel west 1/4 mile, then turn left into the first dirt lane on the south side, travel south 1/4 mile through the field along the west fence until the Patrick gate appears.

  • Patrick Cemetery on IAGenWeb Gravestone Photograph Project Page

  • Patrick Cemetery transcription

    Photographs courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
    Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, April of 2018

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