History of Badger Hill Cemetery
Tama County, Iowa

The Gladbrook Tama Northern, Gladbrook, Iowa, Friday, August 12, 1955, page 5

History of Badger Hill Cemetery

This sketch of the history of Badger Hill Cemetery is taken from one prepared by Abbie Bright Achenbach and is in two parts - 1868 to 1900 and 1900 to 1911. It was made from the mninutes of the few meetings that were held, but there were few records, those available were condensed, using only the important recorded incidents, and gathering the unrecorded items and including them in this history.

The neighborhood near to Badger Hill was settled earlier than 1868, for at this time a small child of Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Cole died Dec. 30, 1868 and was laid to rest on the home farm. It was at this time that Mr. Alvin Benson, grandfather of the child, said "We must have a place to bury our dead." Thus the subject was agitated and the result was a meeting of those interested on Feb. 27, 1869 in the Badger Hill school house. Among those attending the first meeting were Alvin Benson, G.W. Benson, G.C. Westcott, Melvin Cole, J.E. Cole, A.M. Bates, Charles French, and John Pray Sr.

G.C. Westcott was elected president and G.C. Benson, secretary protem previous to this meeting. Mr. Westcott had been to Toledo and had Articles of Incorporation drawn in accordance with the State laws. After adopting the Articles and By-laws, the following officers were elected: President, Alvin Benson; Treasurer, Chas. French; Trustees, G.C. Westcott and Melvin Cole.

A committee of A.M. Bates, G.C. Westcott and Melvin Cole was appointed to select suitable grounds for a cemetery and report at next meeting - and so ended the first meeting.

In the Articles the new cemetery was named Badger Hill, that being the pioneers name of this locality. The Post office was nearby, as well as the school house, which was the center for social and religious gatherings.

The committee to select grounds had two sites under consideration: 1. the ground northeast of school house, and 2. a knoll 1 mile south on what was known as the H.T. Willard farm. Either location was suitable.

At this time there was no Gladbrook and no railroad nearer than Liscomb and Marshalltown, but 1/2 mile east and a little north of the school house on Wolf Creek was a grist mill and the prospects of a town being built there caused the committee to select the ground near the school house.

The committee gave their report at a meeting March 16, 1869. The ground selected belonged to J.H. Meyers. The president appointed G.C. Westcott and J.W. Hyatt to correspond with Mr. Meyers concerning its purchase.

There is no further mention of this procedure but the deed was made out May 8, 1869 at Lake Mills, Wisconsin and Mr. Meyers was paid $25.00 for the land.

The ground was laid out in 180 lots each 8x16. The main walk was 12 feet wide extending from the entrance on west side and through the center of the ground. Other walks were 6 feet wide.

On May 30, 1870, another meeting was held. The president appointed a committee to stake and price lots, these were John Pray Sr., A.M. Bates, C.F. Breithaupt, Melvin Cole and J.E. Cole, the committee reported on June 18, 1870.

The first row of lots on each side of center walk were priced at $4.00, the second row at $3.50 and the remainder at $2.50 each.

July 9, 1870 was the day appointed for the sale of these lots. Before this sale occurred, however, Mr. and Mrs. John Pray Jr. lost an infant, its burial was July 4, 1870, thus being the first burial in the new cemetery, therefore John Pray Jr. bought the first lot. Alvin Benson made the little casket, or coffin as it was then called. The grave is marked with a stone, which also mentions twin infants who died the following July.

No business was transacted on July 9, so the "lot sale" was postponed to August 16, 1870.

The money collected from the sale of the lots was to be used for incidental expenses and fencing. A committee was appointed to decide kind and cost, and on September 17, 1870 made their report. Fence was to be four boards high, with good substantial ports and gate 8 feet wide. The contract to build this fence was given to G.W. Benson and was to be finished by November 15, 1870.

It should be remembered that at this time all lumber, as well as the necessities of life, except those raised on the new farms, were hauled from Marshalltown, a distance of 18 miles over newly laid roads, and often over no roads at all, as little of the prairie was fenced, so the building of a fence four boards high was quite an expense to the newly organized Association.

Eight burials occurred in the years 1870 and 1871. Services were conducted in the Badger Hill school house.

There are two stones that record deaths prior to 1870, but these were removed from other places.

As time passed on, the attendance at the annual meeting was often so small that no business was transacted for want of a quorum, and for several years there were no records of any meetings being held. Again the Association voted to make certain improvements but could not for lack of funds and when money was badly needed, the lot owners were assessed. These were the days of many inconveniences and perplexities. When Squire Rogers died in January of 1873, two men started to Marshalltown for a casket, but a snow storm, which soon became a blizzard, forced them to turn back after going four miles. In this emergency two of the neighbors made a casket of such materials as were available. The result was a carefully made casket, painted red - there being no other color of paint in the neighborhood.

There were the years when many a farmer found it cheaper to burn corn, than haul it to Marshalltown to exchange it for coal.

Ten years later, 1879, the first sexton was elected, G.W. Meyers. He was to receive $2.00 for digging a grave and was re-elected in 1880 and 1881.

In 1883, the price of the lots in the first three tiers on each side of the main walk was raised to $7.00. All others $5.00. The same year the trustees were to build a new fence around the cemetery, this one to be of "three, close barbed Glidden Wires".

At the annual meeting March 1891, permission was given to the women to organize a Ladies Cemetery Aid Society. They met in the M.E. church in Gladbrook, May 16, 1981, with the following officers: President, Mrs. Susan Bunce; V. President, Mrs. Vina Westcott; 2nd V. President, Mrs. Lelia King; Secretary, Mrs. Mary Westcott; Treasurer, Mrs. G.B. Emerson. A constitution was adopted, the society was to meet once in three months and dues were to be 50c per year. During this period they raised $40.15. They engaged Claus Behrs to do necessary work and paid him $1.25 per day.

Also in 1891 the price of the lots was again raised to $10.00 for those on either side of the main walk - all others to be $8.00, and in 1893 the same lots were raised to $15.00 and $12.00.

In 1892 they raised $8.76, and this year had an arch made over the gateway. Its cost was $18.00. There was $13.74 in the treasury, so the old board was asked to pay the balance. On September 13, 1892, a meeting of the Ladies Aid Society was held and is the last one recorded until 10 years later when it was reorganized.

The first lawn mower was bought in 1894 and the price of lots was again raised in 1895 to $20.00 and $15.00. Of the 180 lots into which the ground had been divided, 99 had been sold at this time.

On June 20, 1896, the ground from the cemetery road to the road running east and west, also one rod on the east side was purchased from the Westcott and Meyers estate for $155.00. The cemetery now contained 4 acres and 23 rods.

Few changes were made in the next 4 years - that is to 1900.

The first part of this sketch was not read until November 6, 1906, at the annual meeting of the Aid Society and the writer was instructed to continue up to the present time - 1906. For various reasons, it was left unfinished until 1911, when the next pages note the changes in the eleven years. To pay for the addition to the cemetery which had been purchased in 1896, the trustees were obliged to borrow money, and the constitution forbade going into debt more than $100.00 and the treasury being empty, no improvements were made during the 5 or 6 years. During this time a few of the lot owners kept their lots mowed and in order, but many were not mowed as often as needed, and it soon became a tangled mass of wild and tame grasses with poison ivy growing in places and gophers throwing up mounds making the ground very uneven. The cemetery at this time had a decidedly neglected appearance. Prior to the annual March meeting in 1901, those who were interested, talked to others, urging them to attend, that it was their duty and so on. As a result, there was an unusually large attendance. Mr. Melvin Cole, elected president in 1898, presided, with J.W. Benson, secretary, which office he had held since 1883. Mrs. W.M. Achenbach was elected Treasurer in 1900 to succeed Mrs. Jennie Westcott, who had moved away. Mr. D. McIntyre and Wm. Achenbach were chosen trustees.

The meeting proved to be an interesting one. One of the points discussed and settled was who can vote? The constitution said: "Every lot owner is entitled to a vote", so it was decided if both husband and wife were present, each could vote.

The treasury being low on funds, and the cemetery in need of care and improvement, various ways were discussed, one, a committee of ladies was appointed to canvass the neighborhood, with Mrs. A.C. Bunce as chairman. They secured $45.75, a portion of which was used to tile the new addition. Said drainage cost $25.12. November 4, 1902, the ladies gave a benefit dinner and realized $49.10 and on this same day the Aid was reorganized with President, Mrs. Mary Westcott; Vice President, Mrs. G.W. Benson; Secretary, Mrs. Hattie Thomas; and Treasurer, Mrs. J.W. Benson. The trustees gave the ladies permission to put the cemetery in order, so a work committee was appointed. The committee - Mrs. G.W. Benson, Mrs. J.W. Benson, and Mrs. W.M. Achenbach - secured J. Keiser to do some work in the cemetery and paid him $70.00, for the summer of 1903. The annual dinner in November brought in $53.25 and dues $18.00 indicating a membership of thirty-six.

In May of 1904 the first Memorial and decorating services combined were held at the cemetery. The "old" soldiers present expressed their approval and like services have been held yearly since that time, at the different cemeteries.

In August the Association voted to build a new fence, grade the south part, and make other improvements. The money for this project was raised by subscription, and amounted to $302.50. The grading was done in September, the community turned out en mass, and $176.86 worth of work was donated. The fence and gateway was put up costing $158.90 and the following April, 1905, Maples were planted along the south fence and 38 evergreens along the east and west fences.

The appearance of the cemetery was greatly improved and those interested had reason to be pleased with the result of their effort.

Time moves on and we see the cemetery improving and costs of maintenance rising.

In 1907 dues were raised to $1.00 and the caretaker was paid $100.00 the meeting place changed from the school house to one more centrally located in town.

The treasury had $139.14 from the sale of lots.

The Ladies Aid continued their efforts toward raising funds to assist in various ways and in this way the association was able to meet expenses.

In 1911 the cistern was built, the building piped and two flower beds were planted on each side of the circle. This first attempt was quite successful and has been continued through the years.

In 1914 the Association began to plan for an Endowment fund for Perpetual care for lots; said fund to be placed in bank and draw 4% interest.

The annual meeting on Dec. 18, 1954, held in Gladbrook City Hall, was called to order by President J.R. James. The reports of the treasurer and various committees were approved.

The present trustees are: J.R. James, Neal Stauffer, John Lynch, John Oaks, Chancey Allard, Howard Glass and Wilma Glass with Myrtle Weise, sec.

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This page was last revised 18 Mar 2015 by William Haloupek.