IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.

Colony Catholic Cemetery
near Communia

-- Abandoned --

Read Township
Section 7 NW/NW


The following news article was transcribed from The Clayton County Register, published Wednesday, May 7, 1975:

Catholic cemetery near Communia

Few persons living today known that at one time there was a Catholic cemetery also connected with the Colony of Communia and it was the intentions of some of these early pioneers to also build a church there but permission was not granted so the building existed only in their dreams.

The cemetery was located on the farm now owned and operated by the Carl Wessels, and was about one-fourth mile slightly northeastward from the farm buildings. It is thought there were about a dozen tombstones there, although there most likely were some graves unmarked as there are in all cemeteries.

The dimensions are not known at this time but at the courthouse at Elkader was found the following:

Know all men by these presents, that I, Clement Smyth, of Dubuque County, State of Iowa, in consideration of the sum of one dollar in hand paid by Rev. Michael O'Bierne, the following premises to wit:

The North West fractional quarter of North West quarter of Section Seven (7) Township Ninely-two (92) North of Range four (4) West, reserving for burial purposes five acres in and around the present Cemetery on said lands and containing about thirty four acres and the 59-100 lying and being in the County of Clayton aforesaid, and I do hereby covenant with the said Rev. Michael O'Bierne that I am lawfully seized of said premises, that they are free from incumberance, that I have good right and lawful authority to sell and convey the same, and I do hereby covenant to warrant and defend the said premises against the lawful claims of all persons whomsoever seeking by through or for me.

Signed, Twentyfifth day of March A D Eighteen Hundred and Sixty Four
Clement Smyth

In Presence of John Derry
State of Iowa
Dubuque County

On this 25th day of March A D 1864 before me a Notary Public in and for said County, personally came Clement Smyth to me personally known to be the identical person whose name is affixed to the above deed as grantor and acknowledge the same to be his voluntary act and deed.

Perhaps this was the time they were thinking of building the church, but by the size of the plot it would seem they were thinking of more than that.. The Rev. Michael O'Bierne mentioned had charge of St. Joseph's Catholic Church at Elkader and did much to improve the church and property while he was there.

It is thought the first person buried there was James Phelan in 1854 who was killed when his horses ran away with him. The last person perhaps was Jane Henry who was buried there Nov. 29, 1890.

Later the public road was changed so there was no access to the cemetery only through a field, and since it was not being cared for it was thought best to discontinue it, exhume the bodies and take them elsewhere. Where relatives could be found, they were notified of these intentions. On October 9, 1918, some of the interested parties met and started to cut the brush from the part where the graves were. On October 15 the digging started. The Phelans and Conley were taken to Volga (see article "Correction" below), but those for whom no relatives could be found or who did no respond to the appeal were taken and put in a common grave at St. Joseph's cemetery at Elkader near the tool shed and marked with a tombstone of grey granite with a large Latin cross etched in the stone almost to its full length and width, and where the arms of the cross meet is a plaque which reads:

Here lie the remains of those who were formerly buried in the old cemetery.

In the death records at the courthouse at Elkader were found the names of two persons buried here. One called it "The Catholic burial ground near Communia", the other "Catholic cemetery, Colony, Iowa."

At this time persons known to have been buried there are (scroll down below the newspaper transcriptions for the burial list).

After the cemetery was abandoned Frank Tieden, who owned the land around it, bought the ground and it is now a cultivated field, but on the north side are a few trees among which is a cedar tree which no doubt was there when the cemetery was in use, and stands as a sentinal to the forgotten past.

We are indebted to a number of persons who helped make this article possible, especially Wm. Phelan, Masonville, Iowa, who found when the cemetery was discontinued and the digging started, in the records kept by his father, the late Tom Phelan, whose father, James Phelan, and three brothers, a sister and half sister were among those buried here. Wm. helped his father and Patrick Conley clear brush and dig up their loved ones.



Correction on the article of last week on the Catholic Cemetery at Communia: The Conley and the Phelans were taken the next day and buried at St. Michael's Cemetery at Elkport, and it was thought some were taken to Volga, but those for whom no relatives could be found or who did not respond to the appeal were taken and put in a common grave at St. Joseph's Cemetery at Elkader. ~Clayton County Register, Wednesday, May 14, 1975 ~transcribed by S. Ferrall


Known & Presumed Burials

Transcriber's note: the burials, dates & comments below are from this news article unless otherwise noted. Interested researchers should confirm all information to their own satisfaction - keep in mind that all remains were removed from this cemetery!

Name DOB & DOD Comments
Conley, daughter unkn. - unkn. infant d/o Patrick & Julia Phelan Conley
Delaney, Bridget unkn. - 08/11/1880 Death record (BK I, pg 4): Age 68y; died at 9 a.m.; born Kilkenny, Ireland; died Volga Twp. of heart disease; buried 08/13/1880 at the Catholic burial ground near Communia, Orlando Taft of Elkport was the attending M.D.
Fensterman, unkn. unkn. - unkn. Burial here presumed.
Henry, Jane unkn.- 11/26/1890 Death record: Age 72y 1m 16d; died at 10 a.m.; born in France; died Elk twp. of pneumonia; buried 11/29/1890 Catholic cemetery, Colony, IA; C.A. Tokia, Colesburg, attending physician
Phelan, Cathern unkn. - 02/13/1867 Died in infancy; d/o James & Julia.
Phelan, James unkn. - 12/24/1872 h/o Julia Doran; she remarried to Patrick Conley. (her maiden name is from obit of Thos. Phelan)
Phelan, James Michael unkn. - 07/21/1865 Died in youth; s/o James & Julia.
Phelan, John unkn. - 1854 brother of James, killed in a horse runaway
Phelan, John unkn. - 02/13/1861 Died in youth; s/o James & Julia.
Phelan, William unkn. - 06/18/1871 Died in youth; s/o James & Julia.
Scully, Michael unkn. - unkn. Stone mason who lived in the vicinity where the Cox Creek church was later built. Was working on the Cathedral at Dubuque and came home for a brief stay when he got sick and died.
Sullivan, Daniel 1857 - 1860 s/o Patrick & Margaret (Collins) Sullivan; burial here presumed.
Sullivan, Patrick 1820 - 04/01/1865 h/o Margaret Collins (d/o Daniel & Hannah (Barry) Collins. They married in 1854). Born in Cork, Ireland, came to America in 1849, to Clayton County in 1859, purchased a farm in Cox Creek twp. near Littleport where he lived until his death.


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