Lilacs, Wild Roses Now Hide Gravesites of Emmet Pioneers
by Dorothy Story
Nestled in tall prairie grass and hidden in thickets of lilac and wild roses, seven headstones mark the site of an abandoned cemetery used as a burial ground before the turn of the century by pioneer residents of Swan Lake.
Several of the graves were moved many years ago to a new cemetery several miles away, but the seven with markers and possibly others, unmarked, were left in the fenced area on the north shore of Swan Lake.
The cemetery is on land owned by Robert Woods and is at the east edge of pasture land. There is no road to the cemetery and it can be reached only by walking across the fields from the Woods farmyard.
The Woods farm is two miles south of the Gruver corner on Highway 9, one mile east and south on a graveled road that passes the old Swan Lake townsite.
Near the cemetery fence is a double headstone where the bodies of Philip E. and Rosa May, children of the William Nehrings, are buried. Philip, born in Oct. 6, 1894, died Feb. 25, 1897. Rosa May was born March 11, 1898, and lived only two months. The epitaph on this double stone reads "Dear lovely babes, to part with you hath racked our hearts with pain, but though our loss is great we trust â€˜tis your eternal gain.
Headstones of George Peak, 1842-1908, and Hannah Knapp, 1839-1893, have either fallen from their pedestals or been knocked over by vandals.
Lilac bushes, probably planted with loving care by parents of dead children; buried long ago, have grown wild until they conceal the headstones and time has almost obliterated inscriptions.
By cutting through bramble, three headstones were discovered. They are those of George, son of F. M. and Rosa Goldberry, born June 4, 1889, died Oct. 12, 1889; Walter, son of Donald and Hannah Beattie [Walter is the son of Horace and Hannah, not Donald. Correction provided by a great-great-granddaughter of Horace], born June 21, 1889, died aged 11 months, 23 days; Howard E., son of C. E. and E. Fuller, born Sept. 28, 1892 and died at the age of nine days.
The north shore of Swan Lake is rich in historic interest. In the same pasture as the cemetery but farther west and nearer the lake shore can be seen two depressions in the ground, the remains of basements where once stood a stagecoach station and either an inn or the Swan Lake post office. The stagecoach route followed the west shore of the lake.
On the graveled road leading to Swan Lake from the north can still be seen across roads which led to the Swan Lake school and church.
Trees planted in a square on the east side of the road are said to mark the lot where the Emmet County courthouse once stood.
The Robert Woods barn was built with the use of beams from Fort Defiance. Marks of the broad ax are still visible. Other farm buildings in the urea are also said to have been built using logs from the old fort when it was demolished.
On a recent sunny autumn day, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Larsen, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Johnson and Mrs. Glenn Story visited the old Swan Lake cemetery to take pictures and make a record of headstone inscriptions for the Emmet County Historical Society.
Source: Estherville Daily News, Estherville, Emmet County, Iowa; December 9, 1965.
IAGenWeb's Gravestone Project
Digital Images of Emmet County Gravestones