Jefferson County On Line

by Verda Baird
Reprinted with the permission of The Fairfield Ledger


Baird wraps up cemetery visits

This is the final in a series of six articles about Jefferson County cemeteries written by local genealogist Verda Baird.

 This is the sixth and final installment of the series which first appeared June 18 on the conditions of the cemeteries in this county.

 I have included a picture of the entrance which most appealed to me and has to be quite old. There are several newer ones which are very eye catching. McDowell Cemetery is one no doubt you are unfamiliar with and it is not on the rural plat maps. To find it, turn east toward Pleasant Plain off Highway 1, go one mile to Mahogany, then turn south on a gravel road and go three-fourths mile. It is right on the east side of the road.

 To finish up the cemeteries:

 Fiedler Cemetery, Round Prairie Township, Section 19 - burials from 1850-1928. The overgrown mess was cleaned up in 1973, but the brush grew back and cattle got in it. It was cleaned up again in 1993 and a new fence was built, but there was no follow-up. In 2000, it was restored again by new adjoining land owners. The stones are all straight and grass is getting started.

 Gilmer Cemetery, Round Prairie Township, Section 15 - burials from 1845-1885.  This is the cemetery the chain gang from the prison helped restore in 1997. An out-of-state visitor at Fairfield Public Library told me there were weeds waist high this summer. I did not walk the three-fourths mile to reach the cemetery this year.

 The Rev. Richard Jones family cemetery, Round Prairie Township, Section 19 - burials from 1861-1879. To reach the cemetery, you walk one-half mile through two gates and climb over two barbed wire fences. Mike Brokken took me to the spot. Three graves were recorded in 1964. All three stones are now propped up on a tree among the brush.

 Morgan family plot, Des Moines Township, Section 2 - the newest cemetery to add to my list had one gravestone on the family farm.

 Gregg family cemetery, Locust Grove Township, Section 25 - is located on the Hagans farm between Highway 34 and the railroad in the center of a farm field. In 1958, it had 14 stones. In 1971, the 11 left were all laying flat on the ground. This year, there are just four stones left. It is nicely mowed.

 Forrest Cemetery, Polk Township, Section 19 - burials from 1846-1933.  The cemetery is on the Wapello/Jefferson County line. I walked one-half mile and climbed two fences to reach it. It is nicely mowed, but has 13 fallen or leaning stones.

 Koons Cemetery, Locust Grove Township, Section 23 - burials 1839-1879. Six stones were recorded about 1970. I did not visit in 2002.

 Bidwell Cemetery, Walnut Township, Section 10 - burials from 1841-1906. The cemetery has 19 graves. When I last visited the overgrown mess in 1989, three stones were missing. I did not visit the site in 2002.

 Armstrong Cemetery, Walnut Township, Section 2 - burials from 1843-1924. I last visited in 1989; it was an overgrown mess. Of the 16 stones, three had fallen. There are seven white bronze stones all in a row, eye catching, standing straight. There was one new burial there in 2001. I did not visit the cemetery this year.

 After the recent Indian summer-type days, three of us finally got started on the ones in Fairfield:

 Memorial Lawn Cemetery - burials from 1935 to the present. There are many tipped bronze gravemarkers sinking usually toward the graves. Many of those have letters "shaved" by the lawn mowers.

 Old City Cemetery - burials from 1939-1979. If you want to see a disaster up close, get out and walk. Forty-nine stones are flat on the ground; 168 are leaning; and 20 have parts missing - probably just thrown away years ago. It is nicely mowed and tax supported.

 Evergreen Cemetery - burials from 1870 to the present. The three of us were unaware of the current conditions in the older parts of the cemetery. We surveyed the four older sections: Old plat, first, second and third additions. To summarize - there were 17 stones flat on the ground and 689 that were either leaning, sinking, sliding downhill, slipped off or loose on their base. The sexton told us we would come up with about 700 and he sure did not miss it very far. It is nicely mowed and the shrubs were neatly trimmed. It is not tax supported.

 I have my own master copy of a picture book and conditions of each cemetery. The library will have a copy on the research table after it comes back from the bindery.

 In closing, I will add my thoughts. From the Des Moines Register last fall, I clipped this comment: "One can judge the quality of a community and its people by the cemeteries and the way they are maintained." If you read this entire series, how would you grade our county? Why are some rural cemeteries ignored year after year?

The Fairfield Ledger Page 5 Tuesday, November 19, 2002

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