Friday, May 18, 2012

Naming the dead

A new sign commemorating 38 Lucas Countyans buried between 1879 and 1926 in the Lucas County Farm Cemetery, all but five in unmarked graves, will be dedicated during a brief program at 4:15 p.m. Sunday, May 27. Participants will include members of the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission and the Lucas County Genealogical Society. All are welcome to attend.

Ordered last fall, the sign was put into place earlier this spring by personnel from the Lucas County Engineer's staff.

The sign is a project of the preservation commission, paid for with its own funds and a matching contribution from the genealogical society. Commissioner Melody Wilson led the research effort, using county home and county death records. The cemetery is located alongside County Road H20 at the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe railroad crossing immediately north of Hy-Vee's Perishable Distribution Center in northwest Chariton.

The small cemetery was established here not long after Lucas County acquired the 160-acre county farm during 1869. The Hy-Vee distribution center now occupies the southwest portion of the old farm, where its buildings were located, south of what then was the Burlington & Missouri River (later C.B.&Q.) right of way. The larger portion of the farmland is north of the tracks.

The county farm was intended originally to be a self-sustaining temporary refuge for Lucas County's poor, occasionally entire families, but broadened its scope as the years passed to include long-term residents who  were elderly and without resources and others who had physical or intellectual handicaps.

Those who died at the county home and whose remains were not claimed by family or friends for burial elsewhere were buried in the cemetery, then as now located right along railroad tracks. The first known burials were those of Benjamine Hillen (1841-1879) and Mary A. Moor (1831-1879). Burials countinued through the first quarter of the 20th century, after which burials at county expense generally were made --- when family lots were not available --- in the potters field section of the Chariton Cemetery.

The last recorded burials here were those of Nute (or Newt) Wayland, age 93, suffering from senility,  and Alfred Whitcomb, age 72, also suffering from senility, both in 1926.

This is not exactly a restful place, but then it never has been. Trains continue to roar by frequently, the highway to the west is busy and, just south of the fence, construction continues on a major addition to the Hy-Vee center. But at least those buried here now have been reunited with their names.


Charles M. Wright said...

It is questionable that Alfred Whitcomb was buried on the grounds of the Lucas County Home after his death April 4, 1926. THE CHARITON LEADER of April 6, 1926 reported: "Alfred Whitcomb died at the Lucas County Home on Sunday night and his remains will probably be entombed in the Bethel Cemetery today." The item states that Alfred had been an inmate of the home for many years, and had been mentally incapacitated prior to being consigned to the institution. An item appearing in THE CHARITON PATRIOT of April 9, 1884 stated: "On last Tuesday, Alfred Whitcomb was sent to the insane asylum. He became deranged last winter on the subject of religion while attending a protracted meeting. Having gradually become worse, it was deemed best, by friends and relatives, to send him to Mt. Pleasant. He leaves a widowed mother of whom he was the sole support." Alfred was the son of Lewis Whitcomb and Mary (Goltry) Whitcomb and was born in Jennings County, Indiana. It is believed his father went to California to seek his fortune and was never heard from again. His wife brought her several children to Cedar Township in Lucas County to live near Goltry relatives. She died in 1895 and is buried in the Bethel Cemetery. Wherever Alfred rests, his burial place is unmarked.

Frank D. Myers said...

Hi Chariles --- Thanks for the additional information! The decision to place Alfred's name on the sign was based upon an article in The Chariton Patriot of April 8, 1926, which identifies place of burial as the County Home Cemetery, and upon county death records, which give the same location. But perhaps we'll never know for sure.