Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Stories from Potter's Field: Cemetery Tour 2016

Ever wondered about that big pretty hilltop area in the far southwest corner of the Chariton Cemetery, to appearances mostly empty --- the Potter's Field? We'll tell you more about it and some of the people buried there during this year's Chariton Cemetery Heritage Tour, scheduled for 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25.

The tour is an annual project of the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission and volunteer re-enactors. It is the only fund-raising effort of the commission, which receives no public money for its work, so admission will be charged. The current goal of the commission is to purchase a sign to mark Potter's Field, heretofore unacknowledged.

As was the case last year, when we gathered near the former Stanton mausoleum, seating will be provided --- this year near William Hollensleben's tombstone (above) with a view out over the Chariton River valley beyond. Lemonade and cookies also will be served. In case of rain, the presentation will be held inside the cemetery's "English Cottage" shelter house.

Tentative plans call for Gertrude (Aughey) Stanton (1868-1940) to serve as narrator. She was the last member of the Stanton family, which owned the cemetery until 1924, to manage it. Her final resting place was the Stanton mausoleum and her remains now are buried in its footprint.

Gertrude's father-in-law, Dr. Theodore P. Stanton, was a principal organizer and later sole owner of the Chariton Cemetery, established during 1864. Ownership passed to his son and her husband, Dr. John H. Stanton, and then upon his death in 1922, to Mrs. Stanton and her daughters.

More than 175 people have been buried in Potter's Field, set aside in 1864 for those who could not afford to buy a burial place. A majority of these graves are unmarked.

Among those who will tell their stories on Sept. 25, under current plans, are William E. Hollensleben, among the first to be buried here --- during 1867; and Anna Johnson Sandahl, mother of four and a dedicated member of First Lutheran Church, who died in poverty and then was left here alone when her family moved on.

Two young men, transients and strangers among us who were not carrying identification when they died --- one a suicide and the other who fell between cars while riding the rails --- will introduce themselves.

Perley A. Lewis, intrepid reporter for all of Chariton's newspapers during a career that stretched from 1884 to 1945, will tell the story of Eliza Carter, born into slavery and for many years the matriarch of Chariton's black community. She died in 1923. According to newspaper reports, which some believe and others don't, she was 112 at the time. 

And finally, we'll share the story of Carl Jones, a young man who became desperately ill while staying overnight in Chariton during 1932, was taken in by strangers, cared for and finally buried here when he died six weeks later.

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