Gertrude Stanton, the last member of her family to own and operate the Chariton Cemetery as a private business, will introduce five “Stories from Potter’s Field” during the 13th annual Chariton Cemetery Heritage Tour this Sunday, Sept. 25, beginning at 4 p.m.
The presentation will be held in Potter’s Field, the hilltop area in the far southwest corner of the cemetery where the poorest of Chariton’s poor, and strangers, have been buried --- most in unmarked graves --- since 1864. An estimated 180 people are buried there, although the area appears to be mostly vacant.
Seven guest presenters will perform as Mrs. Stanton and her guests, telling the stories of William Hallensleben, a stranger buried there in 1867; Anna Sandahl, impoverished wife and mother, who died in 1904; Eliza Ann Carter, matriarch of Chariton’s black community when she died, age approximately 102, during 1923; two nameless tramps, whose remains were found along rail lines but never identified in 1905 and 1915 respectively; and Carl Jones, a young man who fell critically ill while traveling through Chariton in 1932, then was cared for and buried by the community when his illness ended in death six weeks later.
Admission, $5 per person, will be charged with proceeds going toward purchase of a sign to mark the location of Potter’s Field. Advance tickets are available at Piper’s, City Hall, Chariton Area Chamber/Main Street and Clark’s Greenhouse. Tickets also will be sold on Sunday at the cemetery.
Those who attend are asked to drive into the cemetery and park in the general location of Potter’s Field, along driveways or in the designated parking area at the foot of the hill to the east. Seating will be provided. Cookies and lemonade will be served.
The presentation will be held rain or shine, but in case of rain will be moved to the “English cottage” shelter house at the heart of the cemetery.
The Chariton Cemetery was begun during 1864 by a private company with 19 stockholders. It replaced two earlier burial grounds, one now known as Douglass Pioneer Cemetery, and the other on the current site of Columbus School.
Stanton family members were sole owners from the 1890s until 1924, when it was sold to the city of Chariton. Extensive landscaping, innovative design and improvements such as the shelter are among the reasons it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Chariton Cemetery Historic District.