Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tombs with a view I: Newbern Cemetery

On the one hand, it doesn't seem fair that the dead live with one of Lucas County's best views. On the other, if this high point above the White Breast Creek valley weren't occupied by a cemetery, it most likely would be occupied by a rural McMansion, fenced, screened and restricted. As it is, anyone can unlatch the Newbern Cemetery's east gate, walk back to its northwest corner, take a deep breath and just look.

According to local lore, the Rev. Joseph Howard, farmer and Cumberland Presbyterian preacher who arrived in the Newbern vicinity in 1850 and was the first EuroAmerican to claim this spot, allowed a traveler to be buried on the highest spot of his farm, starting the cemetery. He deeded the land to the public in 1871 and additions have been made since. He died during 1875 and is buried here, too.

The cemetery straddles the Lucas/Warren county line a mile and a half west of Newbern village, but the road from one to the other is not straight, so a few twists and turns are required. That's the county line road cutting due west across the White Breast and into the distant hills between two tombstones at the top here.

And two views to the northwest. The town of Lacona is visible in the distance to the far left and the White Breast Pottery, visited on this fall's Farm Crawl, closer --- in the valley just to the right.

The oldest sections of the Newbern Cemetery are for the most part full, so an annex guarded by a sentinel oak has been added to the east, on the Warren County side of the line.

The White Breast and its tributaries have carved some of Lucas County's deepest and most beautiful valleys and, if truth be told, the creek itself is more photogenic than our namesake Chariton River. Some ask why then White Breast is "just" a creek then and the Chariton, grandly designated a river.

This probably has something to do with length. The Chariton, which rises in Clarke County just to the west of Lucas, stretches 218 miles before entering the Missouri River deep in its namesake state. The White Breast rises in eastern Union County, also to Lucas County's west, but has only 91 miles to cut its way down to the Des Moines River to our northeast. As a result, the cuts are deeper and more scenic.

Most of our EuroAmerican pioneers came into Lucas County overland from the east. But their predecessors here followed the courses of streams and because of its size and proximity to the broad Des Moines, the White Breast valley may have been the most popular route in and out.

So if you walk out to the Newbern Cemetery overlook to enjoy the view, you're probably following in footsteps that stretch back thousands of years and standing where countless others have stood as the centuries passed.


Martin Buck said...

I found my first Lucas County arrow point just down the hill in a White Breast sand and rock bar.

Unknown said...

The Log Cabin that is in Lacona was located on Ferman Schaefer's farm at the bottom of the hill on the left, just over the creek. I remember hunting in the woods to the South of the cemetary, there was an old pioneer farm located there, all overgrown. This was back in the early 70's.