Wednesday, August 28, 2013

From Jones to Jones with Friends: Part Four

Jones Cemetery, located about four miles northeast of Promise City in Section 1 of South Fork Township, was our final stop on last Thursday's tombstone tour of northeast Wayne County.

This is a cemetery that has special meaning for Cary DeVore (left), since much of his family is buried here, and for Dianne (Vincent) Mitchell and Jacob Vincent (above) whose great-great-great-grandfather, Matthew Barker, was the first to be buried here --- at age 50 during August of 1848. Hopefully, I've got the number of "greats" right.

Jacob is reading from a collection of his mother's, Pauline (Barker) Vincent's, writings about the cemetery and other topics. That's Jones Cemetery Church in the background.

Jones is not the easiest cemetery to find, in part because the creation of Rathbun Lake by the Army Corps of Engineers during the 1960s badly disrupted both traffic patterns and the historic community around it. It now lies within the Rathbun Wildlife Area and just south of Woodpecker Marsh, shown on the map below --- which also shows how to get there. Jones Cemetery Church also is called "Woodpecker Church" sometimes, a name that predates the marsh and gave it its name. Woodpecker Bridge used to cross the South Chariton west of the church and cemetery.

This is a lovely, peaceful place --- and has a reputation as one of southern Iowa's top spot for "birders" to gather. It is a little remote, however. It was, if I'm not mistaken, Elzan (Vincent) and Roger McMurry's children, who upon being told that their parents were considering this as a burial place, argued against it by saying they'd never be able to find it again without a hearse to follow. It's not nearly that bad.


Jacob, basing his account on stories remembered by his grandfather, John Milton Barker, and recorded by his mother, told us that Matthew and Tamar (Davis) Barker brought their family to a place along the South Chariton River about a quarter mile north of the cemetery from farther east in the south of Iowa during 1847. They built the first grist and saw mill in Wayne County there and a small pioneer community, astraddle the South Chariton, grew up around it.

The Barkers were a Quaker family, originating in North Carolina, and had been married there in Cane Creek Monthly Meeting, Orange County. The family then had moved to Indiana and during 1840 or 1841, farther west into southeast Iowa.

One day during 1847, Jacob said, Matthew Barker and others had been chasing their livestock in the vicinity of what now is the cemetery. Tired, he lay down to rest under a big oak tree. Should he die, he told others, this was where he would wish to be buried. A year later, he did die --- too young --- and his instructions were carried out.

The mill and the little settlement around it continued until the spring of 1851 --- Iowa's great flood year (an account of that year's flooding elsewhere in Iowa is here) --- when the mill and the settlement were washed away. The Barkers remained, however, and flourished.

The property where the cemetery is located was claimed by a Jones family, according to late local historian Ortha Green, and deeded to the public by Jonathan Jones. Many members of the Jones family are buried here, too, as are a number of Barkers and their kin --- including Matthew's wife, Tamar. who died April 19, 1872.

I wish I'd had the presence of mind to take a photo of Tamar's tombstone because its inscription is phrased in the traditional Quaker way, substituting "4th month" for the worldly "April."

Marilyn Vincent (practicing her grave-locating skills), Harold Mitchell and Cary are standing here near the middle of the cemetery's oldest section. Between them and the church in the background is a mounded area with no markers (Jacob is standing very near it in the top photo).

This is the site of a mass grave, according to both Pauline's stories and those of Ortha Green. According to Pauline, those buried here were residents of the Barker's Mill community who died during a harsh winter when the little community was entirely cut off from the outside world, then buried together here. Ortha, in her account of the cemetery, identifies those buried as members of a party traveling through who were felled by an epidemic. Whatever the case, their identities are long lost.


Jones Cemetery Church, just north across the road, was built during 1899 using funds collected in the neighborhood. It was intended primarily for funerals since no other churches were located nearby, but also was open to congregations of any denomination that wished to hold services there. It was not, however, intended to become any congregation's church home, and never has been.

Over the years, it has been the site of funerals, occasional church services, a wedding now and then and various family reunions, including giant Jones family reunions, held annually from 1921 until 1941 when the start of World War II intervened.

The church remains in fairly good repair, but --- as Jacob said --- is in need of a little love. Thieves have plagued it over the years --- the original chairs and stove disappeared many years ago; the most recent wood stove, in place the last time I visited, has been stolen more recently.

I took these black and white photos of Jones Church about 1971 before the chairs had vanished and when a beautiful wood stove still was in place.

Sorry about the dust specks. I was too lazy to find the negatives and just enlarged images from a contact sheet --- and obviously I had not bothered to dust the negatives before making that sheet.


Jones Cemetery also is the site of the biggest catalpa tree I've ever seen ---  it dwarfs all of those scattered around Chariton, and some of ours are quite large. It would be interesting to know just how old it is.

I really like this tree (as you can probably tell). Marilyn, Doris (Cottrell) Christensen and Jacob are grouped around a small tombstone at its base in the final photograph.


Finally, after driving away from the cemetery and church, we stopped at a Woodpecker Marsh access just up the road to look out across the water toward the old South Chariton embankment, where Barker's Mill had been located more than 160 years ago. The area is beyond Dianne (Vincent) Michell and Cary in the lower photo.

It was a peaceful way to end a lovely day.

1 comment:

Brenda said...

Frank, thanks for the history of Jones Cemetery. I have never been there, but I would like to visit, especially after reading your post.