Visitors to the Chariton Cemetery this Saturday, Sunday and Monday --- Memorial Day weekend --- are invited once again to stop at the shelter house for cookies, lemonade, a look at the old cemetery record books, help with locating graves --- or just to sit on the front porch to rest and visit for a while.
Volunteers from the Lucas County Genealogical Society and the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission will staff the shelter from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both Sunday and Monday. The Preservation Commission provides the refreshments.
This also will be a good time to take a closer look at the little building, most likely designed by Chariton architect William L. Perkins and added during 1929, including its original set of wicker furniture.
And, for that matter, to appreciate the fact that the entire cemetery was designated during 2010 a National Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The shelter house, fieldstone entrance gateway, the "baby heart" immediately south of the shelter and the still-evident master landscape design, developed by Ray F. Wyrick, a Des Moines-based landscape architect and cemetery designer, all were factors in a successful application for National Register status.
The cemetery dates officially from June of 1864 when 19 investors formed the Chariton Cemetery Co. and purchased the original 80 acres on high ground overlooking the Chariton River valley to the south. Before 1864, Chariton residents had buried their dead at what now is known as Douglass Pioneer Cemetery, just southeast of town, or in a smaller graveyard located on the current site of Columbus School.
All remains buried at the Columbus School site were moved to the new cemetery and, as years passed, a considerable number were brought in from Douglass, too.
As years passed, ownership passed entirely to the Stanton family whose members took enormous pride in it and erected during the 1880s the Stanton Vault, both a family and public burial place, demolished long ago after indifferent maintenance resulted in severe deterioration.
By 1924, the older Stantons had died and maintenance of the entire cemetery had become an major issue. As a result, the city of Chariton forced purchase of the cemetery from Stanton heirs and has operated it since.
The current design and most prominent public features date from those early years of city ownership. If you're interested in reading more about the cemetery, here's a post from 2009, when National Register status was pending.