PCGS Pioneer Cemeteries Project


Support sought for Pike County ‘pioneer cemeteries’ projects

Members of the Pike County Genealogical Society are doing their best to preserve the resting places of the pioneers of Pike County. It's an effort worth pursuing, and the society will be appealing to community members for help to make the dream a reality.

"Pioneer cemeteries", family cemeteries located on local farm land, are the resting places of those who settled here and set the building stones for future generations. While there are some pioneer plots that enjoy regular maintenance, most do not. And unlike city cemeteries, pioneer cemeteries are often overcome with trees, vines and weed and have fallen into a state of disrepair. Unfenced cemeteries are particularly susceptible to damage. Some fall victim to wayward cattle. Gravestones can be chipped, chunked and broken by a too-close-for-comfort turn of a mower. 

Society members have been asking for help locating family cemeteries in recent months. The plan is to select an inaugural group to be cleaned and returned to order. Right now, that list consists of Shotwell, Mt. Pleasant, Draper, the old Ashley cemetery and a cemetery on the Randy Dempsey farm. According to society member Audrey Jones, the effort will start small, concentrating on removal of briars and detrimental vegetation. 

A grant is being sought for purchase of landscaping equipment, like weed eaters, to add to the reclamation arsenal. Down the road, the society hopes to secure funding from the Department of Natural Resources to supplement the effort. 

Knowing publicity will play a key role, if the drive is to succeed, the society recently approached the Pike County Commission for their support. Commissioners agreed that preservation of the cemeteries is a worthwhile effort. They even told society members of a cemetery not yet included on their roster. Western District Commissioner Roy Sisson, a local history buff with plenty of local ties, has offered his services.

A cemetery location book has been compiled, that so far has 200 cemeteries located and marked. An additional seven have been located, but not named, bringing the total to 207. And there are likely more not yet re-discovered. The society encourages anyone with knowledge of forgotten cemetery whereabouts to contact a member. Contacts are Claudia at  (573) 669-5388 or Audrey at (573) 324-5810.

One potential hang-up with the project is the fact that pioneer cemeteries are usually located on private property. That said, property owners can't legally bar someone with legitimate visitation rights from the cemetery. But it adds to the need for sensitivity and establishment of a cooperative relationship between the preservationists and property owners. To help property owners, the society hopes to some day be able to acquire fencing or other appropriate boundary for cemeteries. That's something that could come through future grants.

Over the last 100-plus years, stones have become weathered and cemetery boundaries blurred. Stones fall and are covered with earth. They break; they are broken. It's not unusual for additional graves to be located around the perimeter of the central recognizable graveyard.

There's a lot of history in the woods and fields of Pike County; and there are a lot of traces to ancestral pasts. "There's a lot of history out there, and people aren't aware of it," Jones said. The oldest stone Jones has seen in Pike County is dated 1825. 

Many in the genealogical society are willing to do manual labor, but due to advanced age, simply are unable. That's why community organizations, youth groups, and the general public are being invited to grab a weed whip and join. Jones believes there's no shortage of people willing to help. "I think I have a lot of backers," she said. "But they are silent backers."

The Pike County Genealogical Society's website is www.pcgenweb.com. It contains an abundance of information about yesteryears of the county and is a must-see for anyone with an interest in the area's history.



Sept. 22, 2007 A beautiful early fall day to clean a cemetery. In Ashley Missouri just south of Bowling Green, a group of volunteers gathered to clean and preserve what looked like a small family cemetery. By the day's end the group would find a whole lot more.

What remains as a family plot of Henry C. Draper and wife Mary and their children Margaret and Henry C. Jr. is noticeable, but outside the perimeter of this family plot were more graves. After the morning's busy cleaning and after lunch there was a dousing (witching) lesson going on. IN the end about forty more graves were located. the volunteers marked with orange flags where these graves were. In turn this small Draper cemetery became a large cemetery. Rocks stored near by near a tree were retrieved and set back onto the cemetery property since they had writings and markings clearly showing they were stones at one time. 

The ladies of the near by church gathered to serve the volunteers lunch. The volunteers were able to create what use to be a cemetery and make it resemble a cemetery. Thanks to the property owner Aubrey Morrison who made it all possible for us to be there. We appreciate the cooperation of all land owners who allow us to come in and work on a cemetery/burial ground.

Those volunteers were : Bonnie Mendonsa, Ken McCullough, Harriet Worrell, Donald Counts, Beth Counts, James Counts, Nathan Counts, Emily Counts, Jenny Counts, Jacob Counts, Jennie Crawford, Roy and Barb Sisson Jr., Roy Sisson III, Elmer Sisson, Audrey Jones and Madison Thomure. 

Mr. Henry C. Draper was a merchant in the town of Ashley in the early 1800's. This cemetery is thought to be a church cemetery at one time as large as it is.

Our next cemetery is Mount Pleasant on October 20, 2007


Audrey Jones worked very hard, along with a group of dedicated volunteers, to clean up local cemeteries. Please contact her directly if you can help. 

Donations are welcome to help defray the cost of signs for the places cleaned, purchase of a weed eater and to buy gas for those who come with chainsaws.

Cleaned So Far:

Draper Cemetery with thanks to:
Audrey Jones, Madison Thomure, Bonnie Mendonsa, Harriet Worrell, Roy Sisson, Barb Sisson, Roy Sisson III, Elmer Sisson, Donald Counts, Beth Counts, James Counts, Nathan Counts, Emily Counts, Jenny Counts, Jacob Counts, Jennie Crawford, Ken McCullough

Shotwell Cemetery with thanks to:
Roy Sisson, Pike Co. Commissioner; Nathan Lilley, BG Times Editor; Terry Witte, Dist 11 State Rep.; Dorothy McCarthy; Robert and Nina Peden; Roy's friend Bob; Audrey Jones; Pauline Gibbs, property owner

Gillium Cemetery with thanks to:
Gail Leonard & husband; The Pritchett Family

Rudd Schoolhouse Cemetery with thanks to:
William Hartwig; Mr and Mrs. Jr. Hartwig; Harriet Worrell; Harry Worrell; Audrey Jones

With Thanks to the Citizens of Pike County:

It is with great excitement that we report here that it looks like our cemetery project is spreading it's wings! The terrific people of our fair county are standing up and taking on the project themselves. Way to go, guys! You have our most sincere gratitude!

At the Henderson Cemetery, the owner has placed a barrier around it and apparently is standing up stones.

At the Jett Cemetery, the owner has mowed around the stone and may have even raised the fallen stone back onto it's base.





© 2000-2016, Rhonda Stolte Darnell