Snapshot of History
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BY MIKE AVITT
I took this week’s photo on June 27, 2009. Let’s look at some Ringgold County graveyards and undertakers.
The Mount Ayr Centennial Book says the Rose Hill Cemetery Association was organized in 1882 although several burials took place prior to that date.
The earliest information I found was in 1884 when a meeting took place to elect officers. Andrew Ingram seems to have been president. There are cemeteries in Blockton and Lamoni named Rose Hill but I’ve yet to find the connection, if there is one.
Mount Ayr’s first cemetery is Oak Ridge Cemetery located just south of Fife’s Grove.
This cemetery was established in the late 1850s. Joshua Chance is believed to have established the cemetery in 1856. Of course, early graves were not marked with granite or marble stones. They were marked with wood in most cases so the early markers no longer exist.
The earliest man-made site in Ringgold County is the cemetery at Ringgold City. The earliest burials there were made in the late 1840s but their exact location is not known as the markers have disappeared.
Raymond Banner compiled a book in 2003 called “Cemetery Gravestone Recordings of Ringgold County, Iowa.” There are forty-six cemeteries chronicled in this volume and there is also a list of burial sites that do not meet the definition of a cemetery.
For example, Henry Skidmore has a lone gravesite in section 19 of Washington Township. There is also a list of “believed” burial sites with no markers nor documentation. Even with all the information on the Internet, I still use this book regularly. A brief history accompanies the cemeteries described in this book.
I have been asked where the residents of the Poor Farm were buried and I don’t know the answer to that, but there is a “pauper section” at Rose Hill Cemetery.
Here’s an interesting item – the new town of Benton established a cemetery north of town in 1893 on land donated by D. R. Gleason.
The February 9, 1993 edition of the Weekly News has this quote: “Several of the boys were busy last week moving the dead to the new cemetery north of town (Benton).” Relocating buried bodies has always been done but this seems to have been done en masse. I don’t know where they were moved from.
An 1876 newspaper informs its readers C. M. Buck is selling furniture and “undertaker’s goods” on the northwest corner of the Mount Ayr square.
I don’t know how common embalming was in 1876 but it was popular after 1900.
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas S. Rhoades both completed embalming school in 1907. This was the beginning of Rhoades Funeral Home.
The word “mortician” doesn’t appear regularly in the Ringgold County newspapers until the 1930s. Today, we say “funeral director.” But I love history so I still say “undertaker.”