Cotter Cemetery

Coltter Cemetery 04-29-2014The Neely’s Landing posts generated quite a few comments about cemeteries in the area. When Dick McClard and I were roaming around, he took me to the Cotter Cemetery on private property off CR 525.

We knocked on the door of a nearby house, but nobody came to the door. Dick said he had met the folks on earlier visits, so he felt comfortable walking over to the fenced, well-kept cemetery.

Edward Cotter’s stone says he was born in Cork, Ireland,on Christmas Day, 1812, and died March 3, 1875, at the age of “62 Yr’s 2 Mo’s 6 D’s.”

The Find A Grave website says the place is also called Hays / Hayes and Bray Cemetery. You can see a list of 12 of the internments here.

Earlier Neely’s Landing posts

Cotter Cemetery photo gallery

Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery.

The Stonewall’s Mass Grave

Mississippi River at Neely's Landing 10-20-2012I’ve noticed an unusual traffic bump on the stories I’ve done about Neely’s Landing and the horrific steamboat The Stonewall disaster that occurred in 1869. That prompted me to post an update that is more speculation than fact.

Here’s a little refresher. You can go to my original post for more detail.

  • Oct. 27, 1869, the steamboat The Stonewall, heavily laden with about 300 passengers, tons of cargo and 200 head of livestock was southbound on the Mississippi River near Neely’s Landing, bound for Cape Girardeau, Memphis and New Orleans. The river was low and the boat was running “slow wheel.”
  • A candle or lantern overturned or a passenger dropped a spark onto hay on the lower deck, which caught fire. Before the blaze was discovered, it had gained considerable headway.
  • The captain tried to beach the boat, but it struck a sandbar and turned in the wind and current until the flames fully engulfed the vessel. Nobody knows exactly how many people burned, drowned or died of exposure because the passenger list burned with the steamboat. Estimates place the toll between 209 to 300.
  • Some 60 or 70 unidentified or unclaimed victims were buried in a mass grave on the Cotter Farm.

A hunt for the grave site

Neely's Landing Cemetery 10-20-2012I spent quite a bit of time driving around Neely’s Landing searching for the grave site, but there’s not much left of what was once a thriving town. Mississippi River floods erased many buildings, much like they washed away Smelterville and Wittenberg. The Proctor & Gamble plant gobbled up even more of it.

I thought a cemetery high on a hill overlooking the landing might be a possibility, but I quickly dismissed it.

Here’s why I didn’t think it qualified.

Here’s another possibility

Aerial Proctor & Gamble 04-17-2011Amateur historian Dick McClard and I started trading ideas. He has forgotten more about that area than I ever knew because of his research into the McClard family and its many offshoots.

He thought that the old Cotter Farm and grave site might be on Proctor and Gamble’s property in the general vicinity of the X. It was on the Neely’s Landing side of Indian Creek; the ground was fairly flat and the soil was soft.

Dick was a former P&G employee, so he knew the right ears to blow into to get us an escorted visit to our target area.

We struck out

Stonewall gravesite panoramaThe security guard who was our ride and guide was on a tight schedule, so we didn’t get much time to nose around. I had time to shoot a nearly 360-degree panorama of the general area that didn’t show anything particularly interesting. The left side of the photo is looking north, then it swings to the right until we are looking approximately north-northwest.

You’ll have to click on the photo to make it large enough to make out anything.

Dick thinks that any markers that might have existed were moved or covered over when the railroad cut through the area to carry visitors to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Decades of Mississippi River and Indian Creek floods probably scoured the area, plus it has been farmed.

We’re going to give it another shot, but timing is critical. It’ll help if we get there before the brush, snakes and bugs start showing up after wintertime. The best we can hope for would be some discarded stones or markers that have been pushed off to the edges of the property, but I doubt there was much around to set the graves off from the surrounding farmland.

Here’s one of the best accounts I’ve run across about the disaster and the history of the area.



Iconic Racing Photos

Stockcar races 1966Continuing my holiday reruns: it’s hard to define what make a photo iconic, but I think these photos have that timeless quality.

Arena Park Stock Car Races was a popular topic: it garnered 58 comments from people who remembered the drivers and many an evening spent at Arena Park. The racer above was Lester Harris, who was also the subject of a piece, “Cheating Death to Make Phones Ring.”

Click on the pictures to make them larger; click on the links to see more images and comments.

Stock car scuffles

Stockcar race scuffle 2Not all of the action took place behind the wheel.

The officer on the right was “Dub” Wilson. Someone back at the office said, “Looks like Dub must have gotten down in the dirt.”

Another reporter said, “Nah, that’s the way Dub’s uniform always looks.”

Arena Park Motorcycle racing

Arena Park Motorcycle racing in the 1960sMotorcycle racing never attracted huge crowds Dick McClard commented. See if you recognize anyone in the more than dozen photos.


Fred McLard’s Log Cabin

Dick McClard - Fred McLard 04-29-2014Class of ’66 buddy Dick McClard and I were driving around after trying to locate the mass grave from the steamboat The Stonewall near Neely’s Landing this spring. We think we’re getting close, but it’s going to take some more looking.

Anyway, he suggested we go see Fred McLard’s log cabin. (That’s not a typo: those folks never could get the spelling of their names right. They answer to McClard, McLard, McLaird and MacLaird, among other things.) Dick’s on the left, Fred’s on the right.

Cabin lives inside barn

Fred McLard log cabin 04-29-2014At some point long ago, a barn was built around the log cabin. The farm is across the street from the New Bethel Church, close to the intersection of County Roads 532 and 525. It’s on private property, but Fred’s a nice guy and would probably give you permission to take a look if you knocked on his door.

The view across the fields from his house is just short of spectacular, too.

Photo gallery

Here are some detail shots of the cabin. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move around.