Niswonger Church Est. 1847

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014We were on curvy Hwy 72 west of Millersville when we got behind a piece of farm equipment doing about 10 miles per hour. After following him for a couple miles, I welcomed a chance to pull off at a neat white church and well-kept cemetery. I figured by the time I had explored the place he would be far ahead or have turned off.

Historical Marker

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014Right at the entrance to the driveway is a marker that tells how the Niswonger family came to these parts from North Carolina and how they crossed the river on ice near Ste. Genevieve on New Year’s Day 1800. One of the party, George Christopher, was 110 years old when he died in 1802, it said. You can click on the photos to make them larger, but I don’t know if you’ll be able to read the marker.

Historical oops

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014The back side of the marker has some corrections that were added in 1996. Apparently the 110-year-old man WASN’T George Christopher. They aren’t exactly sure WHO he was. They also cleaned up some other details at the same time.

Beautiful setting

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014Someone is doing a great job at keeping the building and grounds in good condition.

Men, Women and ?

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014Behind the church is a row of three locked outhouses. One is marked “Men,” one says, “Women,” and the third doesn’t say anything. I’m not sure who it is intended for.

The church was unlocked

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014I didn’t hold out much hope that the church would be open – I mean, they put locks on the OUTHOUSES.

Still, the front door swung open at a gentle pull. I left it open behind me after remembering how the Methodists tried to hold me hostage in the McKendree Chapel.

At the ready

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014Hymnals, collections plates, the piano and an electric fan were at the ready for the next service.

Plain, but neat and clean

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014It was a simple country church with plain walls and simple pews, but the paint was fresh, the floor was clean and there wasn’t a speck of dust anywhere. The carpet and plastic runner added a jarring note of modernity, but they were functional.

Cemetery Plots

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014One wall contains a list of interments. If you are doing genealogical research, this could be a good starting point. FindAGrave lists 93 interments and says about 89 percent of the stones are photographed and / or containing detailed information about the deceased.

Thanks to the farmer

Niswonger Church & Cemetery 09-16-2014I’m glad the farmer was on that stretch of road. If he hadn’t slowed traffic down, then I probably would have whizzed right past an interesting church and cemetery in Cape County’s Whitewater Township.

Iona Cemetery

Iona Cemetery 04-20-2011

Old tombstones are generally the most interesting, but here’s a contemporary one in the Iona Cemetery that was worth a second look. James R. Peters was born in 1946, and he ordered his tombstone well in advance of its need. He died in 2010, so the font is slightly different.

It reads:





Peters was an author

Iona Cemetery 04-20-2011

Peters wrote under the pen names George L. Bond and George Gray. Someone who actually knew the man described him as a bit of an odd duck, but I can’t find my notes. Maybe they’ll chime in.

You pretty much have to know what you’re looking for to find the cemetery. It’s up a steep gravel lane on the north side of  Route V outside Oriole. (If you have to ask where Oriole is, you’ll probably NEVER find the cemetery.)

John McLard served in War of 1812

Iona Cemetery 04-20-2011

Some of the graves date back to the mid-1800s. John McLard, it is noted, served in the War of 1812.

Tornado scrambled stones

Iona Cemetery 04-20-2011

LaFern Stiver, who was guiding me around the Oriole – Indian Creek area, said an isolated tornado touched down on the hilltop cemetery in June of 2003, knocking over tombstones and carrying some away. A Missourian story said that it may never be possible to place all the stones in their proper places because the cemetery was never plotted.

Nearly 200 internments

Iona Cemetery 04-20-2011The Missourian reported the Iona Cemetery Association had compiled a list of 120 internments in 1984, and said only a few people have been buried there since. The FindaGrave website, on the other hand, lists 198 names.

Martha “Marty” Humes Manes on that site has done an excellent job of documenting many of the people interned there.

Neely’s Landing Cemetery

Coming back through Neely’s Landing, I slowed down to see if there was any trace of a cemetery I had heard was on the top of one of the hills, but I didn’t see one nor any way to get up there. I’m still curious about the mass grave for the victims of the fire aboard the steamboat The Stonewall that killed between 200 and 300 passengers in 1869. When I got to the curve behind Proctor & Gamble, I turned around and cruised back north.

I spotted a couple – Roger and Rebecca – in front of a mobile home jacked way up on concrete blocks. Rebecca was walking a pit bull sporting what looked like a logging chain. I was a little uncomfortable for a bit, because I figured an animal that required a chain that big would have been able to drag the young woman like a cartoon character. The dog was either friendly or figured I wasn’t worth eating, because he didn’t appear aggressive.

Roger and I chatted a bit about how high the last flood got – “It came all the way up to the bottom of the trailer. When a barge would go by out on the river, the wave would lap up against the bottom of the floor. We had to take a boat to go all the way around the curve to where we were parked.”

I could cut through his lot

I asked about the cemetery. He said there was a road going up to it, but it was blocked off by a gate. I was welcome to cut through the back of his lot to get to it. “Is that your wife in the car?” he asked.

“Nope, that’s my mother. She turned 91 last week.”

“I don’t think she’ll be able to make it.”

Cemetery popped into view

“I’m not sure I can make it, but I wouldn’t bet against her.”

The road WAS fairly steep, but in decent condition. It had seen chat at some time in the past and it wasn’t too rutted. Just about the time I ran out of hill and breath, the cemetery popped into view.

Tree cut down

A storm must have taken down a big tree recently, based on the fresh sawdust around the stump. It damaged a few tombstones, but the cemetery was fairly well maintained.

Quiet and peaceful

The late afternoon sun made the east-facing tombstones hard to shoot, but I like the play of light anyway.

How old was Louisa Ross?

I couldn’t be sure if Louisa M. Ross was 100 years, one month old when she died or if she was a baby one month old. It’s hard to make out if she was born in 1802 and died in 1902 or if she was born and died in 1902. When I shot the photo, I was pretty sure it was 1802 and 1902. lists 74 interments in the cemetery. There are two with the name Ross: Baby Girl Ross, daughter of S.H. and S.J. Ross, born and died June 12,1900, and Sarah J. Ross, wife of S.H. Ross, who was born Feb. 6, 1893, and who died Aug. 25, 1904. The Louisa M. marker is prominent enough and old enough that I would have thought it would have made the listing.

Not the Stonewall cemetery

I don’t think The Stonewall’s mass grave is up there..

  • There’s not a lot of flat ground in the cemetery that would lend itself to a mass grave
  • It’s a steep climb up the hill.
  • It didn’t look like it would be easy digging.
  • The locals would figure the steamboat victims were strangers, so they would probably not want to take up the limited space where their families were going to be buried.
  • A spot closer to the river would be easier to reach and easier to dig.

A view of the Mississippi

Here’s a view of the river looking to the south from Neely’s Landing. If I knew exactly where The Stonewall went aground, I might poke around while the river is low. Newspaper reports pieces of broken queensware, coal, nails, bits of iron and even bones were still being found on the Stonewall Bar 67 years after the disaster.

Photo gallery of Neely’s Landing Cemetery

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.