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.

Leaves and Hanging Dog Rock

Some days you think you’re going to post some pretty pictures and go to bed early. Then, unfortunately, you start doing a few searches and find yourself going off in all kinds of tangents.

On October 20, Mother and I took the back roads from Perry County down CR 535 through Neely’s Landing and into Cape. I wanted to see if I could find the mass grave from the 1869 Steamboat Stonewall tragedy that killed between 200 and 300 people. I found A cemetery, but I’m pretty sure it’s not THE cemetery. More about that later. (You can click on the photos to make them larger.) The green patch at the end of the road is Dog Holler, just down the road from the High Hill Church and Cemetery.

Obsessed with dogs

Friend Shari and I stopped in at a new restaurant in Pocahontas (more about that later, too). The owner said she and her husband live on a farm in what they call Dog Holler and pointed to a map on the wall (where it is officially known as Dog Hollow). I knew that area. It’s a neatly cleared valley surrounded by rugged hills with wild timber. Just after you go around a curve, you pass a driveway with “Dog Holler” on it.

The time waster was when I decided to look more closely at the map and saw somebody was doggone dog-obsessed. There was Dog Hollow; Hanging Dog Rock; Dog Island; Hanging Dog Creek. Another map showed Hanging Dog Island.

Hanging Dog Rock survey marker

I didn’t find out how the rock got its name, but I found a mention of it in the Results of Spirit Leveling in Idaho, 1896 to 1914, Inclusive, Issues 565-569. To my surprise, the book wasn’t dealing with whether spooks in Idaho were off-kilter. It was a listing of United States Geological Survey markers.

There is one located at “Neely Landing, about 4,000 feet below, 3 feet north of east-west rail fence, on land of Mr. Wagner, between the St. Louis & San Francisco R.R. and the river, about in line with outer point of Neely Landing and highest trees on top of bluff below Hanging Dog Rock, 45 feet east of lower headblock of Neely siding, 115 feet north of cattle guard; iron pipe (U.S.C.E. b.m. triangulation Dutch) (lat 37° 29′ 22.58″; long 89° 29′ 45.57″). It is 350.87 feet above mean sea level.

If you go to page 5 of the book, you can see what all those abbreviations mean and how the makers were placed. Took me right back to Ernie Chiles’ Earth Science class.

Two steamers sunk off Hanging Rock

An 1867 report to the Secretary of War listed two unknown steamers sunk in the Mississippi river off Hanging Dog Rock. This was two years before The Stonewall burned in the general vicinity.

For what it’s worth, the report also mentioned two unknown steamers sunk at Old Cape; Talisman, collision, foot Cape Girardeau bend, and two unnamed steamers at the foot of Cape Girardeau bend. That’s about where the barges broke away and sank earlier this month.

[By the way, for my friends who are ghost chasers and UFO fanatics, the light blue object in the sky and the orange orb at the right are not flying saucers and ghostly images; they are internal lens flare caused by shooting almost into the sun.]

You may get more leaves

I thought I had run out of leaf pictures, but they keep showing up when I look at what I’ve taken on this trip. There aren’t many fresh ones to shoot, though. They’re either turning brown or they’ve fallen.

Polarizing filter

I keep a Hoya polarizing filter on my lens almost all of the time. It’s particularly important when you’re shooting colorful foliage. Not only does it make the sky a nice, dark blue, but, more importantly, it cuts through the reflections ON the leaves, making them appear richer.

Sometimes, though, you don’t want to knock the reflections down. When I walked back to the car after shooting one of these photos, I noticed a really cool reflection in my car windows. If I twisted the polarizer to eliminate the reflection of the trees, all I would have had was a photo of the interior of a messy van. That, of course, was not my goal, so I minimized the effect of the filter.





Train Cars Hop Track

Twenty-seven railroad cars squashed together in a massive pileup Monday morning (March 7, 1966) about a mile north of Neely’s Landing. Two crew members were hurt and two workers were injured later during the clean-up operations, the Missourian story said.

“It’s one of the worst train wrecks I’ve ever seen,” a railroad worker of 44 years commented.

Frisco on regular run

The 76-car Frisco freight train was on its daily St. Louis-to-Memphis run when the cars in the middle derailed almost directly in front of the main cut of the Westlake Rock Quarry, a 200-foot bluff to the west. The Mississippi River was about 150 feet to the east, but no cars went into the river.

Conductor and brakeman injured

Engineer J.H. Davenport lost contact with his crew after the pileup. He found that the conductor, A.L.Bailey, and the rear brakeman, R.L Becker, were injured and “shook up.” He phoned for help from the home of Sylvester Hitchcock at Neely’s Landing. The two injured crewmen were taken to the Frisco Hospital in St. Louis. Neither was seriously hurt.

Massive cranes came from St. Louis and Memphis

Two wrecker crews worked with giant cranes mounted on railroad flatcars to clear the tracks. A crew from Memphis, with a 250-ton crane, worked the wreck from the south. A St. Louis crew, working with a slightly smaller crane attacked from the north.

Bulldozer shoved, pushed and rammed

Gerald Ford of Neely’s Landing used a bulldozer to help push the freight cars off the tracks. As the steel cable on the crane pulled one end of the cars, the dozer shoved, pushed and rammed the other end.

What caused it?

It was working this wreck that I stumbled onto a technique that came in handy over the years. Nobody would comment on the cause of the derailment, so I tried getting the workers aside and asked, “You’ve seen a lot of these things. When you’ve pulled apart ones that looked like this one, what did you find?”

The engineer said he thought the cause might have been a spreading of the rails or a break in the rails. One of the crewmen said that one of the wheels might have frozen and jumped the tracks.

Cable whipped back on workmen

Two crewmen were injured when a cable whipped back striking about six workmen and catching the legs of two of the men.

I learned from experience to be wary of cables. One of the first things Dad taught me when I was a kid hanging around his job sites was to always step on, not over, a cable on the ground. That way you’d be thrown to the side instead of being cut in half if someone suddenly took up the slack without warning. I saw enough tow cables go whipping around to always stay a cable-length away when they were under load.

It was a cold night

This must have been one of those nights when Frony said, “Let the Kid handle it.”

I was going to comment that we didn’t have any access problems at the scene, but the last paragraph of the story says that a Frisco official grabbed a Missourian photographer (me) as he was taking a picture of the wreckage. He warned the photographer and a Missourian reporter not to get too close. Another reporter who did not have a press card was told to leave.

Frisco was better than the B&O

That’s still better than the treatment I was used to getting when the B&O Railroad would pile up a train in southern Ohio. Their railroad bulls were of the ilk and era of the days when hobos were rousted from the trains by clubs and worse. To add to the problem, they had law enforcement powers and were quick to threaten you with arrest for trespassing on their right-of-way. Derailments were common because their tracks were in miserable shape, with rotted ties and spikes that were loose or missing.

I thought I had them when a trainload of new automobiles piled up south of Athens, Ohio. Before I headed to the scene, I stopped by the county courthouse to see who owned the land alongside the track. I called the farmer to ask if I could cut across his field and shoot the wreck from his property. “Sure,” he said. “You’re welcome.” Then, just as I was starting to put the phone down with a sly smile on my face, he finished his sentence. “You do remember, don’t you, that the Hocking River is flooding. You’re going to have to be about nine feet tall if you’re going to stand there.” Drat!

Train wreck photo gallery

Some of these images are redundant, but I figure Keith Robinson and his train buff buddies will find details in them that the rest of us will miss. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.



Tragedy at Neely’s Landing

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.

Burning boat ran aground

An Oct. 27, 1936, Missourian reprised the incident on its 67th anniversary, drawing upon the memories of R.W. Harris, who was eight years old when the boat burned not far from his home at Neely’s Landing. When the crew couldn’t extinguish the fire, the captain headed the boat to the shore but struck a sandbar. The boat gradually turned in the current, causing the north wind to carry the fire through her.

Passengers caught like rats

“Panic stricken passengers were caught like rats on the blazing boat, between which and the Missouri shore was 150 feet or more of swift, icy cold water.” The flames were visible 1-1/2 miles away.

Some held onto horses

Four oarsmen went out on a skiff to rescue passengers. They were Lowrie Hope, Martin O’Brian, Frank West and Derry Hays,”the latter being a Negro.” They managed to rescue some passengers. Others were seen to walk into the flames; others jumped into the river, some forcing horses from the lower decks to swim while they clung to the animal’s tails.

209 to 300 drowned or burned

Depending on which account you read, somewhere between 209 and 300 persons perished from fire or drowning, making it one of the nation’s worst inland waterway disasters. Sixty or 70 victims were buried in a mass grave on the Cotter farm.

Scorched paper money found in safe

When the hull had cooled, what was left of the freight was salvaged and sold. Mr. Harris recalled that his father bought a firkin of butter from Wisconsin. One of the horses, scarred from burns, was long owned by Franklin Oliver, who called him Stonewall. When the boat’s safe was opened, only paper money, scorched to a crisp, was found, much to the public’s disappointment.

Bones still found 67 years later

Since the catastrophe, the paper said, the location has been called Stonewall bar. At low water, broken queensware, coal, nails, bits of iron and even bones are still reminders of the disaster.

Two accounts of the Stonewall’s burning

Large quarry north of Neely’s Landing

Neely’s Landing Quarry is located north of what remains of the town.