Like all of the cemeteries I will be posting, Roll cemetery , once way outside the city limits, is well within the city limits of Haysville, KS. Now Haysville KS is butt up against Wichita KS. You don’t realize you have left one and entered the other. I have blogged before my curiosity comes from my business , content for this blog, and the YouTube channel Sidestep Adventures. Kansas doesn’t have as long of a history as the state of Georgia which is where Sidestep Adventures takes place, but the history can be found in its small country cemeteries. This is Roll Cemetery and the Roll family is buried within. Family cemeteries were very common in the 1800s to early 1900s and Roll Cemetery displays that history well.
Like the others I have posted Roll Cemetery has a beautiful handcrafted entrance and is well cared for. The fence came years later to keep others out and to mark the area which is designated as cemetery.
Roll cemetery is on about an acre of land but runs along the side the dirt road and it’s length is greater than it’s width.
In my last post I wrote about my inspiration for posting pictures and comments about Kansas cemeteries. Not the huge mid century cemeteries and their big Masoleums or the newer cemeteries with flat markers, big statues and biblical names for each section. My inspiration is a YouTube channel called Sidestep Adventures. On this YouTube channel they take you through Georgia and Alabama cemeteries that many don’t realize exist and are so old they aren’t even mapped.
I’m starting in my own county of Sedgwick in the state of Kansas. Prairie cemeteries mark the harsh realities of what life was like in the early to late 1800s. The cemeteries are small and some of them are no longer hidden due to urban sprawl. Marked in stone is the life the prairie provided for the first that settled Kansas.
These pictures are of Eldridge Cemetery near Colwich KS. This is a farming community outside of Wichita KS. Colwich was once miles outside of the city but today is only 7 miles away from Wichita. There is no one named Eldridge buried here. The first grave that I could find belonged to a child named F. Arthur , age 1 year- 9 mos. Little Arthur is laid to rest with his father who shares the same stone maker. Most of the graves are from the late 1800s to the very early 1900s with very few exceptions. The majority of the graves are of infants, children, and young adults, with their parents following in death. There is one small mausoleum building with no identification of its owner. The cemetery is well groomed and some flowers were placed at one grave. The legacy of this Kansas cemetery seems to be the hard life of early farming in Kansas.
I follow a YouTube Chanel called Sidestep Adventures. The host takes you through the past of Alabama and let me tell you it has a lot of past to view. I’m a bit of a history buff and I find his episodes on old cemeteries fascinating. Of course Kansas doesn’t have as many historical cemeteries, slave cemeteries, plantation cemeteries as Georgia and Alabama but we do have a few hidden gems. The difference being that our Kansas cemeteries are not hidden beneath bushes, wisteria, and huge oak trees. Kansas cemeteries are of the plains. The plains of Kansas were very harsh to the settlers of the 1800s, lots of sun, wind, and dust, and not much more. I have no doubt that many of the small farm cemeteries are long gone, plowed over and forgotten. The ones that do remain are quaint and quietly taken care of. The host of SidestepAdventures would tell you the cemeteries that remain almost own themselves. In other words, if a cemetery has been photographed and reported to the county that land can’t be sold or built on, so they just work around them. I will have to check out Kansas law on cemeteries before my next post.
Here is my first attempt at showing small Kansas cemeteries on the prairie.
#1 RUBY Cemetery. Although this cemetery is close to Clearwater KS ( population 2500) and Wichita KS (population 400,000.) You can see by my pictures it is a prairie cemetery of years ago.
I’ve seen this picture online at a couple of different sites but never with a title or location. I find the picture haunting and beautiful. When first seeing it on Pinterest the first thought I had was that looks like a stairway to heaven. Yes , I am a Led Zepplin fan.
What thoughts do you have when you see this picture?
Every year we drive up to Minnesota to see our youngest daughter and her partner. It’s such a long drive from Kansas (12 hours) that unless we have planed ahead we simply just drive, and that’s a lot of highway.
When we do pull off the highway, and as long as it doesn’t take us too far off the path, I try to locate local cemeteries. The small city of Cameron, Missouri has a population of around 10,000. Give or take a few thousand. This small size city has the daunting task of taking care of 5 cemeteries. All five are large cemeteries and all five belong to the city of Cameron. The cemeteries are: McDaniel 600+, Packard 2000+, Graceland Memorial 1000+, Graceland 2000+, Evergreen 1500+, the numbers represent approximately how many are buried at each cemetery. Cameron had a historical board as well as a cemetery board and with that many cemeteries to maintain its easy to understand why they have the boards. I’m in awe of how such a small city manages to maintain so much cemetery acreage.
Now the title may fool you into believing that I just might be writing about something other than cemeteries but I’m not. I’ve been visiting cemeteries for most of my life. It started when I was around 10 my mother would let me come along on Memorial Day as she decorated graves. Her only rules were ; you can’t talk, and you can’t ask a lot of questions. My mother knew me well. I took the job over at 19 when my oldest brother died and have been visiting the resting places of my nuclear family for the last 35 years. I do have a few questions that still wonder from time to time….
Where are all the graves from the west migration in America (1865-1900) . I’m a child of the 70s and so I watched a lot of westerns in my youth and it seems to me that they buried people just about anywhere and marked with a makeshift wood cross.
I’ve learned that there are many unmarked graves of Americans and cemeteries that were sold with property were often destroyed. Many small towns that no longer exist had small town cemeteries that no longer exist. The answer , like most things in life, is not clear. It depends on how far west, how close to a town, and if the town had an undertaker, or a church cemetery. It was the Wild West and many parts of eastern civilized American life took time to reach the bold frontier. Indigenous people have been buried in American soil for thousands of years and they are the history of this nation as are the burial sites they once preserved. I do know one thing, my mother would be frustrated with me if she knew I was still pondering the same questions.
While visiting my youngest child before COVID we went to some favorite spots , one of them being Gooseberry Falls in Duluth MN. The falls are beautiful as are the trees, streams, and foliage. This time when we went to the falls we saw something we had never seen before- Cairns. What are those? Cairns are small piles of rocks. I decided to look up there meaning, if any. The word “cairn” is a pile of rocks placed on top of one another. This is a deep rooted Scottish hillside tradition that signifies respect. That would explain the word for a small pile of rocks pronounced kern which is a Scottish Gaelic word. This tradition of piling rocks some say goes back much further than that. Some archeologists believe cairns were used as landmarks in the prehistoric era. Cairns are also used to mark trails or routes.
Another use is by Buddhist to symbolize wishes for family, respect for a passing loved one. In Hawaii they are called ahu and the Native Americans call these piles of rock wa-wa-an-quas-sick ( place of many good stones ). Cairns can also be memorials. A pile of rocks placed upon a burial site. Actor Dennis Hopper is buried under a cairn in a Native American burial site in Taos, NM. I learn something new every time I travel outside my own little world, and I enjoy seeing and learning new things.
Like every state in the union Kansas has many small Cemeteries. Mount Zion is one such cemetery. This quiet little piece of green earth is along highway 160 and almost appears as a highway rest stop. Some of the earliest buried there are from the 1800’s with the latest burial in 2020. Mount Zion was once referred to as the Kellogg Cemetery. I can only assume that the cemetery sits on land that was once owned by the Kellogg family. There are four Kellogg family members laid to rest there in the late 1800s and early 1900s. When you visit this cemetery of roughly 200 souls on Find A Grave you will notice two things; one the family names are repetitive and very few died of old age. The Hubbard family have 7 children all under the age of 17 buried there, all with different dates and years of death. The Hubbard parents and extended family are not laid to rest there, which makes one wonder if they had too much of the Kansas prairie and left for a better life and less painful memories.
2020 passed so fast and drug on so long. I look back and say to myself, “Where did 2020 go?” My 2020 started out with so much excitement. Two new grandchildren were born just a day apart and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was so see new life come into the world. I spent 5 years burying all of my family so new life brings new possibilities. I felt so content, and then came March 2020. Everyone has their own story for 2020. My year was odd. I was so caught up in the virus and the election year that it took the place of things I would normally do; volunteering, the gym, activities with family. Everyone had to make a new kind of day for themselves. I watched in horror how Americans were dying so quickly and Americans that were so divided in politics, or was it because I just had more time to notice? One thing is for sure my life is good, I’m not wealthy, or a world traveler, or even good looking, but I have a good life. I did learn a couple of things this last year. I was reminded to be more humble and more grateful. It was just one year but a year that no one will forget, no matter their story.
When driving through Kansas backroads it is not unusual to come across little country cemeteries. These cemeteries will pop up surrounded by fields of maize, wheat, sunflowers, or corn. FindAGrave.com has 9 cemeteries in Kansas names Mt. Zion. The picture below is a small cemetery outside Winfield, Kansas named Mt. Zion. This cemetery, like many others dotted around Kansas, sits by a dead end road surrounded by a field of green growing maize. Less than 200 people are buried there but the cemetery is set beneath shade trees and is well groomed and cared for. These little country cemeteries are so very peaceful and prideful.