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Union Cemetery

Union Township, Laclede County



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 The Union Cemetery

The entrance to the Union Cemetery is on Birch Street in Phillipsburg.  A photo of the entrance is reflected below.  The entrance is lock and permission from the owner to enter would be required.


Close-up of Entrance Sign

View of Cemetery

Entrance Gate Birch Road

The Union Cemetery

by Martha Bernie

There are dozens of old graveyards scattered throughout Laclede County.  Many of them sit where family homesteads originated more than a hundred and fifty years ago, and many of them have been neglected and forgotten over the years.  However, some of them survive and have been carefully restored and maintained by family members.  An example of this is the old Union Cemetery located in Union Township about two miles west of Phillipsburg.  It sits in an open field, a few hundred yards from the gravel road, sheltered by trees on three sides.  Cattle roam freely in the surrounding field, and visitors have to remember to close the gate behind them when driving in toward the little graveyard. 

We donít know when the Union Cemetery was first designated or put in use. Some of the earliest graves were marked only with blank field stones.   The McFarland, McAdoo and McMenus families settled in the area in the 1840ís, and markers for their infants and children show burial dates as early as l863.  Other stones carry the names of pioneer families such as Henderson, Schultz, McFall, Smith, Thomas, McDorris, Caudle, Murphy, Robinson, and Wilkerson.  Some families have three generations buried in the cemetery, and legend has it that a  black man, killed in a brawl during a grain harvest, was buried somewhere along the fence.  However, the year and the manís identity are unknown. 

The eighty acres surrounding the little cemetery were owned by the Shank family for many years, first by Ed Shank and then by his brother, Eli Shank.   The parents, grandparents, brothers and sister, and aunts, uncles and cousins of Eliís first wife, Inez McMenus Shank, are buried in the cemetery, and until her death in l921, she helped maintain it along with friends and other relatives.   Inezí nephew, Leo McMenus, came every year to help clear the weeds and grass that invariably took over when the spring rains came.  Weed-pulling took the better part of a day to complete, and the grass was mowed with a hand mower.  Wild strawberries were left to grow alongside the graves, and wild ďfox grapesĒ and hedge apples grew along the fence.   Some of the grapevines were so old and sturdy that the local children used them to swing from the trees, unknown to their parents, of course.

As Memorial Day drew near, no one dared to pick any of the flowers in the yard at home because they were all being saved for the cemetery.  On Memorial Day morning, flowers were gathered and the family went to the graveyard, usually with a box lunch of fried chicken, potato salad and cake for the noon meal.  The families of those buried in the cemetery spent the day tending individual graves and decorating them with flowers. The graveyard had to be mowed and tended several more times during the summer, but Memorial Day was the day when everyone gathered to make sure the graves were well trimmed and groomed for the season. 

The Union Cemetery fell into a state of neglect during the middle of this century.  For years, little was done to maintain it, and it wasnít until l980, when descendants decided to clean it up, that it was brought to its present condition.  Many stones were found under the grass and were cleaned up and placed where they were found.  Several graves were sunken and had to be filled in with loads of dirt brought from other locations.  Cedar trees were growing up through graves and had to be cleared away, and innumerable rocks were hauled off.

The cemetery has been maintained on a voluntary basis by the Schultz and McMenus families for over two decades.  Relatives in distant locations are not able to help with maintenance work but have assisted with donations, and today there is hope that the Union Cemetery Maintenance Fund will eventually provide perpetual care for this little rural graveyard. 




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Last updated 01/25/2006