AKA Morman, Newkirk
Township, Richland County, Wisconsin
Tales The Tombstones
Tell - Republican Observer October 27, 1955
A Latter Day Saints Cemetery
Entirely covered with a rank growth of bushes,
vines, plum trees and an over abundance of poison ivy, there lies
hidden from view, a Mormon or Latter Day Saints cemetery in the town of
Willow. A burial has not been made there in 25 years. This cemetery is
what is known as the Wildermuth cemetery and in it are buried a number
of members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day
How come the cemetery? It is a strange and
interesting story which dates back some 100 years or more.
The story of the coming of the Latter Day Saints, or
Mormons as they are often called, to Richland county, begins back in
the mid 40s or even back to l830. The Latter Day Saints or Mormons, was
founded in New York in 1830 and an attempt was made by Joseph Smith Jr.
to establish a colony in Wisconsin. After the trouble at Nauvoo,
Illinois, when Joseph Smith Jr. lost his life in 1844, many of his
followers scattered to other towns in Illinois and Wisconsin.
Rumors began to trickle in including that polygama was advocated by
Brigham Young and others. A number of the new converts withdrew their
fellowship from Brigham Young and chose Joseph Smith III as their
leader. Among these were David Wildermuth. David, Ruben, and Cyrus
Newkirk and William Cline. It was a bold move as they had cut
themselves off from the organized church.
At a meeting held at the David Wildermuth home and
later at Cyrus Newkirk's flour mill, a new organization got off to a
good start. This meeting was near Blanchardville. Zarahemia, City God,
was the name taken back in the 1850s for their community. Its center, a
school house, was located on the William Cline farm. That was
Blanchardville in its beginning. It was there too that David Wildermuth
and his wife Anna took up their home back in 1846 and it was there a
son died and was buried. Mrs. Wildermuth before her marriage was a Anna
William Cline moved to Richland county in 1860.
David Wildermuth, a Saint, who seemed to be a leader of the
Blanchardville Mormons, came to Richland county together with members
of his family and the family of Cyrus Newkirk and others.
The above sketch is to introduce some of the folks
who are buried in the Wildermuth cemetery in the town of Willow.
David Wildermuth from whom the burying place takes
its name, was born in Ohio December 17, 1803. There he grew to manhood
and was married in 1831 to Anna Newkirk, who was born in Ohio, March 3,
1814. They moved to Coles county, Illinois in 1835, to Lafayette
county, Wisconsin, in 1845, then to the state of Iowa, back Lafayette
county and in the spring of 1856 they started with ox teams for
Richland county where be entered land and made their future home.
Others came from Lafayette county until there was quite a settlement of
Latter Day Saints in the area surrounding the Wildermuth home in
section 7. Religious services were held in the homes, outdoor services
in the summer.
Death began to enter the ranks and the need for a
caused the Wildermuth cemetery to come into being. A site was selected
and burials made. Today the plot is over grown with bushes and to gain
entrance to it is quite difficult. We managed through much effort to
take a look at the tombstones, or at least some of them; so thick were
the vines and bushes that a stone could not be seen except from a
distance of a few feet, so some stones might have been missed.
On one of the stones was this: "Myrta L. Daughter of
E. G. and J. A. Wildermuth, died Jan. 29, 1863, aged 2 years, 3 months,
Lorin, Died Jan 22, 1865, aged 3 years, 9 months and 17 Days.
The marker for Lorin bears the earliest date.
Jan. 22, 1865, so that no doubt was the first burial there.
Other stones in the cemetery are for Cyrus Newkirk,
born in 1800, and for his wife Catherine, born in 1799 and died in 1880.
Another stone bore the name of Horace Newkirk, born
1866, died in 1930. This, according to dates on the stores, was the
last burial made there, 25 years ago.
Then there were markers for infant daughters of Wm.
and A. Mathews.
There was one for William Cline who died on August
8, 1870, age 68 years.
One for Isaac G. Newkirk born July 3, 1834, and
passed on October 16, 1910. He was a member of Co. D. 11th Regiment
Wisconsin Infantry. According to government records he entered service
Feb. 28, 1865, and was mustered out Sept. 4, 1865. Many other Richland
County men belonged to Co. D; Jesse E. Miller, Richiand Center, was the
captain and all the officers were from this county.
On the stone was also the name Lourenea, born
November 25, 1846, and died September 11, 1916. No other information
Then there was the monument for Mr. Wildermuth and
his wife. It was of stone cut to resemble a tree and on it was
inscribed; "David C. Wildermuth, born December 17, 1803, died April 6,
1889. "Ann, his wife, born March 3, 1814, died January 12, 1903."
On the same stone was an inscription for their
daughter Louisa, born July 9, 1851, died February 21, 1895.
That's the story of the Wildermuth cemetery and the
little band of Latter Day Saints or Mormons as they were called who
came to Richland county, took up their homes here and some of them
found a last resting place in the little cemetery not far from the
Pleasant Ridge school house in the town of Willow.
Descendants of the Wildermuths, Clines and Newkirks
now reside in Richland county.
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