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Thomas County Historical Society at Colby, Kansas, held a fall Backyard Expedition for the 7th year on September 10, 2000. The first stop after leaving Colby was the Russell Springs Cemetery. Next stop was the Beulah Rest Cemetery in northeast Wichita County. They were met by Lee and Loretta Riddiough, Donna Krenzel, Marshall and Janene Woodbury, and Tony and Darlene Harkness. Fifty-two people participated in the tour.
The group was interested in unusual stones, inscriptions, stories about the cemetery and people, the first grave, and other interesting things. They didn't have enough time to tour all the cemeteries in the county and look at every stone in a cemetery. They were given a new map of all the cemeteries that will be printed in the new Wichita County Volume II History Book. There are fourteen cemeteries in the county and two outside of the county that serve Wichita County, Each were given a brochure of information from the director containing information about the tour, symbols and terms for studying cemeteries, burials, a map, and cemetery etiquette.
At Beulah the first grave might have been Wilbert Powel, who died September 6, 1889, at the age of nine months? Or maybe Baby Hardin, who died April 3, 1887, buried on the homestead and later was moved to the newly-organized cemetery, Also, there are names of others buried in the cemetery, but not dates. Several walked over and looked in the windows of the old Stone Church.
The group drove to Pleasant Valley Cemetery, The first grave was Leah Schwindt in 1909. This is largely a family cemetery. Everyone is a Schwindt or related to the Schwindts, Kenny Schwindt was mowing and watering and stopped to visit. He shared some interesting family history. He and his wife recently bought the old Pleasant Valley Church.
The group drove to Parks Presbyterian Church and stopped for a bathroom break. Ice water was served. Then to Carwood Cemetery. The first grave is Grandma Ganson who died in 1893. In front of her marker is the O’Neill family. They lost one daughter age 15 in 1894, then a second daughter age 5, six weeks later, and a married daughter age 19 in 1904, all to diphtheria. One tall stone has the daughters names engraved on three different sides.
The group drove by the Lone Tree where a Gorsuch is buried. The tree is still green today and stands by itself in a plowed field.
Then to St. Theresa Cemetery. The first person to be buried was John H. Gotken in 1887. He was followed by his young son that same year. The community was named for Mrs. Theresa Scheve, one of the early days settlers. Some of her relatives were on the tour. The old church still stands by the cemetery, but is slowly deteriorating away.
The Leoti group extended an invitation to add another stop on the route. The group drove by the Selkirk Cemetery and went to see the well and depot in Selkirk that the Wichita County Historical Society is trying to preserve. They were impressed with the well.
The group proceeded to the Leoti Cemetery. The first marked grave is James D. Callahan, who died in 1884. The cemetery is laid out in a wagon wheel design. Johnnie Glanville wrote: "No doubt the person who designed it came here in a covered wagon. I would have loved to have met that man. One questions the working of his mind. His thought may have been - 'This is the end of the line,' since the wheel is flat on one side. Or he may have reasoned - 'This is the beginning of a better life in the hereafter.' I'm sure it didn't enter his mind how complicated it would become to keep track of the lots and graves years into the future. To really see the beauty he must have visualized as he drew the plot, one must see the cemetery from the air, a sight to behold."
This was the last site on the agenda. People were on there own after that. A most enjoy day was had by all. Sounds like the group will be back next year to tour some of our other cemeteries.
Story by Darlene Harkness
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