Remembering the dead
Citizens who were forgotten in life were remembered in death during a special Memorial Day weekend ceremony held in Cassville on Saturday.
The men and women buried in unmarked graves in the Barry County Almshouse cemetery had a memorial dedicated to their memory by the Barry County Genealogical and Historical Society (BCGHS) with a good-sized crowd in attendance to witness the long overdue recognition.
Twenty-nine names, along with the date of each person's death, are now etched on a granite marker, which has been erected at the cemetery located on the hill above the Barry County Care Center. The facility, which is now a nursing home, used to be known as the County Poor Farm or County Almshouse before it closed in the late 1950s.
The Almshouse was home to the county's indigent and poor, and those who died at the Almshouse were usually buried on land behind the facility. Once overgrown and neglected, the Almshouse Cemetery is now neatly fenced with individual graves marked by simple wooden crosses.
In all, there are over 40 graves that have been located in the cemetery thanks to the efforts of the Barry County Cemetery Restoration Committee, which is guided by Jack Fly and Ted Roller. The two men spent countless hours scouring county death records to uncover the names of the men and women who were buried in the Almshouse Cemetery.
Fly and Roller were assisted in their research efforts by volunteers who were recruited through the mobarry.com website administered by Donna Cooper.
The monument that was unveiled on Saturday was made possible through donations.
"The donations came from all over the country, not just local people," said Fly. "We pulled in interest from other places as well as from area residents and family members."
On Saturday, Fly demonstrated how he used dowsing rods to identify the cemetery's unmarked graves. He showed how the rods opened and closed as he walked over a grave.
"It's not trickery. It's not magic. It works," explained Fly.
Those buried at the Almshouse Cemetery were the men and women who did not have means to be buried by their family. As a result, they were buried without markers.
The cemetery itself was neglected over the years and the site eventually became overgrown with brush and weeds. When the Cemetery Restoration Committee turned its focus on the cemetery, it looked to the Cassville Boy Scout Troop #76 for assistance.
"Tim Smith and the Boy Scouts did a lot of work," said Jay Trace, vice president of the BCGHS who served as master of ceremonies at Saturday's dedication. "They removed a lot of loads of brush and trees."
Keynote note speaker at Saturday's dedication was Mark Miles, director of Missouri's State Historic Preservation Office.
Miles spoke of the significance cemeteries play in preserving history and the important role local groups play in preserving those gravesites.
"Cemeteries are important because of the connection they supply for those who have gone before us," Miles said. "Historic resources are found in cemeteries, and I commend you for your efforts here."
At the conclusion of the dedication ceremony, Mr. and Mrs. Duane Truman and Alma Jackson presented the property deed for the cemetery to Boy Scout Troop 76, which Scoutmaster Tim Smith respectfully accepted.
"It's a big commitment, but we decided we wanted to do it," said Smith. "This is a community cemetery, and we want to make this something the community will be proud of. It's something we can do to honor the people buried here and their families."