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Local History

Early Greene County Cemetery

Ghosts of Pioneers May Haunt Vast, Modern Prison Hospital
Springfield News & Leader, August 9, 1931, page 1B
By Beth Campbell

“On the site where buffalo-hunting Kickapoo Indians pitched their tents, and early settlers built rugged log cabins, the fedreral government within a few months will erect magnificent modern buildings costing $3,000,000.

“If legends about ghosts are true an old graveyard which the government does not know is there may cough up spirits of pioneers, born as early as 1798 to watch the amassing of brick, steel, and concrete, in the 1931 fashion.

“The location of the new government project, southwest of Springfield on the Louis Meyer property, contains the oldest graveyard in Greene County, although scores of people are not aware of its existence. In sad disrepair, neglected by relatives of the few persons whose gravestones remain to show they were buried there, the little cemetery is a haunting memory of early times in this section.

“When the lake was up on the property, the graveyard was on the ‘island’ in the center, and in the old days when the Fin and Feather Club used the lakeside for a clubhouse, there were many jests about playing ‘graveyard tag’ and similar mystery games. The last survivor of one of the persons buried there to evince interest in the graveyard visited here about two years ago, Mr. Meyer said, but has not returned.

“The dates on the tombstones rage from 1842 to 1853, and dates of the settlement around the graveyard are even earlier, before Springfield was incorporated in 1838. The birth date of one man buried there is 1798.

“At the lower end of the cemetery, a group of six or seven slaves were buried. Small stones mark the places. On them are written the slaves’ first names and dates of their deaths.

“Inscriptions on some of the stones would indicate that life had its hard moments then, as now. One epitaph reads, ‘His dying words were “Farewell, Vain World. I’m going home!’ Spelling is sometimes unusual. Died is spelled dide.

“The graveyard is supposed to be on the spot where the Indians pitched their tents as they came through this country hunting buffalo and other wild game. A choice place for them, it was sought out by settlers when they arrived. Indians were routed, and the pioneers pushed across what was then Greene and is now Stone County.

“The stream of water which ran through the lower end of the Grand Prairie region made the boundary lines for the earliest families, the Britts, Callifax and Townsends.

“Mr. Meyer said that the graveyard had never been discussed between him and representatives of the government who have been here, so he did not know what its fate would be under the new arrangement.

“Lawing A. Wrightsman, who is in charge of the property until those in charge of the hospital arrive, said that he had been given no instructions concerning the graveyard, that he did not know it was there, and did not think the government was conscious of its presence. So any decisions in that regard must be made later, he said.”

This cemetery is now lost and it's exact location is unknown. Information from five legible tombstones was copied though the date the reading was taken is unknown. They are Mary Townsend, 20 Apr 1798-17 Jun 1842; James R. Townsend, 19 Mar 1848-8 Mar 1848; Cannefax Infant 26 Oct 1846-29 Oct 1846 son of Nancy J. & B. W. Cannefax; Jonathan W. Cathel 27 Apr 1828-21 Feb 1847; John M. Randolph Britt 25 Dec 1798-12 Dec 1853 "Farewell Vain World, I'm Going home". This information is from Greene County, Missouri, Cemeteries Volume 9, who have named the cemetery the William Townsend Cemetery.

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