The alternate title for this post could be, "How a Group of Distant Cousins Got Together and Saved a Lost Civil War Era Cemetery in Missouri."
And it all began with Merrill Dean Gray.
Dean was my 4th cousin, through the Thompson family. My paternal grandmother, MINTTIE MAE BRUTON, was the granddaughter of SARAH THOMPSON b abt 1825 NC who married JAMES MONROE WHITECOTTON.
There are still many descendants of the Thompson family living in the vicinity of Christian County, Missouri, where my grandmother was born and raised. The Thompson family migrated from Burke Co NC to Bradley Co TN to Carroll Co AR and ultimately, after the Civil War, to Taney, Douglas & Christian Co MO.
In 2002, Dean and I started corresponding about genealogy. Then we started talking on the phone. We compared notes, sent packets back & forth. He told me about Norma Stewart Maples, whose mother Alta had written down the Thompson oral family history with her cousin Lela Hall .
In 2003, my husband and I made a trip east to Iowa to attend the Huber family reunion. On the way back, we headed south to Hollister, MO to finally visit cousin Dean in person.
"I know you...!" he said in a twangy Missouri drawl, chuckling as I stepped out of the car. We gave each other a big hug and the bonds of kinship and friendship that had started a year before, online and over the phone, became permanent.
One of the most important things we did on that first trip in 2003 was to visit cemeteries. Dean gathered up a group of us, a caravan of descendants including the family historian Norma Stewart Maples. We visited the Old Boston Cemetery (see previous Tombstone Tuesday post), among others. But the most fascinating to me was the John Harvill Farm Cemetery.
This was where the patriarch of our Missouri family, ISAAC JOSEPH THOMPSON, was buried, along with his daughter LOUISA THOMPSON HUGHES, and two unidentified Civil War soldiers, one Confederate, one Union. It was not a formal cemetery; the graves were unmarked, and the grass in the field was allowed to grow unfettered each year to be cut down as hay. The only real marker for the cemetery was a grove of wild cherry trees (including one impressively large tree), a few big field stones, and the stories that had been handed down for more than a hundred years, telling where the cemetery was located. Alta Thompson Stewart, Norma's mother, and Alta's cousin Lela Hall McCoy had been instrumental in writing down the stories, and this included the location of the John Harvill Farm Cemetery, and its occupants.
4th cousin Charles Thompson of OK visits the big wild cherry tree at the John Harvill Farm Cemetery
My husband & I visited Dean Gray & his wife Dorothy two more times, in 2005 and then in 2007, when we helped organize and attended the Thompson Family Reunion. At the reunion, Dean announced that he was taking donations to clean up and memorialize the John Harvill Farm cemetery by putting up a marker and a fence. He got enough money that day to complete the project!
4th cousin Dean Gray at the John Harvill Farm Cemetery, 2009
Dean worked with local historians and the current owners of the property and found out the exact location to fence off. Engraved on one side of the memorial stone are the following names (italics are mine):
Isaac Joseph Thompson
Louisa Thompson Hughes
Alice Hughes (daughter of Joseph Alevis Hughes, Louisa's son)
Elizabeth Hughes (daughter of Joseph Alevis Hughes, Louisa's son)
Small Girl & Boy of Granny Harville
Jesse Adams, Union Soldier, Civil War
Two Maggard Children
Claud Meadows, Confederate Soldier, Civil War
I dedicate this post to the memory of my 4th cousin Merrill Dean Gray, who passed away Feb 2010. He will be sorely missed, and never forgotten.
Have a great day!