This file and photo submitted for USGenWeb/MOGenWeb Lincoln County Heritage Page by Betty Lavy Krieg, 16 October 1998.  Link change or update: 4 Dec 1999

History of
Highland Prairie Cemetery

May 1937

Material for this booklet was gathered from various sources and since there were no records all information was given wholly from memory, therefore, some dates are approximate.

In the summer of 1831 James SIMPSON left his home in North Carolina and started "out west" where he was told his invalid wife could regain her health. He loaded their few belongings in the covered ox wagon, making the interior as comfortable for his sick wife and four year old son as he could.

The trail was not well marked and many weary days passed behind the slow moving oxteam. It was late autumn when he crossed the Mississippi River, possibly at St. Louis. The trail led them in the direction of Central Missouri.

One evening, at the close of a crispy fall day, he came to a deserted trappers cabin, located near the present site of Ethlyn, Missouri and on land later owned by the CAMPBELL family. The wife was unable to go farther so the lonely cabin was made the home where she died one month later. Mr. SIMPSON then began to look for a suitable spot to bury her, and after a short stroll he discovered a sassafras grove in a small open prairie. He thought this a beautiful spot for her grave, and with his own hands he dug the first grave in what was later the Highland Prairie Cemetery, and then buried his wife.

With his small son, he turned his steps back to his former home. A number of years later, the son, William Simpson, again took the same trail westward and found the place where his Mother was buried, and located his home near his Mother's grave.

The land where this first grave was made in later years became the property of James DOWNING, who donated about two acres for a public burial ground.  This was possibly about 1850. During this period of about twenty years the community became more thickly settled and many pioneer homes were established in a radius of a few miles.

In 1860 land was purchased from George POLLARD upon which to build a church. The funds were provided by several denominations and the church was named Highland Prairie Union Church.

The building was completed in 1861.

Prior to the building of the church family burial grounds were quite common. But now it became more and more the custom to have Church funerals and burials in the Church Cemetery, and family burial plots were not often used.

The first fence about the cemetery was built of cedar posts and white pine boards, neither of which were to be found in this section. About 1890 this fence was beyond repair, and was replaced by a barbed wire fence, which was provided for by Mrs. M.C. BLANKS, securing the funds in one day at a country sale. This fence was replaced by a substantial woven wire fence about 1915.

No effort was made to care for the grounds and graves until 1905 when a few nearby families gathered on the grounds and men, women and older children spent the day clearing away the growth of weeds and sprouts. From this developed the idea of a cemetery association and the following year on Decoration Day, the Highland Prairie Cemetery Association was formed and officers elected to manage the association. By a strange coincidence one of these officers was John Simpson, a grandson of the James Simpson who dug the first grave.

The Association has continued to function, having observed Decoration Day annually since the association was formed. It is noticeable that in first years of the use of Highland Cemetery, families seemed to pick locations at some distance from any other family group, and no attempt was made to follow lines. Therefore it was found impossible to plot the ground. In later years this condition was much improved.

Many graves were made for transients and charity cases which were lost and can never be identified. The association has done more by creating a sense of obligation on the family to give graves proper marking.

Many interesting pages could be written concerning the funerals held here, but possibly none would carry more interest than stated in the beginning how the pioneer James SIMPSON started the Highland Prairie Cemetery.  Little did he dream that the story of the funeral would be printed one hundred six years later.

Space does not permit to mention the many outstanding persons who have much to do with the history of Highland Prairie Church and Cemetery, but one must be mentioned.

About 1885 the spiritual life of the community was at a low ebb. There were no services at the Church and the building was in a deplorable condition.

It was then that by chance a young minister, Rev. O. J. GARY came into the community. He revived the spiritual life of the community and helped to repair the building.

Due to his influence and inspiration which the younger generation gained from him, the Church building has been maintained in good repair and services held regularly.

Today the fifth generation of the pioneers who laid the foundation of the Church in 1861, are worshiping in the original building. He died Feb. 14, 1937 at the home of his daughter who is a Missionary in South America.

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This file and photo submitted for USGenWeb/MOGenWeb Lincoln County Heritage Page by Betty Lavy Krieg, 16 October 1998.  Link change or update: 4 Dec 1999

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