From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.
Alta Gilmore Bouley remembers the burial of her sister Rachel. It was summertime of 1911 when the 10-month-old girl became ill and died. After the funeral, the small casket was placed on the running board of the family's car and taken to the Branscom Cemetery in northern Leavenworth County.
"I was almost five years old at the time," she said Tuesday afternoon. "They were never sure just why she died. It could have been from summer complaint. She had a twin brother and he lived for years."
Visiting the pioneer cemetery, located on County Road 18 just a few yard from the Atchison County line, became a regular occurance for the Atchison woman. Her parents, Robert and Nannie Gilmore, along with uncles, aunts and cousins, are buried in the family plot near the cemetery's entrance.
John Branscom was the original owner of the land when the cemetery was founded in 1850s. An Atchison Daily Globe article dated Jan. 11, 1911, indicates the first burial was that of F. Brown. He died 130 years ago the Fourth of July. Branscom died March 6, 1876, and his headstone stands in the cemetery's center.
"The Globe" reported: Mr. Branscom was an old school, shouting Methodist and big Methodist camp meeting were frequently held in a grove on his farm in the early days.
The rural cemetery is located between the pioneer communities of Kickapoo and Oak Mills. Longtime resident Ed Grape said Tuesday the area was once well populated. He and Mrs. Bouley are first cousins and the pair often cleaned the cemetery in their younger days. Grape continues the work today.
"You would see many farms back then," he recalled. "There were stores and some schools. Of course, those were feuding days. Sometimes people just didn't get along and some were still fighting the war."
The Civil War that is. Many of those buried in Branscom came to Kansas after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. They followed either the free state cause of Kansas or the pro-slavery factions from Missouri. William Campbell Logan wanted Kansas to be free.
"The family started out in Ireland, but they got to America back in the 1700s sometime," Robert Logan said Tuesday. "As the country grew, they just followed the rivers. I guess that's how they ended up in this part of the country."
The senior Logan settled in the Oak Mills community just after the territory opened in 1854. He was a well-known farmer when he died in 1885. The newer headstone that marks his grave is near one of the larger pine tree.
His great-great-grandson still mows the cemetery and is one of several caring for the grounds.
Not far from Logan's headstone are two belonging to the Groff brothers. The killing of John Groff in 1877 caused quite a stir, "The Globe" said.
John Groff was assassinated by Bob Scruggs on Aug.19, 1877. Scruggs had previously shot and killed his father-in-law, Dr. Jasper Oliphint, near Oak Mills, and attempted to escape. A posse was organized to capture him and when he was found hiding in a hollow tree near the present Oak Mills schoolhouse. John Groff as leader of the gang demanded him to surrender. Scruggs responded with a shot and Groff fell, mortally wounded.
Scruggs surrender and history tells us he was taken to a nearby tree and lynched. He and Groff were buried in Branscom. The Oliphint murder was the outgrowth of the doctor's objections to his daughter marrying Scruggs, whom "The Globe" described as being from a good family, but dissolute and reckless.
Near Groff's headstone is that of his brother, Hiran. He met a violet death May 13, 1874, while herding cattle west of Atchison. A thunderstorm came up, a bolt of lightening descended and he was killed instantly.
A "SHOUTING" METHODIST -- John Branscom was described in 1911 by "The Atchison Globe" as a "shouting" Methodist, who often held camp meetings at his farm in the Oak Mills community.
EXAMINES OLD NEWSPAPER -- The death of Silas Ratliff in 1915 was carried on the front pages of "The Potter Kansan" examined here by Alta Gilmore Bouley, Ed Grape, center, and Bob Logan. Ratliff was Mrs. Bouley's great-uncle and is buried in the family plot at Branscom Cemetery. The trio have ancesters buried in the northern most cemetery of Leavenworth County. (Times Photo)