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.
Russell Rose was curious about the abandoned cemetery people told him was located on his newly purchased farm west of Tonganoxie. The year was 1954. He walked through the 160 acres until he finally found 11 headstones in the Pony Creek Cemetery.
Alma Rose said Wednesday afternoon her late husband wrote down the names and dates from each stone and filed it away somewhere. Over the years, that piece of paper was lost, but Mrs. Rose remembers her husband's observations.
"He told me most of the graves were for children," she said. "He guessed there must have been some type of epidemic because most of the death dates for the children were close together."
The headstones that remain today are from the 1870s. Mrs. Rose drove her pickup truck this early fall afternoon through three fields to get to the corner of her property section. The abandoned cemetery lies behind a line of chest-high weeds.
After crawling under a barbwire fence, she started walking among thick underbrush and hedge trees. After about 10 minutes, she found a headstone. Then another.
Amos Nichols was 39 years old when he died July 11, 1871. The Kissinger stone had been overturned.
"It looks like he (John Kissinger) died March 21, 1874, at age 41," Mrs. Rose said. "His wife was Cindrilla and it looks like she died March 8, 1893, at 65 years old."
Old newspaper records from the time indicate Elvira Kissinger was buried in the family plot Dec. 4, 1871 and three years later, her brother, Benjamin, was buried at age 5. Mary Hartman's obituary indicates she died June 5, 1902, at the home of Walter Kessinger, who lives near the old cemetery.
Tonganoxie funeral director Calvin Quisenberry said the cemetery was known as the first Catholic burial ground in southern Leavenworth County. The first Catholic church was part of the Pony Creek community. Old timers from the area say that church started out as a store.
Before Flavia Maloney Thayer died she shared several of her childhood memories with longtime friend, Mary Frances Krull. Mrs. Thayer said Mass was held in the homes of the faithful until a store went up for sale in north Lawrence.
"Flavia told us the men from the church went to Lawrence and bought that old store," Mrs. Krull said Wednesday. "They moved it by wagon up to the Pony Creek area and put it on the Botts farm."
Renovations turned the store into a small wood-framed church used until Sacred Heart Church was built in Tonganoxie at the turn of the century. The old church was then moved to the Rose's farm and used as a barn.
At that time, the Rose farm belonged to Andrew and Gustave Anderson. The stone house Mrs. Rose lives in today was built by the Anderson brothers in 1884. The pair also built the stone school houses at Pony Creek and Blakley.
South county farmer Lloyd Dehoff said Thursday no one has been in the cemetery for 35 years. He said the squared-off stones near the stone wall that skirts the southern edge of the long forgotten cemetery are markers for Indian graves. At one time, there were many such stones.
As a young man he would cut wood not far from the cemetery and remembers there were several headstones. He hadn't been in that area for 40 years.
Article donated by Debra Graden, President
Leavenworth County Genealogical Society, 1998