About a dozen volunteers are working together with lawnmowers, weedeaters, a brush hog, a Bobcat, chainsaws, and lots of weed killer to save an old cemetery in a rural area of northern St. Francois County.
Most of the tombstones in the old Richardson Cemetery are either no longer standing, missing or buried in the ground. The cemetery was used from the early 1800s to the late 1930s and is also known as the Hazel Run Cemetery and Byington Cemetery.
The cemetery, nine-tenths of an acre in size, is located along a farm road just off Hazel Run Road.
Henry “Lee” Shumake, 86, said part of the reason the final resting place wasn’t cared for is because for many years there was no access to the cemetery.
“One of the problems was you had to go across private property,” he said. “That’s not true anymore.”
Shumake said the cemetery currently belongs to the state and county.
When the men and women started fixing up the cemetery in May, only a couple tombstones were visible from the now-partially clear dirt road. Every Saturday morning since May 17 (with the exception of Father’s Day weekend), volunteers have gathered to clear and burn brush, cut down small trees, and piece together history one discovery at a time.
The volunteers believe 109 people are buried there but they haven’t found nearly that many headstones and foot stones. It’s slow going, but every Saturday they unearth a few more hints of who is buried there. They plan to clean the headstones and piece them back together with Liquid Nails.
“We try not to disturb it until we know exactly where it goes,” said Judy Dobbs Rosener, of Festus, who discovered the cemetery about a year ago. Like all the other volunteers, some of her ancestors are buried there.
While some stones are buried, the group believes some of the markers are probably gone for good.
Rosener and Shumake hope other relatives of the people buried there will be able to tell them where the tombstones need to be. The volunteers plan to purchase concrete markers for those without a tombstone.
On Saturday they unearthed two foot markers as well as a headstone belonging to Jessie Richardson.
The Saturday before, Shumake found Willis Armon’s headstone while mowing.
There are several Byingtons, Richardsons and Horns buried there. Other names of individuals who are listed as being buried there include Armon, Asbridge, Beckett, Eaton, Edgar, Featherstone, Jones, Lassource, Morris, Rongey, Shelly, Stephenson and Stewart.
Granville Edgar is one of the individuals buried there. Edgar, who died in 1907, has a cemetery marker but he does not have a marker that identifies him as being a Civil War veteran.
Shumake said the Shumake Cemetery got bulldozed down so he decided he would try hard not to let the same thing happen to the Richardson Cemetery. Shumake’s father’s first wife, Lucy Richardson-Shumake, is buried at the Richardson Cemetery. She was born in 1877 and died in 1911.
Shumake wants to create a cemetery association to continue the upkeep of the cemetery and make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again. When the association is formed, they plan to put a notice in the Daily Journal with the date of the first meeting. For more information or to help call Judy Dobbs Rosener at 314-560-0303 or Lee Shumake at 573-915-8644 or 573-756-3789.
So far volunteers have included Dorothy Cartee, Tracy Hughson, Scot Hughson, Russell Ramsey, Wayne Dobbs, Billy Young, Becky Hamer, Katie Mouser, Adriana Hughson, and Lindall Richardson. Some are from the Festus area and some live in Farmington.
Rosener believes most of the major cleanup should be complete in about a month. They are proud of the progress they’ve made over the last three months.
“It was all grown up,” she said. “It doesn’t look like the same place.”
Teresa Ressel is the assistant managing editor for the Daily Journal. To reach her, call 573-3613 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org