PARK HILLS -- Mention Gibson Cemetery and almost anyone who has lived in the county for very long will tell you there is a vampire buried there.
What many people do not know is there may also be a Civil War veteran who supposedly cut the arm off a man at Blue Goose Saloon for saying something bad about his wife, Sara.
No one knows exactly how many people are buried at Gibson Cemetery. The cemetery, located off Hovis Farm Road in Park Hills, was originally owned by William Riley Gibson who purchased it from his father sometime in the mid 1800s.
It has been suggested that many burials took place there that were never recorded and many of the burial sites that were recorded have been lost over the years.
Sharon Douglas of Park Hills says her mother told her she has many relatives buried there, but no stone was put up for fear of grave robbers. Douglas said it was a custom to just plant flowers or maybe leave a plate or a dish to mark the site, so only the family would know for sure who was buried there.
According to the legend of the vampire, handed down mainly from teenager to teenager, in the early 1900s a vampire plied his bloody trade in Elvins. He was, according to the myth, a Hungarian miner -- a man who had no mercy and was cruel beyond belief. During his latter years, it was said he never left his house during the day and a large number of children died mysteriously.
It was theorized by his neighbors that he was the cause of the children's deaths and when he finally died, the townspeople wanted to make sure he never returned to plague their town.
He was buried in Gibson Cemetery, where curiously enough, a large number of small children's graves still stand testimony to some catastrophic illness. The neighbors, according to the story which still circulates, took great care to separate his grave from the others. They enclosed it with wrought-iron and according to the legendary way to end a vampire's career, hung crosses from the fencing so that even in death, he would not be able to cross the chasm he had been condemned to inhabit.
Another story about the Hungarian miner may more believably explain why his neighbors believed him to be a vampire. He was, according to this story, an albino. An albino has no pigmentation in his skin. His eyes would most probably be pink and he would have white hair. With such a physical condition, an albino would probably avoid being outside since he would be very susceptible to sunburn. The sunlight would be unbearable to his eyes. And, of course, those pink eyes. What more could someone want when pointing a finger at a vampire?
The wrought iron and crosses are all gone from the present-day cemetery, but the history remains.
Another interesting story involves Moses Middleton who was a private in Company B of the 50th Missouri Volunteer Infantry. He is one of Douglas' and Middleton's ancestors and Douglas believes he is buried somewhere in the cemetery because so many of his descendants are there.
In a claim application for a pension filed about 1890, Moses tells the story of his war injury.
"In the early part of the winter about last of November 1864 while in line of duty under Captain Charles Perry of said Bt. B (sic) at a point near "Skin Town" on the march on foot on the road between Farmington and Jackson after 2 or 3 days fever, head aches and general bad feeling "measles" come out on me all over in spots.
"We were camped for the night by the road without tents or shelter. I had nearly new uniform with overcoat and 2 army gray blankets, but a cold and blowing snow was on us.
"With measles I went a day and part of a day to Jackson wading in snow, water and sleet and once wading a creek deep to my hips. We stayed a night in the Court House at Jackson and then in the day went to Cape Girardeau where I was put in the Hospital, a large house.
"A young Dr. I think he was Surgeon of the 29th Reg. treated me a long time, perhaps 8 or 10 weeks twice a day with medicine and kind words and I believe he saved my life but I was so dull and unwell that I never learned his name.
"Then an old Dr. took his place. They brought him there, put him in charge of the sick at the Hospital but I don't know his name or that he was Army Surgeon. He treated me then till I was able to walk about, then Capt. Perry got the Dr. to let me go to my Co. about a quarter of mile from the hospital and then this man of my company took care of me til we went to St. Louis about early in April where no duty was required of me by then my feeble condition until August 11, 65 when I was discharged.
"While am invalid at Cape Girardeau about last of February 1865 my Captain sent me with a teamster Jon Johnson who was going to haul water from a creek branch to camp to cook with. The horses ran, Johnson fell off or got off. I tried to jump off and was thrown off and ruptured.
"Dimness of sight, deafness, continued suffering in the right ear and right side of the head I believe were caused by measles and this exposure time. I not only believe it, I know it."
Moses died in April of 1904. An inquest was held and the following was reported, "I A.L. Evans M.D. Coroner of St. Francois County Missouri certify that I held an inquest on the dead body of Moses A.L. Middleton on the 27th day of April A.D. 1904 and that the jury found that the deceased came to his death by drowning with suicidal intent. He drowned in the Big River near Bonne Terre.
Those are only two of the stories handed down through time -- the vampire story through legend; the Civil War soldier through documentation.
Every one of those grave sites holds the remains of a person who was loved by someone. Each of those now dead had some kind of story associated with their lives.
Who will remember them?
Douglas and her crew of volunteers want to see that they are not forgotten forever.
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