Old settlement of Cartersville, a flourishing Mormon village, discovered by workmen while excavating for new railroad. Rev. Henry DeLong recalls romantic story of Amelia Meekin, who drowned herself rather than become fifth wife of Joseph Young.
The human bones which the Great Western graders exhumed east of Greendale a few days ago have proven to be those of Mormon pioneers who were buried in the frontier cemetery at Cartersville, some fifty years ago, says the Council Bluffs, Nonpareil of October 14th. The right of way of the new railroad cuts across a corner of the almost forgotten burying ground, which has for years been used as a cornfield, all visible traces of the old cemetery having disappeared long ago.
Cartersville was established by the Mormons emigrating from Illinois to Utah, many of whom stopped to rest in this vicinity. Its site, which is now a farm field, is almost directly east of the Milwaukee railroad tracks at the Greendale crossings. In 1850 and 1852 Cartersville was a flourishing village of about 500 people, and the principal stopping place for the emigrants enroute west. The rise of Council Bluffs, then Kanesville, however, soon ended the glory of Cartersville, and rapidly placed it among the list of deserted villages.
During the existence of Cartersville a cemetery was located on
the knoll just east of the town, and there it is said that some 200 or 300 people were
buried, it then being the only buying ground in miles of country. The advent of the Great
Western and the cut made by its graders through a corner of the old cemetery has
occasioned a refreshing of the memories of the pioneers concerning Cartersville.
CEMETERY IS LOCATED
Yesterday afternoon Rev. Henry DeLong, who came west with the first Mormon emigration in 1846, visited the place where the graders dug out several skeletons last week, in company with a Nonpareil reporter.
Mr. DeLong has assisted in burying a number of people in the old Cartersville cemetery, and he readily located the ground. The Great Western makes a cut of 12 feet on the east side of the old cemetery, and it was there that the bones were discovered at a depth of four or five feet. Only three or four skeletons were exhumed, however, as just one corner of the cemetery evidently laid within the Great Western right of way. The main portion of the burying ground is in the corn field, just west of the cut, and there, according to Mr. DeLong, some 200 or 300 burials were made. Had the graders cut 20 or 30 feet further into the cemetery there would have been a wholesale disinterment of bones.
Nothing but the bare bones of the skeletons were found in the
grave thus opened, however, fifty years of burial having turned practically everything
else back to dust again. In a few places along the newly cut embankment traces of the
boards of a coffin or burial box may be found, but the onetime boards now crumble to dust
at the touch. Around other skeletons no evidence whatever of a coffin could be discovered.
Rev. DeLong explains this by the fact that in the pioneer days, when Cartersville existed,
coffins were unknown to this part of the country, and that it was only rarely that boards
could be obtained with which to make even a burial box. Thus, probably the majority of the
interments at the Cartersville cemetery were made with the body wrapped in clothes and
BONES PILED ON GROUND
All the bones that have been brought to light, and they still remain piled in small heaps along the embankment made by the graders last week, are evidently those of adult white males. They are still in a good state of preservation, though stained a copper color by the action of the clay in which they were buried.
Concerning the Cartersville cemetery, Mr. DeLong says that he remembers it to have been in good condition as late as 1854, at which time many of the graves had wooden headboards, and a number of them were fenced in with wooden picket fences, as was the custom at that time. Later, however, it rapidly passed into decay, and just when the last traces of its existence as a cemetery were obliterated cannot now be recalled.
The failure to maintain the cemetery is largely explained by
the fact that nearly all of the burials were from Mormon families, which soon after moved
on to Utah, thus leaving no one in this vicinity directly concerned in the cemetery or its
continuance. Then, too, the desertion of Cartersville also practically ended the burials
there. When the cemetery was established it was on government land, and, in fact,the first
surveys were not made until about 1854. It is probable that nearly all the headboards and
fences had disappeared before the land was ever put under cultivation. In any event, the
cemetery ground has been used as a grain field for many years.
FATE OF AMELIA MEEKIN
Of the burials at the Cartersville cemetery, Rev. Henry DeLong could yesterday recall the name of but one person, that of Amelia Meekin, a beautiful young Mormon woman who committed suicide by jumping into Mosquito Creek, near where Green's packing house now stands. Amelia's parents had insisted on her marrying Joseph Young, one of Brigham Young's disciples, who was the leader of the Cartersville colony. Now Joseph already had four wives, and Amelia objected strenuously to becoming the fifth. After a few days at the Young home, where she found that she was not the only one in the affection of her husband, she returned to the household of her parents. The Meekins, however, insisted on Amelia returning to the Young home. She accordingly left the house, but instead of returning to the arms of Joseph Young, Amelia proceeded forthwith to the banks of Mosquito Creek where she took off her wedding gown and plunged into the water. Her body was found a day or two afterward and interred in the cemetery which has just been relocated.
PIONEERS DIED OF EXPOSURE
Though 200 or 300 burials seems a rather large number for a small village like Cartersville was, to have in the few years of its existence Rev. Henry DeLong explains his estimate by the fact that it was the only cemetery in this section of the country at that time, and people came from miles around to bury their dead here. Then, too, the death rate among the Mormon pioneers, who had just made the wagon trip across the State from Illinois, was great, scores succumbing to the exposure and from scurvy. As far as Mr. DeLong can remember, no plague or contagious disease assisted in filling the cemetery.
As is generally known, after the Mormons had been forced to leave Nauvoo, Ill., they started westward across Iowa, some 4000 or 5000 strong, under the leadership of Brigham Young and his disciples. From 1846 to 1851 nearly all of these Mormons passed through this vicinity and camped here for some time, hundreds, like those at Cartersville, remaining for 8 year or more. Many of their descendants now reside in this county.
Rev. Henry DeLong came with the first emigration, which included about 3000 Mormons. Mr. DeLong was then a boy of about 10 years of age, and he was brought along in the general exodus, his parents having died at Nauvoo. Just as the Mormons were about to resume their journey to Utah, Mr. DeLong ran away from the family with which he had been living, as they had greatly mistreated him, and he thus remained in this city.
Return to Cemeteries Index
Return to Mormon Heritage Page