THE PRAIRIE HISTORIANS
Volume 17, September 1987, Issue 3
Knob Prairie Cemetery & The Trust Fund
Written By Julius Baker
1977-1978 Cemetery Report
Knob Prairie Cemetery was organized in the fall of 1883. On October 25 of that
year Samuel B. Gilbert, Joseph D. Norris, Oliver P. Norris, Thomas H. Mannen,
and Sidney T. Hirons appeared before Isaac W. Robinson a Notary Publis at
Williamsburg, Illinois, and executed a statement directed to the Secretary of
State, Springfield, Illinois, proposing to form a corporation to be known as
"Knob Prairie Cemetery." The Secretery of State issued a certificate of
incorporation on November 4, 1887, and sent it to Joseph D. Norris, Esq., Laur,
Illinois. The cemetery trustees at that time were Joseph D. Norris, W.W. Norris,
S.S. Manne, John J. Mannen, and Luther Hirons.
The original part of the present cemetery was laid out on the top of the hill
south of the stream which runs through the area. It was surveyed and divided
into lots and streets by William T. Williams, the Jefferson County Surveyor.
The land was part of a tract owned by Alvin and Anna M. Watkins Gilbert. The
survey was completed in July 1884. Many members ofearly pioneer families who
lived in the community are buried there. As years passed on the main road was
purchased by the trustees from Alvin and Anna M. Watkins Gilbert and it was
laid out as the second addition. Later Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert's heirs donated
the land between the original plot and the second addition and it was known
as the third addition. The newest part of the cemetery, immediately east of
the second addition and adjacent to the main road, was donated by McConnel
(Pete) and Ruth Knox Hirons. It is known as the fourth addition.
In the early days families who had relatives and friends buried there visited
the cemetery each year, especially before Memorial Day, and cleaned their lots
of weeds and debris. On Memorial Day people from the community and distant
places gathered to honor the day and the occasion, place flowers on the graves,
and enjoy a program of speeches and singing. A special event was the basket
dinner or delicious food shared by many related families. Time has passed and
there has been many changes in our lives. People still visit the cemetery d
during the Memorial Day Holiday period and at other times but there are no pro-
grams, speeches, singing, or basket dinners. Many people who are interested
in the cemetery live in distant places and most of the old pioneer families are
gone. The trustees are now relied on for maintainance of the graves and the
cemetery as a whole.
Recognizing the need for a continuing source of income and to add to the con-
tributions of many interested people, the present Knob Prairie Cemeterey Trust
Fund #95 was established May 13, 1969, by Maxey and Anita Gilbert Holloway and
Julius and Neva Gilbert Baker. The trust is controlled and managed by the
Security Bank and Trust Company, Mt. Vernon, Illinois. The trust company
furnishes a yearly report, to the trustees, showing the status of the account,
a list of donors to the fund, and makes the interest payment. All contributions
to the fund are authorized federal income tax deductions. Response to the fund
has been excellent.
The Trust Fund is now nine years old. (in 1978) During this time period the
Trustees and many interested people have been very generous with their time,
work, and monetary contributions. Many compliments have been received on the
general maintainance, overall appearance, re-setting of broken and fallen tomb-
stones, clearing of th emaple tree park area, the hillside and the beautiful
It is with a great deal of pride that we publish this historical sketch and
progress report of th epast nine years and acknowledge contributions to date.
It is hoped that interest in the trust will continue so that it's growth
will provid sufficient yearly income necessary to enable future perpetual
Trustees for the present term (1987) are: Maxey Holloway, Randy Dees, Wesley
Green, Jean Ann Acroggins, Francis Lance, Gary L. Hodge, and Russell Norris.
The Old Part of Knob Prairie Cemetery
Once known as
Hagle's Grove Cemetery & Alvin Gilbert Cemetery
By Suzanna Horton
I have been curious about the old part of Knob Prairie Cemetery and it's be-
ginnings ever since I read the obituary of Minerva Ellen Reynolds Hamilton
(b 1847 Eastern Tenn. d 1912) who is buried at "Hagle's Grove Cemetery." She
was the oldest of 12 children born to William Reynolds and Frances Houser. She
married Orange Hamilton in 1896, his 2d wife, his 1st wife was Louisa Hirons.
Yet--The obituary of Capt. Joseph Laur (d 1895) who is also buried up on the
hill, states that he is buried at "Gilbert Cemetery."
I recently received a letter from Audrey Roberts Merriman who quoted Victoria
Hagle Rosenberger as saying "Knob Prairie Cemetery was first known as Hagle's
Grove Cemetery. It was named Gilbert Cemetery even though it was some-
times called that. It's on Hagle land and John W. Hagle and wife (Mahala
Boswell) had a three year old son, Isaac N. Hagle, who died 1-21-1851. They
buried him on the back side of their 40 acres and as others began burying their
loved ones there too, it became known as Hagle's Grove Cemetery. John Hagle
had not meant it to become a public cemetery but when it did develop into
one he set aside that whole plot up on the hill for that purpose. I don't
know when it started to be called Knob Prairie Cemetery."
Audrey continued that Victoria was the daughter of John (Andy) Hagle, (son of
John Wesley Hagle) and that Victoria would get furious when she heard the old
part of the cemetery referred to as "Alvin Gilbert Cemetery."
I find in some of my notes that the late "Clarie" Johnson told me that in 1851
John Wesley Hagle donated the land for the old part of the cemetery. She
recalled that the first burial down the hill in the new part was the child of
Stanton and Maggie Gilbert Norris in October of 1899.
In view of the foregoing information, I find it strange that in reality the
oldest marked graves on the hill are those of the Hirons family, Naomi 1827-1842,
and Sarah M. 1832-1846, believed to be the children of Deborah Pettijohn Hirons
1796-1850 and John Hirons 1797-1863 who are also buried there. Naomi thus died
9 years before the death of the Hagle child.
Page 578 of Perrin's History of Jefferson County says "Knob Prairie was settled
by David Fairchild who sold to B.L. Herrons (Hirons) who came about 1822." This
land joined the old part of the cemetery to the south. Bnejamin L Hirons was
the son of John and Deborah mentioned above. Samuel Boswell, his wife
Elizabeth Taylor and their large family were also early settlers in the area
of the cemetery and Old Williamsbury. They were in the area in the early 1830s.
Their daughter Mahala was the wife of John W. Hagle.
The cut where the old road went down the hill to the north-east is still very
visable today and Jerry Elliston told me the road used to go south over the
hill then angie off to the west. When he told me that, the old well to an old
home that once sat beside that road, was still there.
Audrey also shared the following information taken from notes her mother had
written from a conversation with Rolla Gilbert concerning Knob Prairie Cemetery.
Knob Prairie Cemetery used to have a fence and big double gates at it's
entrance which were donated by Gus Norris who hired Rolla Gilbert and his brother
Roy Gilbert to put up the fence when they were young men. They also set out
the grove of maple trees just north of the stream that runs through the cemetery.
Rolla dug the grave of his grandpa, Franklin Gilbert (1833-1911), and set out
the maple tree that stands just south of his monument on that same day in 1911.
He also helped dig the first grave in the new part down the hill. It was for
the infant son of J.S. and Maggie Norris who died at birth on Oct. 14, 1899.
He is buried near Alvin Gilbert's monument. Annie Gilbert, who married Harry
Green, his 1st wife, is supposed to be the second on buried there. She died
of T.B. and was the grand-daughter of Stephen Gale Gilbert and a cousin to
Rolla. Rolla helped dig her grave but she has no monument. There was a big
snow on when she died and they brought her to the cemetery on a sled.
Hildred, Audrey's mother, also recalled funerals being held in the open,
pavillion type building that used to be in the grove. She recalled Dora Fair-
child's funeral being held there in 1929 and the last one she remembered was
the funeral of her Aunt Minnie Shurtz' husband, William Shurtz.
My grandpa, Jerome S. Mannen's funeral was held there in 1932. I was only six
years old at that time but I remember that they hauled Mom's big old upright
piano up there for the service. I don't recall when that building was torn
Most cemeteries are well kept today but they used to get in pretty bad shape.
Each family took care of their own and it was a hit and miss proposition.
There were no plastic or silk flowers then and boquets for Memorial Day were
arranged from what ever flowers happened to be blooming at the time and set
at the head of the graves in fruit jars.
I don't think there are any of them left at Knob Prairie but I remember several
graves with stones shaped like a bed frame and the grave sprinkled over with
colored rocks or bits of broken colored glass or even sea shells.
Submitted by: Stacey Jones