Interest in preserving cemeteries in Ray County, as far as I am aware of, began in the early
1900's. The earliest information that has been recorded was in 1932 in the The Missourian, a newspaper located
in Richmond, Mo. This article list a few cemeteries that were recorded in 1915, though the listings were of those
buried before 1875 and prominent citizens of Ray County.
Since that date the next interest in cemeteries began around the 1960's. Most, though not all, of the cemeteries
were "walked" and the tombstones recorded, typed and placed in the Genealogical Library located in the
Ray County Museum. Similar "walking" have been found from the 1970's through the early 1990's.
A complete project of each cemetery being "walked", stones transcribed, compared to existing funeral
home records, obituaries found, and pictures taken of stones found, began in 2006. This project is not a group
effort. To date several different individuals in Ray County, and a few who live out of state, have taken an interest
of recording cemeteries that are still in existence whether still in use or not. It is an ongoing project.
Some thoughts on cemetery readings are:
The old transcriptions are valuable due to the fact that some stones are no longer readable or in existence.
Over the years, the sad part is, some cemeteries are no longer in existence because farmers have
pushed the tombstones aside to plant crops, livestock has been allowed to trample over the tombstones, developers,
business and individuals have razed the tombstones with no concern of moving the tombstones and graves to another
spot, vandals have destroyed tombstones, and one story in Ray County,,,, a man took several tombstones and used
them as a foundation for outbuildings and a sidewalk on his farm. The tombstones were broken into pieces to fit
where he wanted them. It is said that another owner of the property had the outbuildings torn down and the sidewalk
dug up and the stones were placed in a trench and covered with dirt. I would imagine more stories of what individuals
would do with tombstones are out there.
The current cemetery project in Ray County seems to be very aggressive and the Ray County Genealogical
Assn. is very grateful for the interest in the updating, locating, and preserving of the cemeteries that can be
found today. With the age of digital photography, the pictures of the stones are high quality and easily readable
even on a web site. Check Find A Grave web site for these pictures. Another individual is diligently trying to
find EVERY cemetery that is still in existence. This person found two unknown cemeteries in the Summer of 2007.
It is a bright spot when we learn of the cemeteries that have been destroyed. And we are thankful that the landowners
preserved these small burying grounds.
Though we read an obituary, find a death certificate, or there is a funeral home listing of a cemetery that no
one has ever heard of, we try see if they are listed in another cemetery. If not found we have to ask ourselves,
was a tombstone ever erected, did the cemetery go by a name in that time period that is now unknown, did the newspaper
mis-print the name, did the person giving the information not know the correct name of the cemetery, was the cemetery
only in existence for a short time and destroyed, was the body moved?
Was the body moved, brings another explanation of cemeteries. For example in 1956 Mr. John Doe died and Mrs. Jane
Doe buried him in Doe cemetery and has a stone erected. She changes her mind in later years, has his remains removed
to City cemetery, but the original stone is still in place at Doe cemetery. Another story is: an individual had
three stones removed from a cemetery because that cemetery was no longer being taken care of. However, the remains
are left in the original cemetery, but the stones are moved to another cemetery. This information is not recorded
anywhere. Another story is a tombstone erected in a cemetery with the birth and death dates of his parents. There
is not proof that either parent ever came to Ray County and the mother can be found buried in Tennessee. It is
believed that a son of the parents erected the tombstone as a memorial to his parents, though by looking at the
stone it does not state that it is a memorial stone.
Working on the cemetery project raises a lot of questions at times.
I for one, admire the hard work that is done by walking and recording the cemeteries. The bravery of approaching
a landowner to ask permission to visit a cemetery on their property. Some landowners can be hostile about this
(though Missouri law states that the landowner has to allow this) Statute
As can be read by the article below, cemetery preservation, is still a problem today as it was in the 1920's. In
fact the last burial in the Camden City cemetery was in 1956 and very few tombstones are no longer in existence.