Sunday, January 25, 2009

Albert Griffen was Greenlawn Cemetery sexton for 40 years

Wow this is a long blog! I hope people don't get bored reading it. This blog come's from the Wagon Wheels, newspaper September 6, 1984 by Mary Griffin.


In 1927 when my father, Albert Griffin, was hired at Green Lawn as sexton, the cemetery was controlled by the Ladies Cemetery Association. I do not know when this association had been organized, but the membership was composed of women who were members of pioneer families of Rich Hill. Some of the women I remember were these: Lizzie McCombs, Edna Douglas, Mrs. R. R. Shafer, Mrs. J. J. Heck, Maggie Akrigg, Fannie Dudley, Belle Zepp, Lulu Kreiger, and Anna Wilson. The women hired the sexton, gave the work orders and paid the bills.
My father was hired to work from May first to the first of October for $30.00 a month. The remainder of the year his pay was whatever was taken in from grave digging with no pay for Sunday graves. Graves were dug with a shovel, pick and a mattock and had to be six feet deep. In wet weather water had to be dipped from the graves with a bucket. Prices of graves varied from $10.00 for a vault grave, $7.50 for a box grave and 2.50 for a childs grave. If the family could not afford the price of digging the graves friends could dig the graves at no cost. A lot for six graves cost $25.00, half lot for three graves cost $15.00 and single graves were sold on the edges of the circle.
The land south of the ditch had not been surveyed. The two very old sections in the southeast part of the cemetery were called Potters Field and single grave. I do hot recall any burials being made in these sections. The dates on the monuments in these sections indicate that the burials were made in the early days of Rich Hill. Many of the monuments are made of marble, and the weather has made it nearly imposs­ible to read this inscriptions on them.
Many people built a walk or a high curb around their lots. Some enclosed their graves with an iron fence. Since the entire cemetery had to be mowed with a scythe, these fences made it necessary for the sexton to climb inside the enclosure to mow the plots. Most people have removed the iron enclo­sures; however, a few remain.
In February the cemetery was burned off. Great care had to be taken not to allow the fire to get to the stones.
There was a concrete walk from the west edge of town to the east gate of the cemetery. The walk was lined with shade trees, mostly catalpa. Cutting the grass along the walk was the sexton's job. Many people walked to the cemetery especially on Sunday afternoon and memorial day. People walked around over the cemetery reading the interesting epitaphs and unusual names. One monument that attracted a lot of attention was the large Scott monument. This stone was placed there sometime after 1890 to the memory of J. D. Scott and his wife. The monument is an excellent example of skilled crafts­manship. It still stands straight and tall with no indication of leaning or slipping. Several other family members are buried on the lot and marked by individual markers. The lot is enclosed with a high stone curbing. Mr. J. D. Scott was a railway contractor who lived s at the corner of third and Walnut and evidently one of the more affluent citizens as I have been told that the Scott monument was erected at a cost of $1000. No small sum even today.
During the 1930's the Ladies Cemetery Association decided to beautify the cemetery. Shrubbery was purchased from the Bartz Nursery and placed at the corners of the sections and a fence of spirea was placed along the north side next to the road.
The job grew into full time employment with opening the ditches along the narrow roads, repairing holes in the roads, trimming trees, filling in graves and straightening monuments reserved for after grass mowing season.
During the 1940's the land south of the ditch was sowed in wheat and harvested by the Methodists as a Lord's Acre Project. This was in exchange for mowing the land south of the ditch including the two southeast sections.
When power mowers came into use, the Ladies Cemetery Association pur­chased different kinds of mowers. Some were more satisfactory on the rough ground. One of the easier to operate was built on bicycle wheels and was not hard to push, but still every foot of the cemetery had to be covered by foot.
Some people wanted perpetual care which was different then perpetual care today. Those people paid a fee. I think $3.00 per year to have their lots mowed each week. Money to operate the cemetery came from the sale of lots, digging graves and voluntary fees. Each Memorial Day Goldie Wheeler and Faye Roll had a booth at the entrance of the cemetery. They collected fees from visitors and kept a list of those who paid.
When membership of the Ladies Cemetery Associton became so small they could no longer operate, they voted to turn the care of the cemetery over to the city. My father remained on the job as long as he was able to work-a total of forty years. He knew the location of every grave, who owned the lots and any available graves spaces with no mix ups in ownership.
Green Lawn was only on the south side of the road. The cemeteries on the north side were Lutheran, Catholic and Robinsons. The Robinson cemetery was started as a family burial ground. Mr. Harve Robinson permitted his friends to have a burial plot without cost except for a small yearly fee to pay for main­tenance. The Catholic and the Lutheran were for the members of their congre­gations and were maintained by these groups. When the problem of main­tenance became evident, these groups decided to turn their cemeteries over to the City of Rich Hill. Any unclaimed land could be sold by the city.
The Ladies Cemetery Association was completely different from Friends of Green Lawn. The purpose of the original association was to control and provide care for the cemetery. The Friends of Green Lawn was formed to assist the city in record keeping and to provide money for needed purposes through money making activities."
The Friends of Green Lawn still exsist today and the City of Rich Hill Maintains the cemetery and records.

3 comments:

Vicki Barge said...

Bart - Nothing boring about it! How wonderful that this history was written about this cemetery!
Vicki

Bart McClaughry said...

Vicki, I am glad you enjoyed the cemetery article. Thanks for reading it.
your cousin,
Bart

F.M. Scott said...

J.D. Scott was my third-great-grandfather. So nice to read about him on your blog. I am hoping the monument is still there? I saw it about ten years ago while in Rich Hill.

Frederick M. Scott III