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A grant was recently secured to restore the tombstones out at Pioneer Cemetery. If you haven’t been out there recently, you should go. It’s a remarkably peaceful and quiet place to eat lunch, chase butterflies, or stalk wildlife. We met with Susan Pearson-Davis to discuss the significance of the cemetery and the grant received from Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council. Here is information she provided, as well as photos from a pleasant sunset evening we spent out at the cemetery.
Thanks to Susan Pearson-Davis for gathering this information.
Only found referred to as Oakland in the Hastie’s 1940 census.
Location: 2108 6th St., Baldwin City, Ks 66006
Baldwin City is a city in Douglas County, Kansas, United States about 12 miles south of Lawrence and 15 miles west of Gardner. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 4,515. It is part of the Lawrence, Kansas Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city is home to Baker University, the oldest four-year university in the state.
Baldwin City originally began as a trail stop on the Santa Fe Trail named Palmyra. The small town consisted of a harness shop, blacksmith, hotel, lawyer, drug store, post office, two doctors and a tavern. In 1858, a group of Methodist ministers gathered at Kibbee Cabin and founded Baker University. The town of Palmyra bought land to the south for the university and surrounding city. A main benefactor was John Baldwin and the town was named in his honor. Baldwin built a saw mill which was located at present-day Fifth and Indiana Streets.
Baldwin City unwittingly found themselves surrounded by the events that led up to the American Civil War. Three miles east of Baldwin was the town site of Black Jack where the Battle of Black Jack took place on June 2, 1856. The night before John Brown stayed in Prairie City and Quantrill’s raiders passed within three miles of Baldwin after the burning of Lawrence in 1863.
The Baldwin Methodist Episcopal Church was organized July 22, 1855 with these founding members: Henry Barricklow, Farrington Barricklow, David Eldridge, Hulda Eldridge, William Graham, Jane Graham, Lewis Green, Nehemiah F. Green, Archibald Harris, Helen Harris, Perces Harris and Rosella Harris.
A charter was issued February 3, 1858 to the Kansas Educational Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church for the founding of Baker University, the sale of city lots and the establishment of a cemetery not exceeding forty acres. The charter was signed March 12, 1858 by the Kansas Territorial Governor James W. Denver. Baker University is the oldest four year University formed in Kansas. Doors opened in November of 1858 as the first university in Kansas in what is now known as the Old Castle Museum Complex, built in 1857-1858. Baker is an institution with an interesting past, with Parmenter Hall and Case Library buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Lady Margaret Thatcher dedicated our Osborne Chapel, which was moved brick by brick from Sproxton, England. Abraham Lincoln personally donated to the construction of Parmenter Hall. William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States, delivered the first speech on the topic of world peace 100 yards from the political science study.
Nothing was done about the cemetery until after the death on August 30, 1858 of Milton Baldwin. His was the first burial and was buried before the land was formally purchased from the Rev. William Butt on September 9, 1858.
The cemetery was granted perpetual incorporation on September 30, 1864 when the Baldwin City Cemetery Corporation was formed to administer it. The cemetery was platted in 1864 with the center road named Mount Vernon Ave.
From available records very few burials were made after 1880 and the cemetery ceased as an active cemetery in 1954. In 1944 Oakwood Cemetery of Baldwin took over maintenance of the cemetery and in 1969 gathered up all the fallen stones and placed them in two rows near the gateway.
The cedar trees lining the center road were a gift of Dr. W.D. Martin, who purchased a lot in 1865 and was President of the cemetery company in 1880. The gate posts were erected in 1954. The name Pioneer Cemetery was added sometime before 1970. During the spring and summer wild flowers can be seen growing around the north, south and east sides of the stones.
The only period notes on the cemetery that I have found thus far are from the a book compiled by the Douglas County Historical Society that I reviewed at the State Historical Building in Topeka. This shows that the cemetery was named the Oakland Cemetery and an Anna C. and Wm. L. Hastie copied information from the stones and monuments October 26, 1940.
Baldwin, Milton - Besides being the first person buried in the cemetery, he apparently moved here with his father in 1857 and fell ill for a short few days before his death 8-30-1858. Milton was born 4-23-1828, thus 30 years old at time of death. His father, an educator and also founding member of Baker, moved to Louisiana in 1867.
Barricklow, Henry - The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Baldwin was organized July 22, 1855 with 13 members. The meeting was held at the home of Henry in what is known as Kibbee cabin 2 miles north of town. This was the site of the first sermon preached to white settlers in Kansas one year earlier. Henry and his wife Mary were also some of the founding members of Baker University.
Barricklow, Farrington - Is a brother to Henry and is also noted to be one of the founder members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Baldwin.
Still, Mary Margaret Vaughan and children - Mary was the first wife of Dr. Andrew Taylor Still. Dr. Still was the son of a Methodist minister and physician, and also a founding member of Baker University. There was apparently a Methodist Mission of Dr. Still as well, noted in Cutler’s History of Kansas. After the Civil War and the death of his wife and several of his children, including an adopted child from meningitis, Dr. Still went on to found the American School of Osteopathy. The school is now named the A.T. Still University in Kirksville, Missouri. Since then he is known as the Father of Osteopathy. Dr. Still served as a Hospital Steward in the 9th Kansas Volunteer Infantry, was a physician, surgeon, author, inventor and Kansas territorial and state legislator.
Robert Hall Pearson - Noted as having bought 2 plots at the cemetery. He is not buried there, but his father and sister are, William and Ann. Whether he purchased the plots for them or why, is not known.
Rev. William H. Moore - was noted in one area as being a part of the Battle of Black Jack, but I do not currently have confirmation of this.
Thank you to Susan for the information, and a hearty thank you to the Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council for funds toward the tombstone preservation project. Follow Pioneer Cemetery on Facebook for before and after photos, and more of the story behind this beautiful and historic cemetery.