HOMESTEAD / EARLY DAY BURIALS


Documentation of known burials but unknown locations. Homestead cemeteries/burials with known locations are on our Cemetery Inventory and marked as .
An article from the History of Emmons County, 1976, Page 21:
Early Day Burials
When Major James G. Pitts moved to the east side of the Missouri River, there were a number of Indian bodies suspended in the trees on a sort of shelf, that being the Indian custom. At the white man's suggestion, the bodies were later buried in "Indian Ravine", 2 or 3 miles south of Winona.

In 1875 Andy Marsh found a dead man about the age of 19, who had been killed by an Indian. Local residents tried at the Standing Rock Agency to obtain lumber to make a coffin for him, but the Government official in charge of lumber would not give them any. So in Winona a hole was dug, 6' long, 3' wide and 3' deep. The body was wrapped in a blanket and laid in the grave. On top of the body were laid slabs from a cottonwood tree. The young man's name was not known, but a small book with a blurred name and "Washington, D.C."ó written inówas found on the body. At the head of the grave they placed a wooden slab with these words : "UNKNOWN. One who came all the way from Washington to Dakota to start a graveyard." In the Emmons County Record, dated Dec. 13, 1895, we find that an Indian named Kec-ie-ac had confessed to the murder of this young man, whose name was James Lawler. The Indian admitted he had killed Lawler for a revolver that he was carrying.

In an article written by Charles Andrus, editor of the Fargo Forum, he told that his mother, Mary Farrell Andrus, was teaching school at Winona at the time of the Spicer family murders, so she was called upon to assist in dressing the bodies of the six victims. (Later she was at Williamsport when a mob hanged 3 of the Indians). Find A Grave Memorial. Narration on Spicer Murders.

In 1890, near the Vanderbilt schoolhouse [Note: Vanderbilt is in South Dakota], 2 children, Bessie Silk and Joe Marsh, drowned in a small creek covered with thin ice. Both the children had Indian mothers. Their shrouds and coffins were homemade. Bessie was buried alone not far from the Silk home [Note: It is not clear if the home was in the same place in 1890 but in 1913 Silk acquired land in Sioux County, Township 129, Range 79, Southwest quarter of Sections 21 and 26 which would put his place just west of the Marsh place but across the Missouri River]. Little Joe was buried on the Marsh ranch near 3 other graves [Note: On 3 March 1897 Marsh acquired land in Township 129, Range 78, in the Northwest quarter of Section 34 which would put it just north of the South Dakota border.] those of, Mr. Marsh's first wife (a Cree Indian) and her two children.
[Note: Emmons County Record, November 28, 1890: On Monday before last two little children met death in Glanavon school district. One was a five-year-old son of Mr. Andrew Marsh and the other a six year old daughter of Stephen Silk. There was thin ice on a creek near Mr. Marsh's, and the little ones went on it to play. The ice broke and they were drowned before the other children who were playing with them could give the alarm. Both bodies were soon recovered. The parents, who are among the best-known and highly-regarded of our citizens, have the heartfelt sympathy of every one in their sad bereavement.]

Naomi Oder relates that 3 of the Fred Knudtson's children died of diphtheria the same day, and were buried in the Glencoe cemetery that night to avoid the contagion which might result at a funeral. [Note: Ferdinand, Estella, and Frankie.]

Mrs. H. Ten Clay, in her book of memories, said that in the Westfield-Hull area a neighbor would assist when babies were born, and usually all went well. She recalled only one incident where both the mother and her first baby were lost. That presented a problemówhere was the coffin to come from? Since Gerrit Renskers was handy with tools, he offered to make one with a few boards he had intended for shelving. Henry Van Beek had a bolt of white muslin and one of black cambric in his Westfield store, so some of the white was used for lining (with straw for padding) and the black for covering the casket on the outside. The carpet tacks were evenly spaced so a neat looking article was made. Mr. Renskers also "laid out" the bodies, preparing them for burial.

Private burial plots on homesteads were common. In the absence of undertakers and ready-made coffins, the pioneers had to improvise. More than one carefully saved wedding dress was brought out and the material used to line a crude box for a beloved family member. A relative or neighbor would read from the Bible and the grave was marked with a simple wooden cross.
Ronald Kremer in his Emmons County Cemetery Transcriptions documented several Homestead / Early Day burials labed in his document as Miscellaneous Small Cemeteries
There is mention of homestead plot burials in the Leah Carmichael article and the Raynolds Family Tree article.
William Spence Buckner was buried on the Jack McCrory ranch in 1911.
In an article on Winona artifacts there is indication of a burial site south of Winona nestled in woods south of town, near the McCrory ranch where many buried there were prostitutes, some of them suicides. In 2005 looters were still scavenging old burial sites for artifacts. There is also mention of an old mission cemetery alongside the river.


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