Cemetery map inquiry clears up foggy history of old Prairie Center Church

The remains of Old Prairie Center Church, now being used as a barn. OCHS photo.

By Eileen Davis, Osage County Historical Society

Usually I title these discussions as “day” rather than month but that does not adequately describe this adventure. It began with an email from a person who had looked at Wayne White’s website, www.osagecountyonline.com. (Please check it often if you don’t already.) His query was innocent enough.

“I am seeking help in identifying the name of a church and cemetery that were located approximately one mile east of the Prairie Center Cemetery on 125th Street. Your cemetery map records this as #34 and calls it ‘No Name.’ Can you shed any further light on the name of the church and those who are buried at the adjacent cemetery? Does the cemetery and any grave markers still exist?”

So I checked Mr. White’s website and learned that his Osage County cemetery map differed from the one we use and I learned that we could not give permission for ours to be used at his website. (Another long story but the permission was not ours to give.) I’m not sure where Mr. White got his map but I did find a similar one on the website that indicated a #34 one mile east of Prairie Center. (See Osage County News’ Cemeteries of Osage County here.)

Esther Little and I drove out there on the way home one evening and found Prairie Center on the south side of the road at 125th and Valencia Road. We saw no other cemeteries in the area.

I turned this problem over to John Hill, who’s been doing new research on several Osage County cemeteries and some really great field work. He spoke to farmers who now own the land and learned that the original church and cemetery had been moved. He also learned that the church, after some additions, was still being used as a barn. John also discovered evidence of graves at the original location. To further add to the confusion, John found an obituary for Andrew H. Caldwell, which stated in the first column that he would be buried in Prairie Center Cemetery. The second column of the same article said “Sharon Cemetery.”

John learned that the Sharon Church was one mile west and one-half north of the Prairie Center Church. Neither of us found any other evidence of a cemetery at the Sharon Church and we believe this to have been an editorial error. While John was “out in the fields,” I used Newspapers.com to look for burials in cemeteries with any of those names and I was able to add 14 burials that were previously unknown.

This is the email I sent to our inquirer and I think it helps to explain the locations and the findings: “I think we finally have the correct answers to your questions about the correct location for Prairie Center Cemetery. The cemetery map online at Osagecountyonline.com is correct, at least as designation #1 (Prairie Center) is concerned. Prairie Center is located in the northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 16 in Burlingame Township. On a modern map, it is right next to a portion of the Kansas Turnpike which runs diagonally through the northwest portion of Osage County.”

“This cemetery is the second location of Prairie Center Cemetery and was sometimes called the new cemetery. The old cemetery was located one mile east on the opposite (north) side of the road. On the online map it is designated as Unnamed #34. The map does show it on the wrong side of the road however. This cemetery, along with Prairie Center Church, is/was located in the southwest corner of Section 10, also in Burlingame Township. It is no longer a working cemetery.

“When I looked at the map (and then drove up to the ‘new cemetery’), I had the section numbers confused. John Hill, who is a tenacious historian, solved the problem by driving the area and talking to the farmers. John learned that the church had originally stood in the corner of Section 10, but it had been moved further north.

“There was probably one burial in the ‘old cemetery’ next to the church and it most likely was moved to the new cemetery. John also discovered evidence of several graves on the farm where the church and old cemetery were located. By using Newspapers.com, I found three persons who had been buried in “Six Mile Cemetery” which is exactly six miles north of Burlingame and probably on that same farm. These are those names and article dates:

  • Baxter, John Mrs; 10 Oct 1918
  • Moore, James, age 64; 14 June 1900
  • Moore, Sarah Faulkner, age 64, wife of James; 3 Sept 1914

“All of these burials are now located in Simmerwell Cemetery which is located near Auburn, Kan., in Shawnee County to the north.

“I also searched Newspapers.com for burials in Prairie Center/Centre Cemetery and compared those results to those listed at Interment.net (98 burials) and Findagrave.com (134 burials). Those articles gave me the names of 14 additional burials. They are:

  • Bell, Jean (Genie), age 14, daughter of George: 3 Sept 1903
  • Colwell, Maggie, age 74; 21 May 1896
  • Drew, Dollie, child, daughter of Fred; 9 Oct 1890
  • Engle, Charles Preston, age 14 months, son of Hova and Anna; 12 Mar 1896
  • Engle, Dick, age about 18, son of J. H.; 9 Nov 1899
  • Gifford, infant, child of T. E.; 9 Aug 1906
  • Horton, Louisa Ann, 79 yr; 28 Mar 1907
  • Howe, Judson Z, age 70; 9 Jan 1919
  • Minkler, infant, parent names not given; 20 Mar 1902
  • Northcutt, Frank, age 22; 21 Sept 1905
  • Overright, Mrs (no first name or age given); 5 Mar 1914
  • Sears, William, 63 yr; 24 Jan 1901
  • Wheeler, John Henry, 72 yr; 18 May 1955
  • Wheeler, Nancy Matilda Mrs, 79 yr; 31 Aug 1916

The article for John Henry Wheeler noted that he had been married first to Elizabeth. She died; he married Nancy; she bore him an infant daughter who also died, dates not given. I found no other news articles regarding the deaths of Elizabeth and the baby. I also could not find their burial places although it would be easy to assume they are also buried in Prairie Center.”

So this is how we learn (and sometimes ‘unlearn’) things here at this wonderful museum and research center. This is the best job I’ve ever had! – Eileen

For more information about Osage County’s cemeteries, see Osage County News’ Cemeteries of Osage County.

Originally published in The HEDGE POST, Volume 43, Number 2, May, 2017, by the Osage County Historical Society Inc. Reprinted with permission. For more information about the Osage County Historical Society, visit at 631 Topeka Ave. Lyndon, KS 66451, call 785-828–3477, see www.osagechs.org, or email [email protected].

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