Forbes Volunteers- Life Is Restored To Abandoned Cemetery

By: 
Judy Kramer
County Reporter
When 12,800 acres of Forbes Park in Edwards was being developed into residential and recreational lots, it was known that an old cemetery existed on the land near M Hwy. It was on the map of Forbes, but little was known about it and the site was grown over with brush and trees. Over the years, residents have looked into ways to clean it up and a small group of Mary Batson and Rusty Moberly began to tackle the task about two years ago. However, after a small amount of brush was cut away, nothing more was done until April 17 of this year when a group from Forbes and friends began uncovering more of the cemetery.
Jo Spicer spearheaded the effort with the help of John Ely, Paula and Jerry Billinger, Jim Kramer, Rusty Moberly, Dan Duckworth and Jack Spicer. They were able to tell that it is a large, family cemetery, with some grave markers of people born near the time when Benton County was first being settled. However, some of the graves were sunken and there were a lot of broken stones in rows that apparently had been grave markers at one time. Lawn mowers, weed eaters and other tools helped to cut away some brush and grass, but there is still a long way to go.
“The cemetery is at least viewable now, but it is going to take a couple of all day labors to clean it up,” said Rusty Moberly who has been interested in the cemetery for several years. “Trees and limbs are growing out of some of the graves and crowding the cemetery. There are also indentations on graves where the graves have sunk. I remember as a child, that we would spend time at family cemeteries taking care of them, but that doesn’t happen so much now. When the money is gone to care for them, they are left.”
Dan Duckworth has lived a lot of his life around Kansas, but found information in his Dad’s estate about the local cemetery and began researching his ancestry in the area. Cemeteries are his hobby and he believes that his great, great aunt is buried in the one in Forbes. He knows that his great grandfather lived in the area in 1850, and another relative started the Duckworth’s Fish Camp in Edwards in 1820. Forbes Park actually surrounds the location of the old fish camp.
“I moved back to this area and bought some lots on Forbes, and still do research on the cemetery and my ancestors,” said Duckworth. “I found that some of the names listed as being in the cemetery are Wilson, Todd, and Flippin and that Wilsons are part of my cousin’s family tree. I also found that there are two Davis cemeteries in this area, and that might have been the name of the Forbes cemetery at one time.  Another name for it might have been the Jockey City cemetery. The intersection of Hwys M and V, was once known as Jockey City, and it is close to the location of the cemetery that is located in Forbes Park off of Neuharth Rd. within the development.”
Jo Spicer is working with the Recorder of Deeds in the courthouse to try and find out who the cemetery belongs to.  She is also trying to find if she can put soil on top of graves that have sunken into the ground. Many of the coffins were pine boxes that may have deteriorated over time.
‘We have read some tombstones with dates of born: 1936, died 1919,” said Spicer. Once we uncover as many graves as possible, we will start to catalog the stones. Then we know what’s there.  It is part of our history. It has a view of a prairie where juvenile eagles are in the trees. My dogs like to play in the prairie and they stir up the mice, making the red-tail hawks happy because it is easy for them to catch their dinner. I would eventually like to make this cemetery into a commemorative garden where some people might want to sprinkle their ashes. I think we might put in some concrete benches too.”
Spicer said that no one has come forward to claim the cemetery.  Normally there is a board made up of family members who take care of these kind of cemeteries, but they would have died a long time ago and there is no one left to keep it up. She said that perhaps someone in Benton County might have information about the cemetery that would be helpful in identifying some of the people buried there. Anyone with information may contact Judy Kramer at judykramer@bentoncountyenterprise.com and that information will be passed on to the Forbes group handling the project.

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