By Jacki Wood for the Nodaway News Leader
Located near Honey Creek and the Platte River in eastern Nodaway County, the tiny sawmill town of Wilcox is long gone and mostly forgotten.
But Aaron and Rosey Runde are doing their part to change that.
Prior to purchasing their farm near Honey Creek in the rural Parnell and Ravenwood area, the Rundes were out looking at the farm when they walked right past it without even noticing.
It wasn’t until Aaron walked by it a second time that he realized he was walking past a cemetery.
Located in the southwest corner of their farm, it is the Wilcox Cemetery and the oldest gravestone dates back to 1872.
“I didn’t know what to think at first,” he said. “I thought possibly it was a small family cemetery.”
He soon realized it was more than that.
When he started to uncover the cemetery, only two or three of the stones were actually still standing.
“Most of the stones were broken off and laid scattered in pieces,” he said. “Now, 67 stones have been found and pieced back together.”
He said he’s spent well over a year’s worth of Sundays clearing and cleaning up the cemetery so far with the help of his wife and friends Josh Schmitz, Cody Schmitz, Caleb Spire and Kim Savano.
“I started by cutting down lots of good-sized trees and lots of brush and piling it all up and burning it,” he said. “It took a whole lot of clearing and cleaning before I could even think about mowing it.”
Runde said the work he’s done to restore the cemetery was mostly done out of respect for the people buried there but also from a feeling of obligation since it rests on their property.
“Reading the gravestones has been educational and enlightening,” he said. “Some of them have lengthy epitaphs. And a lot of the stones are infant graves which makes us thankful for medical advancements over the past 100 years.”
In addition to clearing and cleaning up the area, he has replaced the fence on three sides of the cemetery, added a new entrance gate on the west side and recently built a new pipe fence along the south edge.
“I plan to continue to make improvements,” he said, “along with keeping it mowed and cared for.”
Several folks have stopped by the “newly found” cemetery to thank Runde for his efforts to uncover their ancestors’ grave markers.
Runde said he has no way of knowing how many graves could still be missing so he’d like to have a map of the cemetery to see how many were there at one time. Also, if anyone knows of a good, inexpensive way to mend broken gravestones, please let him know.
He can be reached at 660.937.2060.
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