Commemorating Mace Graveyard
By Samantha Edmondson
Pastor John Book of Buffalo Prairie Baptist Church stood in front of a congregation of 30-plus members of the Lake Area community Sunday at a Camden County cemetery.
He shared with them words from President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. He said the profound meaning of Lincoln’s words shared the same meaning and reasons why they were gathered to rededicate, recognize the renovation of and remember the five unknown slaves still buried at the Mace Graveyard at the Missouri Trapshooters Association Grounds in Linn Creek.
That reason is the devotion to protecting every man and women’s freedom in America.
“As we rededicate this hallowed place today and go back to some of the words that President Abraham Lincoln said in the (Gettysburg Address) … ‘we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract,’” Book said at the Mace Graveyard rededication ceremony. “These that we honor today as we rededicate their burial sites have done the same. Lincoln went onto say, ‘It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.’
“The freedoms that surround us are precious. Our continued efforts are to ensure that all men created equal are treated as equal – that is our measure of devotion we can pass on … If we continue to do that, we can work for the cause of freedom everywhere.”
Book led the rededication ceremony of the 196-year-old Mace Graveyard Sunday, honoring the nearly year-long efforts to renovate the nearly forgotten gravesite that hold five unknown slaves.
Established in 1820, the Mace Graveyard in Linn Creek, originally held family members and slaves. However, in 1930, the family members were moved to Zion Cemetery near the Anderson Hollow area of Linn Creek. Left behind were five unidentified slaves buried at the cemetery with “sandstones,” marking the plot on MTA grounds as their final resting place.
Valerie Thomas, Camden County Historical Society archivist and Mace Graveyard renovation project leader, also spoke at the ceremony, unveiling the long journey and ample community support it took to renovate and create a beautiful gravesite for those still buried at Mace Graveyard.
Sunday marked exactly 51 weeks from when the idea to renovate the Mace Graveyard began. Thomas said she was Thomas was surveying the MTA grounds in preparation for the 2015 triennial Battle of Monday’s Hollow Civil War Reenactment with Dick Peerson, member of the Missouri Civil War Reenactment Association (MCWRA) and the event’s main reenactment core Collins Battery B. They came across Mace Graveyard and were captivated by its history and state of disrepair.
“As a historical society, we would love to be able to do something with this, but we can’t afford it … (Peerson) said, the MCWRA … has funding available if you would like to write a grant. So I did, and we received a $1,000 grant to start the renovation project,” Thomas said at the ceremony.
Knowing initial estimates of materials, equipment and labor to renovate the project would cost more than the $1,000 grant, she took her initial project specs to Home Depot to see what could be done.
“They took the list, went over everything and called me back. They said this is what it would cost you normally, but this is what you can have it for. I said, ‘We can do this,’” she said.
After receiving a lot of supplies, Thomas contacted the Camdenton Horizons Education Center and spoke with Paul Schaefer and Allen Schwantes in recruiting help from students. The project garnered a lot of support from these faculty and students interests, with them building the fence posts, sign frame and other components of the graveyard’s new fencing and renovation, as well as meeting with Thomas’ husband, Dave, and Allen Stoller of the Lake Area Woodworkers Guild in January to fabricate additional pieces in Thomas’ shop.
In the meantime, Nancy Pruett, wife to the MTA manager, utilized her graphic design and painting skills to recreate an updated sign to commemorate the Mace Graveyard.
These volunteers’ efforts did not stop there. Thomas said through a recommendation at Lincoln University, she requested the aid of the Lake Area Master Gardeners to beautify and bring the landscaping of the graveyard back to life. With surveying the overgrowth and plants that were already at the cemetery, Lake Area Master Gardeners members suggested a variety of native plants to purchase and plant, as well as others that could stay and thrive.
Then, in early April, many of these volunteer forces, including those from Horizons, LAWG and Lake Area Master Gardeners came together with volunteers from the McClurg Militia, Dr. Chris Franklin and Scott’s Concrete to begin the actual renovation at the cemetery. Overgrown plants were removed, fence posts were set, the sign installed, and five sandstones were completely revealed and honored with a brand new, completely renovated Mace Graveyard.
She also highlighted the tremendous support she received from several other volunteers in the community, local businesses and members of the Camden County Historical Society.
“As this whole thing unfolded, I was so impressed with the outpouring from the community in getting this accomplished. It was so unbelievable,” Thomas said.
After the ceremony concluded with Book’s official rededication and a prayer, guests were able to view the beautifully renovated cemetery, talk with project participants and pay respects to those buried there so long ago.
Those thoughts from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and words of Book resonated to those in attendance, as it did for State Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton, who welcomed individuals gathered at the event.
“It is an honor to be here today and see what a wonderful project our Camden County Historical Society has completed and how the community has contributed to that … this shows that all life matters. No matter what they did, how they did it, who they did it for — all lives matter. I appreciate it so much,” she said.
For more information on this project or others through the Camden County Museum, call 573-346-7191 or visit www.camdencountymuseum.org or the organization’s Facebook page: Camden County Museum of Missouri
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