Article published in Ozarks Mountaineer July/August 1980. Written by John H. Mitchell and Katie Mitchell. Reprinted with permission.
In the pioneer days of the settlement of our country, it was customary for each family or group of families to have their own burial grounds. This was a necessity due to the isolated nature of the settlements and the mode of travel, plus the need for quick burial of the deceased. As in other areas, numerous small private cemeteries were established along Bull Creek in Taney and Christian Counties to attend the needs of the settlers. Some of these family plots have expanded into large well-kept cemeteries, while others have been neglected and abandoned. Some have been entirely obliterated in the rearranging of the landscape. Even the location of some have been forgotten except by the few remaining old-timers, and they may often become confused as the natural features of the countryside have changed over the years.
By researching old records and conversing with long-time residents, plus making numerous trips exploring the now brush-covered, old homesteads of Bull Creek country, we have located several of these lost cemeteries. Lest they be lost again, we have attempted to identify them, the people buried there, and record these facts so that future generations may know of their ancestors' final resting place.
Beginning where Bull Creek crosses the Taney-Christian county line, the first cemetery upstream is the Dike or Dikes, located on the ridge separating the mouth of Dry Hollow from Bull Creek. The Dikes were early settlers on Bull Creek, followed by the Andersons and later, Bob Meadows had extensive land holdings here. The cemetery is situated on land once owned by Bud Meadows and later by Bone Terry, a short distance south and east of the house. Access is easy, but the cemetery has been neglected and has few legible grave markers. It is not fenced and it is alleged that part of the south side has been bulldozed off with the markers pushed into a hollow to the north. Readable markers still existing are:
Mary A. Dike b 10 Mar 1803 d 17 Oct
Lydia Dike b 20 Oct 1835 d 21 Apr 1868
William Rosell b 1830 d 13 Jan 1882
Mary Liz Anderson, wife of one of the early settlers supposedly is buried here, but no marker can be found.
Across the creek from the Dike Cemetery and beside the trace of the old road along Bull Creek on the Jake Bilyeu place, there is evidence of an old burying place. It is in a pasture west of the house and sheltered by a grove of hard maples. There are no manufactured stones, but the outline of several graves can be seen and some of them are marked with field stones. Legends relate that an "Old Lady McUyea" is buried here, and possibly someone by the name of Cook. The McUyea family lived in a branch of Tabor Hollow that still bears their name even though they left the country soon after the death of the wife and mother.
Above the Enterprise School house and on the east side of Bull Creek, is the Strong place, also known as the Wilkerson place. It was also once occupied by the Jack DeWitt family. Just to the south of the old house site, and on a small hogback ridge, is the remains of another old cemetery. When we first saw it in 1968, only one manufactured marker was in evidence, but those who remembered it years ago said there were many such markers once. A bulldozer has scraped away much of the south side and pushed rocks and dirt over the remainder. Even the one stone has since disappeared--allegedly taken for a display in someone's front yard. This stone marked the grave of Clyde Stewart b 1 Feb 1879 d 5 Oct 1883. Others known to be buried here are an infant of Marion and Sadie Cox, and James Taylor Dye. Legends tell that a Sara Ann Meadows is buried here and doubt exists as to whether this is the wife of Sheffie John Bilyeu and daughter of John Meadows, or whether it is the wife of William Meadows, the father of John, as her name was also Sara.
Above the Red Bridge on Bull Creek are two well-marked cemeteries, and while they are run-down and brush-grown, it is not likely they will be forgotten. First is the Keeton or Cobb cemetery located on the west side of the creek across from Peckout Hollow. Next is the Mapes cemetery on the east side of the creek below the Mapes place where Bull Creek forks. Buck DeWitt recalls at one time there was evidence of a few graves at the Glendale School on the east side of the creek below the Mapes cemetery, but passage of time has swept away all signs. Identity of those graves has long since been forgotten.
On the east prong of Bull Creek at the mouth of Yount Hollow are the graves of the man and his wife for whom Yount Hollow was named. The graves are up on the hillside above the hollow as the couple wished to be buried where they could overlook their home. Also on this fork of Bull Creek where the road comes down from the site of the old CCC Camp on the ridge, there used to be a set of scales, where cattle buyers would gather and weigh cattle. Near where the scales were located there were two graves to be seen in the old days. Their history has been forgotten over the years and even the exact location is lost now.
On the east prong of Bull Creek above
the old Henry Shipman place is the location of the
Shipman cemetery. It is on government-owned land a short distance above the old house site. It is overrun with brush and a huge oak has fallen across it. Only one manufactured marker can be found--a Civil War marker for John Carver, Co. L, 6th MO Cavalry. Some field stone markers can be seen and it is possible other markers are hidden under the tree. Henry Billingsley, who moved to the Shipman place in 1923, remembers when the cemetery was well-kept and many markers existed for Shipmans, Gilmores, and others.
On the main tributary of Bull Creek, Woods Fork, where it comes close to U.S. 65 at Camp Creek, one finds the Carter Cemetery. Hidden deep in the forest on a ridge above a bend in the creek, the cemetery is in a good state of repair. The markers are standing and the brush has been kept cut back. (vks note--don't forget the date of this article in 1980) A low rock wall extends along the south side where the old road was. The graves are too numerous to mention here, but one deserves special note. It is the wife of John Wes Bright--he being the one the Bald Knobbers lynched for her murder. Her grave has no marker, but is located in the southeast corner of the burial ground.
On Woods Fork at the mouth of the Jim Short Hollow, on the east side of the creek is the Botwell Cemetery. This is in the vicinity of the Eau de Vie Spring and church. Situated on a small hogback ridge close to the creek, the cemetery has no manufactured markers, but several graves have field stone markers and some have stone crypts built over them. One of the graves is that of Tom Harp, who was killed by Andy Carter in a knife-fight at Green Mound Ridge. Other graves are of Botwells and a man named Gibbs.
Still on Woods Fork about halfway down from the Norwine place to the Liberty School, on the west side of the creek, there is one and possibly more gravesites. The one is of a brother of Hosea Bilyeu--either Jacob or Isaac. A stone crypt, now fallen in, covers the grave beneath a sycamore tree.
Over in the old Bright Hollow, another main tributary of Bull Creek, there are some long-lost graves. They can be located, by those who know, along the edge of the timber at the foot of the east ridge across the road from the old John Bright place at the forks of the hollow. Here are buried the woman and child found dead one cold winter under a ledge in a side branch of the hollow. (John Bright is buried in Meadows Cemetery, in Taney County--vks) Names, if ever known, have long been forgotten.
Various other burial places are scattered through the hills and hollows of the Bull Creek Country. On Blue (Bilyeu) Creek, at the Earl Bilyeu place, is the solitary grave of the old man Saunders, for whom the Saunders fire tower was named. His unmarked grave is next to the pond Earl built just below the house. Also on Blue Creek, at the Will Spradlin place, there were graves to be seen at one time in the hollow above the house. They may have been graves of Civil War soldiers, or as one story tells, they are the graves of slaves. Legend has it that some Civil War soldiers are buried in Low Gap where Highway H crosses. East of Chadwick, down in the Ky Brown Hollow, is the Mathews cemetery. Here is the grave of the Bald Knobber, John Mathews, and two others, unidentified, but probably of some of the Mathews children.
The Lebow Cemetery is in a pasture a short distance from Highway 160 south of Highlandville. Cattle have used the trees and brush for shade and shelter, but a few stones of the Lebow family are still readable.
On the old Cal Melton place to the west of Ponce de Leon and near the James River in Stone County is the Lee Cemetery--one of the oldest in this area. It is overgrown in weeds and neglected, but it has a number of legible markers. Some years ago the inscriptions on several of the stones were transcribed to a large marker that stands near the center of the cemetery.
Alongside the old road that crossed Swan above Old Forsyth, the outline of several graves can be seen. Some of the dead from the Civil War Battle of Forsyth were buried here, and evidently this was the site of the Forsyth Cemetery before it was moved further up the road. Forsyth Cemetery Some of the markers from this cemetery may have been moved up to the new cemetery. An item of interest here is that the tree the Bald Knobbers hanged John Wes Bright from stood in this cemetery.
No doubt there are other graves and cemeteries in the Bull Creek Country whose location has long since been forgotten and whose evidence of existence has vanished--swept aside by the hand, or bulldozers, of time. We trust that what we have discovered and recorded here perhaps will help prevent others from suffering that same fate.