Sign recognizes Pioneer Cemetery at Valley Falls
by Clarke Davis
A community project came to fruition Saturday morning when a sign was erected to denote the location of the Pioneer Cemetery at Valley Falls.
Joe Heinen, assistant manager of the Leavenworth-Jefferson Electric Cooperative, credited Maxine Hefty for being the inspiration behind acquiring the sign.
“We need a sign for that cemetery,” Hefty kept reminding people who had been busy in recent years clearing, cleaning, and mowing the cemetery, which had been abandoned.
The Knights of Columbus had adopted the project for a time and many individuals and groups joined them in the restoration.
The tombstones were broken and scattered and small trees and brush had taken over the hilltop. Workers gathered up the stones, leveled the area, and made it possible to be mowed again.
Some of the individuals cited who had gone to extra effort on the project in recent years included Ted Montgomery, Earl Stevens, Bill Klenklen, and the late Tom Abramovitz. Large number of high school students joined the Knights on occasion to provide extra manpower.
Former county commissioner Francis Grollmes located some county funds dedicated to cemeteries that is now helping with the upkeep.
Heinen explained that the Knights were being paid to keep it mowed, but told the Delaware Township board to use the money recently to purchase the sign.
The sign was made by Pat and Vicki Langton, Perry.
The graveyard was first called the “Cemetery of the Lone Tree” according to research done a couple of years ago by Joe Kearns.
According to Kearns’ research, on file with the Valley Falls Historical Society, the first death in the new settlement was a 16-year-old son of George S. Hillyer, one of the earliest settlers. This along with the death of a young man named Scanlan in the spring of 1855 caused this area to be used for the burials.
The cemetery was given formal status in 1867 when James Frazier deeded a seven-acre parcel to the township. It took its named from a lone tree that stood atop the hill.
The cemetery was abandoned within two decades of its founding when the community established Rose Hill Cemetery. Some of the earlier graves were relocated. The named changed to Pioneer Cemetery in 1875.
Workers from electric cooperative dug the holes and set the sign posts as part of a community service project. Several volunteers showed up Saturday to drill the holes and mount the sign.
In dedicating the project to Maxine Hefty, Heinen noted that it also marked her retirement from the township board after 15 years as its treasurer. She will be followed by Lee Welborn.
The cemetery is located on the west edge of Valley Falls just off K-16 highway.
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