From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.
Earl Peters and Henry Ehart know every foot of Fall Creek Cemetery. They recently walked from headstone to headstone telling stories of family and friends buried there. Ehart started with the oldest headstone in the cemetery.
"They didn't start keeping records until 1896, when the cemetery company was started," he explained. "But as far as we can tell, it all got started here in the northwest corner."
Charles S. Stewert was born Aug. 30, 1854, to John W. and Mary E. Stewert. He died in May 1855 and the men say this is the oldest headstone in the cemetery. Not long afterwards, other families began to make the journey up the hill to the highest elevation outside Jarbalo. Several headstones and rocks began to fill the western edge of the two and one-half acre cemetery.
On a cold morning in February 1861, the cemetery stood ready to receive several victims of an explosion that killed eight Jarbalo residents. The accident occurred Feb. 1 at the Wright's Mill on a day when farmers had gathered to have their grain ground through the grist mill.
The Leavenworth Times carried the story some three days later.
On thursday an explosion occurred in Job Wright's sawmill in Alexander township, by which eight lives were lost. The names of those killed are Albert Mason, William Trackwell, James Black, George Extor, Peter McKinney, Andrew Calhoun, Henry Broderick and Jesse Rinehard.
Jarbalo was a thriving community just before the Civil War and several mills, grocery stores and two banks lined the main street. The loss of those eight farmers shocked the southern half of Leavenworth County. Coroner Luke P. Stiles investigate the accident and The Times printed his conclusion.
It appears from the evidence that the engine in use at the mill was an inferior one, and that none of those who had charge of it were competent engineers. Mr. Wright, on of the proprietors, states that on the morning of the accident, he had the boiler filled with water in the top gauge before getting up steam. After the engine was started the belt that runs the burrs broke several times. One of the bands stopped the force pump because the water was running out at the top of the gauge.
Wright said in his testimony there was no accounting for the accident except to say the freezing weather caused the flues to loosen and the rivets in the boiler were loose enough to cause a leak and thus an explosion.
The verdict of the jury throws no blame upon anyone for the accident but merely declares that the unfortunate men came to their deaths by the explosion of a boiler in the mill of John and Joseph Wright.
Peters says as a young man he often heard old-timers tell of the explosion and flowers were laid on their graves many years afterwards.
Peters' first memories of the cemetery were in 1917. His twin brother, Eddie, was working in the family's corn field east of Jarbalo when a storm suddenly appeared. The 11-year-old boy was struck and killed by lightning and once again the long ride up to the top of the hill was made to bury Eddie.
The older man recalled how his parents, John Edward and Ida Hitzeman Peters, grieved over the death of their son, but death was not to leave this family's doorstep.
"My tow older brothers went off to join the Army in 1917," Peters said. "We got the telegram Thanksgiving Day of 1918 that one of my brothers had been killed in the Argonne battle and the other one was all shot up. He came back, but he never was the same."
This family who had already suffered such great losses was again to follow the hearse to Fall Creek Cemetery, when sister, Ella Morgan, died in childbirth in 1918.
"It was almost more than my parents could bear. This cemetery became a very special place for all my family and it wasn't too long before we began to mow the grass and bring flowers to the family graves."
Peter's wife, Gladys Drew Peters, died in 1983 and she is buried on the east side of the cemetery.
The fall Creek Cemetery Company started in 1896. The first organizational meeting was held at the Jarbalo School and those in attendance decided to elect a director, treasurer and secretary. Peters is the director today, Ehart is the secretary and Frank Burwell is the treasurer.
A Mexican War soldier named Powell is buried in a grove of pine trees at the cemetery's center. Civil War veterans are found throughout the cemetery and the groves are marked with military headstones.
The German heritage of Jarbalo is captured in the Papenhausen headstone made of sandstone and handcarved. Dates and names are in German on this stone dating back to 1858.
The Fall Creek Cemetery is located on County Road 23 just before the wide place in the road where the once-thriving community of Jarbalo is located.
FAMILIAR GROUND -- Henry Ehart, left, and Earl Peters walk among the headstones of the Fall Creek Cemetery. Both men are members of the cemetery company and have been involved in caring for the two and one-half acre cemetery for many years. (Times photos by J. J. Zeman)