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.

Sleeping in churchyard

Two pioneer descendants remember Little Stranger Cemetery

Leavenworth Times, Sunday, July 3, 1988

by L. Candy Ruff, Times Lifestyles Editor

The original members of the Little Stranger Church now sleep in the churchyard, well known local historian Gladys Carnahan wrote in 1949. Such pioneer families as the McBrides and Seymours close to settle in the west central township, raise their families close to the steady stream and bury their dead in the cemetery next to the church, where they worshiped.

Two descendants of those pioneer families walked last week through the weeds and underbrush filling Little Stranger Cemetery. Genevieve Powers and Robert Seymour met for the first time under the cottonwood and pine trees that surround the 120-year-old church, located off County Road 5 just before the Boling curve.

"We didn't know each other before today, but we seem to know a lot of the same people," Mrs. Powers explained. "My mother's family lived not far from his father's people."

Her people were the McBrides. James McBride came to America from the Emerald Isles in 1850. He settled in Ohio. After the Kansas territory opened a few years later, he moved his young family in 1859 to the Little Stranger Township. His great-granddaughter says he and his sons were landowners and farmers.

"My mother and I would come up here when relatives would visit," Mrs. Powers remembered. "She wanted to show them where the grandparents were buried. Then we would get back on the road and make our way back on the road to Tonganoxie. As we made that first turn toward Tonganoxie, she would point out the big stone house and say that's where the family used to live."

The senior McBrides had one son, her grandfather, and after he married the two couples lived in the stone house.

"that was because the son was an engineer. He had a house in town, but when he was gone, his wife didn't want to stay by herself, so she would come back out here to the country."

The engineer's daughter was Mrs. Powers' mother.

The first of several similarities between Seymour and Mrs. Powers appears in the names of their ancestors. Both have grandparents named for George Washington.

"They tell me my grandfather was born just after the time of George Washington and his mother admired him greatly," Seymour said. "His son, who was my father, told quite a story about him."

The senior Seymour lost a leg as a result of gun accident. A six shooter accidentally discharged, striking him in the leg. It took two amputations to remove the leg, "and those were the days before they had anything for the pain. Dad was just five years old, but he remembered his dad just kept smoking his pipe the whole time the doctor was working on him."

The loss of a leg didn't stop him from driving a team of oxen to Texas or a covered wagon to New Mexico. During one of those trips, twins were born to the couple and one died. Seymour says the family never knew where the infant was buried.

The death of another child was recalled by the lifelong Boling area man. Robert Graffe died in 1905 from diphtheria. He contracted the disease from a young Topeka woman, who had broken her quarantine and traveled as far as the Boling train depot.

"She stopped at my parent's store, but my mother ran her off. She then stopped at the Graffe house, the Chmilding place and the Bristows. They were finally able to get her back on the train for Topeka, but they never knew how many she infected."

Many of the early burials in Little Strangers were the founders of the Little Stranger Christian Church. First meeting in the old school house near the Little Stranger Creek, the congregation moved 10 years later into the newly built church on a high ridge near the once well-traveled Santa Fe Trail.

The first service was held May 12, 1868, and within two years the first two burials had occurred.

My father used to tell me a Mr. Mullins was the first one buried here. Someone had written down his name in the records and said he was 35 at the time he died. But I've talked to a woman who remembered seeing the headstone and he was just 21 when he died," Seymour says.

The latest burial was in 1960, he believes.


Photo Captions


SMALL POX TOLL -- Several of those buried at Little Stranger Cemetery died from a small pox epidemic. The Mitchell family, above, lost three children within three months of one another.


PIONEER DESCENDANTS -- Genevieve Powers, right, and Boy Seymour learn of common family and friends while visiting the Little Stranger Cemetery. Both have great-grandparents and grandparents buried in the pioneer cemetery, located nest to the Little Stranger Church. (Times Photos)


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