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If you have any additions or corrections to this page, please contact the Leavenworth County CoordinatorThis page was created by Leavenworth County Coordinator on Friday, March 04, 2005.
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.
Frank and Mattie Fairchild were driving home from Topeka with their young granddaughter, when a Rock Island train hit their car at a railroad crossing. Within minutes one of Tonganoxie's most prominent families was destroyed.
Their funeral procession into Maple Grove Cemetery stretched from the family's homestead to the gates of the southern Leavenworth County burial ground. The year was 1917. Another grand-daughter, Mildred Knox Young, was 10 years old.
"My mother grieved so after that happened," Mrs. Young said Wednesday afternoon. "I don't how how she kept from losing her mind."
Bessie Fairchild Knox was the only child of Frank and Mattie Fairchild. Thelma was her youngest child, Mrs. Young was the oldest.
"Mother always thought that if I had been in the car, I would have been old enough to see the other train. But, you never know about those things."
The accident occurred midway between the Midland and Bush Creek stations west of Lawrence. The Lawrence Daily Journal World's report of Nov. 5, 1917, indicates the Fairchild's car was stopped at the crossing waiting for an eastbound train to pass. Another train was headed west, but Fairchild didn't see it.
Mrs. Fairchild died instantly; Thelma died soon after arriving at the former Jones Hospital at Eight and Tennessee in Lawrence; Fairchild held on until the next day.
"The three coffins were placed in the front parlor of my family's home. I can still see them sitting there. So many people were coming in and out of the home and so much grief. I'll never forget it."
After the funeral, the procession headed down the Old Lawrence Road, now US 24-40. The Tonganoxie Mirror reported 120 automobiles and over 50 horse and buggy carriages were "winding it's way to Maple Grove Cemetery, the place of final repose."
The Fairchild-Knox headstone is one of the largest in the cemetery. At the time of his death, Fairchild was considered one of the most prosperous dairy farmers in Kansas. His home, where Mrs. Young lives today, is well over 100 years old.
"Mother would so often come to the cemetery to place flowers. She loved daisies and I can remember my family picking bunches and bunches of daisies every year to put on the three graves."
Mrs. Young has been involved with the Maple Grove Cemetery Association since 1944. Her father, Archie Knox, served as treasurer.
"He asked me to come to one of the board meetings and I found myself the secretary. Hunts Fryman was the president then. He was really good and took a lot of interest in the cemetery."
Over the years, several improvements have been made. Because of Mrs. Young's involvement in the banking business, she was familiar with endowments. She suggested the association begin one several years ago.
"It's kept us going. We are assured of our cemetery being taken care of and people are proud of that."
The first burial reportedly occurred in 1883, although the first records date back only to 1891. On this cool fall afternoon, Mrs. Young walked past several headstones bearing the names of Tonganoxie's more well known families.
"The Zoellners had the dry good store for so many years, and the McNaughtons were people everybody knew. You walk from row to row and remember people that lived in our little town. You just don't want to forget their contributions or who they were," she said.
Article donated by Debra Graden