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.

A mother's sorrow every Christmas Day
by L. Candy Ruff (Times Lifestyles Editor)
Leavenworth Times, Dec. 25, 1988

Sarah Schrimpf Sanders must have walked up the hill behind her pioneer cabin many times after Christmas Day of 1861. Inside the small family cemetery just newly established lay her son, John Henry.

He lived 10 days in a year important to Kansas history. His family lived the pioneer experience north of Jarbalo. When Mrs. Sanders reached the top of the hill, she looked north into an open expanse of valleys, hills and timber.

Mrs. Sanders' parents, Henry and Anna Rhule Schrimpf, chose the highest elevation on their farm to establish a small family cemetery. The only reminder today is John Henry Sander's headstone bearing his date of death, Dec. 25, 1861.

As a young man, Gordon Barnhardt would cross over the fence corner where the cemetery once stood. He cut wood in those days. He walked alongside the cemetery until he reached the Miller home.

Among the dozen headstones he remembers seeing were John and Sarah Sanders and their infant children.

"Over 50 years ago all this land was in heavy timber," Barnhardt said from atop the hill last week. "We're walking on ground now where pioneers are buried."

He and Albert Joe Doege attended a farm sale about 10 years ago held about where the cemetery was once located. Barnhardt took notice of three infant headstones, one being John Henry Sanders.

The infant's maternal grandparents were the Schrimpfs. They moved into the Kansas Territory in 1855 and established a homestead on the Delaware Indian Reservation. They came with several children. Sarah was one of the oldest.

In later years, Barnhardt said his grandmother would often visit with Mrs. Schrimpf.

"I still have a letter my Grandmother Barnhardt wrote to Katherine Flinner. In it she mentions old Mrs. Schrimpf and how she like to talk German with her," he said.

Today's descendants are from Sarah's sister, Lena. Her first husband was William Skaggs, but he died at a young age and is believed buried at Schrimpf Cemetery. She then married Henry Murr.

"He was in the House of Representatives and pretty well known around these parts," he explained.

Henry Murr began the tradition of naming sons William. His son was the first of three generations. The William Murr of today lives in a Tonganoxie nursing home. His daughter and grandsons recently walked the ground of the pioneer cemetery.

Speculation surrounds the disappearance of the reminding headstones. Barnhardt said at one time, he heard a farmer had bulldozed them into a fence row. A close inspection of all the fence rows surrounding the property netted nothing.

John Henry's headstone has cracked in three places today, but the epitaph is still clear:

Beautiful lovely he was, but given to fair bud to earth to blossom in Heaven.

A mother's sorrow on a Christmas Day so long ago stood the test of time to be remembered this Christmas Day some 127 years later.

Article donated by Debra Graden, President
Leavenworth County Genealogical Society, 1998

Return to Cemetery Page
Return to Leavenworth County Main Page