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Central Iowa's Daily Newspaper
August 12, 2007

Pioneer Cemetery Restoration Begins
By Mike Donahey

Last Friday morning descendants of those buried in the Price Pioneer Cemetery located about one and one-half miles north of Rhodes joined others to again pay their respects.

However, on that sunny and hot August morning, respect took the form of a large sign, hammers, bolts, nails, a tractor, weed-eaters, scythes, dowsing rods and tools needed to re-set headstones.

Sharon Sturek and her husband Joe came from Lincoln Neb. with a black-lettered with white background sign that read “Price Pioneer Cemetery.”

Sharon is a descendant of Simon Price who is buried there.

The cemetery has also been known as the Culver Cemetery.

Larry Ginter of Rhodes drove his tractor equipped with an auger to drill the holes for the sign. He would also use a scythe to cut down weeds and tall grass that had grown along the cemetery fence.

Jack Cardani of Boone was there too, trimming the family plot and the Price headstone marked by four cement posts connected by metal rods.

Jerry Hale, a former Rhodes resident now living in Florida, came with his dowsing rods and small orange flags to mark graves. Hale’s relative Justes Richmond is buried there.

Alice Karsjens of Rhodes, a board member with the Historical Society of Marshall County was present to witness the occasion along with her son Dennis Karsjens of Conrad. Dennis and Joe Sturek assembled the sign.

Sharon Sturek explained to the reporters from three Marshall county newspapers why the cemetery and the occasion were important to her.

Later, she dutifully recorded all the activity on a digital movie camera.

Wayne Blessing of Zearing, who has been working for several years at his own expense to restore about 20 headstones originally placed in the cemetery, was there to begin the process of re-setting some of the stones.

Individually, all had their own personal reasons for being present in the small section of land bordered by emerald green soybeans. Collectively, their efforts have dramatically restored this old pioneer cemetery that recorded its first burial in 1861 and in 1876 was deeded to the Eden Township Trustees, but never transferred.

This put the cemetery property in a state of legal limbo-it was not owned by a private individual or group, or a church or funeral home.

In time burials stopped at the cemetery due to the onset of the private and church cemeteries.

As years passed the cemetery gradually fell into a state of disrepair.

A fence separating the cemetery from the neighboring field was removed and ground was plowed under, thereby reducing its original 2.1 acres to just a small parcel for the remaining headstones.

According to the Web site www.pricecemetery.org Web site developed by Hale, one observer doing historical research reported that “there was little to be found in the cemetery and that cattle shaded themselves under the trees to escape the hot sun.”

According to pictures taken in 2000 and 2001 and available on the Web site, the cemetery was overgrown with brush and trees. Tree limbs littered the area.

The headstones visible in the pictures were tilted, sunken, or simply lying flat on the ground.

Relatives of those buried here and others interested in retaining the integrity of the cemetery learned of its condition and decided to take immediate action to decently restore it.

The efforts by Blessing, Ginter, Hale, Sturken and others to reclaim this once-abandoned cemetery, to respectfully honor the dead, have been dramatic.

The descendants and others have committed their time and money to restore the once abandoned cemetery.

They have taken action to get assistance in maintaining the cemetery from the Eden Township Trustees. On the Web site, Hale reported of his correspondence in 2000 to the trustees requesting help in properly maintaining the cemetery.

In October, 2000 the trustees responded to Hale-also recorded on the Web site-that the cemetery was the responsibility of the Marshall County Board of Supervisors.

However, Supervisor Gordie Johnson told the Times-Republican that the Board of Supervisors does not have authority over the Price cemetery or the trustees.

“The trustees are responsible for volunteer fire departments and prairie cemeteries,” Johnson said. “The trustees are elected officials and we can not tell them what to do.” Attempts to reach trustees prior to press time were unsuccessful.


Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or [email protected]

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