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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Searching for Mormon Grove

I've felt very strongly that I need to teach my children the stories of their ancestors as a way to develop their character and resilience.  Look around- people are crazy out there!  You know what I mean!  I was on familysearch.org looking for stories to share with them, when I stumbled upon a great-whatever grandfather who died and was buried at Mormon Grove, Atchison, Kansas.  WOW!  This was crazy!  Atchison was only 20 miles from our home in Leavenworth.  I anxiously read the stories about John and Ann Bird and shared them with my family.  Then I set out to find where Mormon Grove was, in hopes that we could visit it.  I quickly learned that Mormon Grove is about 4-5 miles west of Atchison and that there is a historical marker on the side of the road, but outside of that, the actual site is on private property.
Interested in actually visiting the cemetery, we drove up to Atchison to look for the property owner.  After knocking on several doors in the area, many of the residents didn't know anything about a cemetery, but did know of the highway marker.  Finally though, an older lady told us to drive back to another road, follow it for a half mile, then knock on the door of the white farmhouse.  We did so, but nobody was home.
A month or so later, we were back in Atchison and decided to try again.  This time we were successful.  The man there managed the land for his father-in-law, who was the actual land owner, but gave us permission to go on it and look for the cemetery.  He said "I haven't been there, but go ahead and look.  You have more of a claim to it then I do."

We drove back to the marker, then west for a quarter mile, and parked at a red gate then walked in to look for where my however-many-great grandpa was buried. We didn't have a location, other then knowing it was there.  Interestingly enough, when the Kansas Highway Department was surveying for the highway, they learned about the cemetery, did some archeological surveys, then re-routed the highway to avoid going over the top of it.

We spent a delightful hour or two wandering the fields and hills looking for a cemetery.  We didn't find anywhere definitive that we could say "This is it", but just the same, the search was really fun, and it was unique to look at the same hills that my ancestors had 150 years before, knowing that John Bird was buried somewhere close by.  Although to the world this English emigrant lays unknown and forgotten, buried in an unmarked grave in the Flint Hills of Kansas, learning of him and his life has been an inspiration to me.

Nearest City: Atchison, KS
Location: N° W°
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