The tour of Sully and Hughes cemeteries continued June 20 when the group of history enthusiasts ventured to the Mennonite and Pleasant Township cemeteries in East Sully. At both of the cemeteries visited, the incomplete record of the burials that took place was noted.
The Mennonite church and cemetery east of Onida is in the living memory of many of the people who joined the tour, including Myron and LaVon Vetter, Delia Mundt, Bev Zebroski, Gary Currier, Marty Hofer, and church leader Chuck Todd. During the stop at the Mennonite cemetery, many interesting stories of Sully County’s earlier days and the activity at the church were shared.
Todd gave a brief history of the cemetery, noting that there are many gaps in the church record. As a result of these gaps, Todd has been unable to confirm many of the burials that took place in the Mennonite Cemetery.
The first burial in the cemetery was in the 1920s, the last around 1950. When the church erected a building in Onida in 1960, many of those interred in the Mennonite cemetery were removed to the Onida cemetery. “I thought all but four had been moved,” said Todd. The four that weren’t moved were people who had died after being infected with diphtheria and left in the cemetery in order to leave the contagion undisturbed. It now appears that there may be more than a dozen graves remaining in the Mennonite cemetery.
The Mennonite tradition of conducting very plain funerals adds to the confusion surrounding the cemetery with many of the graves, particularly of infants, left unmarked or marked with wooden markers that deteriorated over time.
The cemetery was largely forgotten until the unmarked graves of two individuals were disturbed while fiber optic cables were being laid in 2008. Todd explained that a definite identification of the individuals was not possible due to the incomplete church records. The remains were reburied in the cemetery, and the corners of the cemetery boundaries marked and a stone marker identifying the cemetery erected.
Cathy Myers of Highmore began caring for the Pleasant Township cemetery in 2017, and through her efforts, a granite ‘Pleasant Cemetery Est. 1886’ marker sponsored by Feigum Funeral Home and Capital City Monuments has been erected at the cemetery.
After negotiating a section line road at 320th Avenue fifteen miles east of Onida, tour participants arrived at the mowed and fenced cemetery.
Many of the graves had new markers, and, especially for the graves of infants, new decorations.
Information gathered from the Sully County Register of Deeds office about the cemetery was distributed to the tour participants, including a report made by Glenn Harmon Smith during his graves registration work for the WPA in 1940, in which he complained ‘it seems that most of the records were kept in the head of a certain Frank Snell, who is now dead, and who failed to leave any record for the future.’
Sully County Register of Deeds Peggy Johnson audited the cemetery in July of 2011, and generated an updated map as part of her work. She notes 21 known burials and 24 unknown burials. ROD Johnson collected additional information from Sully residents Bob Johnson and Howard Brown.
Bob Johnson, who lived a little more than a mile northwest of the Pleasant Township cemetery recalled the burials of Mr. and Mrs. Seward in 1933 and 1965 respectively in the northeast corner of the cemetery. ROD Johnson states she could not find any corroborating information and speculated that the Sewards ‘could possibly be buried in the “unknown” graves.’
Howard Brown, a resident of Norfolk Township whose home was about five miles northeast of the cemetery, recalled a pie social and dance held in the fall of 1935 to raise money for a fence to be placed around the cemetery to protect it from damage by animals.
ROD Johnson also notes ‘the Pleasant School was located just diagonally from the cemetery, and in 1935-1936, a teacher taught and lived in the school.’ In addition to the mail, the mailman delivered groceries to the teacher. The Standard Atlas of Sully County published in 1916 also indicates a school at that location.
As part of the audit she conducted, ROD Johnson related that the Holy Cross Youth Group had placed markers on many of the unmarked graves. ‘Five graves still don’t have one, so I will place those,’ wrote ROD Johnson.
TOURS OF ONIDA, AGAR AND BLUNT CEMETERIES
WILL BE JULY 11 AND 18
The exploration of Hughes and Sully cemeteries continues on July 11 and July 18. Meet at the flag pole at the Onida Cemetery at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 11 for a tour of the cemetery, and then continue to Agar for a tour of the Holy Rosary cemetery there. Supper at the Bunkhouse to follow the two cemetery tours. The last tour will be of the Pleasant Hill cemetery in Blunt on July 18, to be followed with a stop at the Medicine Creek for supper. Meet at the Phoenix Center at 5:00 p.m. to carpool to Blunt.