Tradition suggests that more than 200 early church
members and family died and were buried in the Far West Burial Ground,
in Caldwell County, Missouri, during the Mormon period, 1836-1839.
Anticipating an extensive gathering to the surrounding area, W.W.
Phelps purchased property that was used for a burial ground about one half mile northwest of
the Far West town square. The original land entry was made 8 August 1836.
As the population of Far West grew to around 5,000, a large burial ground
comprised of approximately twenty-four acres developed on this land.
Joseph F. Smith was born near the burial ground location next to the schoolhouse lot in the north west quarter of Far West. Alvin Dyer provided the following directions, "One will reach the school lot by going north a half mile from the Temple Lot at Far West and then west one mile." [Dyer, Refiner's Fire].
Mike Riggs and Leslie Brooks presented a paper entitled, That They Might Rest Where the Ashes of the Latter-day Saints Are Reposed": Unearthing the History of the Far West Burial Ground, to scholars gathered at the 1997 annual Mormon History Association conference, Friday, 23 May 1997, held at the Holiday Inn Convention Center, Omaha, Nebraska.
Some grave marker stones were apparently still standing in the 1890s. Perry Rader, in The Civil Government of the US and the State of Missouri: and the History of Missouri..., (Columbia Missouri: E. W. Stephens Pub., 1898), 230, observes, "Far West is now a cornfield with only a few gravestones to mark it former site." Any remaining gravestones completely disappeared from the site after the 1890s. 1n 1999, an effort to locate grave locations was initiated through a cooperative effort, involving the Community of Christ, as owners of the property, John Whitmer Historical Association, and Mormon Historic Sites Foundation, of Utah. Due to wet weather conditions during the time of these explorations, interpretation of gathered data proved ambiguous.
YOU CAN HELP!
Mike Riggs led tours of the Burial Ground during John Whitmer Historical Association Annual Meeting, 1998.
If you know of other individuals buried in the Far West Burial Ground, want more information, or would like to help, please contact Mike at:
This property is owned by the Community of Christ. The Community of has recently declared the burial ground as a historic site. An effort will be made over the next couple of years to place an appropriate monument at the approximate location of these graves. If you would like to assist with efforts to erect a monument for those buried in the Far West Burial Ground, please contact, Lachlan Mackay, Director of Community of Christ Historic Sites, firstname.lastname@example.org
Members of Missouri Mormon Frontier Foundation are actively researching available documentary sources in an effort to identify the names of individuals buried at this location.
For the present, we will focus on building as accurate a data base of the names and documentation of those buried at the site as possible.
As a more complete list is compiled, MMFF, JWHA and the Far West Cultural Center, hope to see a suitable marker erected at the site in commemoration of those buried in the Far West Burial Ground.
Please help us network with the families of these honored dead.
"Society rigidly proscribed the behavior regarding the loss of a loved one. Mourning dress and arm bands were faithfully worn for two years for wives or husbands; one year for parents, brothers or sisters; and one month for first cousins." [Walker, Everyday Life in The Age of Enterprise, 1860-1900 (New York: G. P. Putman's Sons, 1967), 217-43.]
Neglected Burial Plots Cited as Memorial Day Approaches
Hamilton Woman Tells of Desecration of Pioneer Graves After Visiting Approximately 100 Rural Cemeteries in Northwestern Missouri – Valuable Historical Data Often Lost.
Hamilton, MO., April 30 
April 30 - From a friend who had been out on a quest for ancestral data. Her search took her back to Ohio to the pioneer farms of her pioneer ancestors where she knew that they had been burial plots in her family lines. What she found was not an isolated case.
This was her story. For five generations, the ancestral grave-plots on the Ohio farm had been protected and undisturbed because members of the family lived on the farm. Then the farm was sold. The new owner wanted that grave yard for farm production, hence he took the old slabs and piled them up against the fence, and proceeded to plow the ground over the dead below. In course of time, he needed just such stones for utilitarian uses about his farm yard, hence some of the stones were used (or stepping stones in the muddy yard, one for a door step to the kitchen and another made a door step to the chicken house. When the researcher came to the old farm, she was able to get all the dates and names from the stones. now far removed from the sacred dust which long ago was absorbed into the soil. But the farm owner was decent enough to give her the old stones, and she had them carted to another larger cemetery to be placed with their kin of more recent death.
Examples Nearer Home.
Right here in Missouri, there are plenty of instances of small family burial plots which have been plowed over when the farm passed into the hands of strangers. The gravestones were either piled-up at the field corners or destroyed by time or purpose, as they stood in the way of the ploughshare. In some cases, the remains of the dead were removed, before the family turned the farms to strangers, but often this was not done.
At the old Mormon site of Far West, not far from my home in Hamilton, is a field in which lie the
Suggests a Community Project. In many of these now unused rural cemeteries, the community excuses the neglect by simply saying that the dead lying there have no family representatives left to care for the graves. Hence nobody else cares. Surely in these communities there are clubs or church groups which might look after the last resting place of those honored pioneers, even though unrelated. What a wonderful project it would be for an extension or a 4-H club to take over one of these neglected graveyards, to do something toward the order, the upkeep of graves and the respectable preservation of grave records before it is forever too late.
Some little work along this line could still be done, before 1949 Memorial day rolls around, in tidying up these desolate, pioneer, God-forsaken rural graveyards. The pioneers who lie there were brave human beings and deserve fitting respect in death. - Bertha Booth [Bertha Booth, The Kansas City Star, Sunday, 1 May 1949.]