I have always been interested in history, especially my family history. I remember someone said, “How do you know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been?”
In 1986, I decided to start a journey into my family’s past, preparing myself for things that would excite me, disappoint me, thrill me and frustrate me. Little did I know that twenty-five years later I would find more than I ever thought possible.
After saving $1500.00 since March of 2011, I finally had the time and money set aside to go back to Missouri, where my father was born and most of the Long family had lived. I asked my daughter and son, Hannah and Jesse, if they wanted to come too. Hannah will be taking over the family history adventures when I am no longer able, so I know all of my hard earned research won’t just sit on a shelf collecting dust in the corner of a family history center.
We started out on Saturday, August 6th in a nice 2011 Ford Fusion. A rental car was a must after all, we intended to do a lot of driving. Arriving about 1:30 am in Macon, Missouri, I thought we did well driving the 700 plus miles straight through, only stopping for gas and the occasional bathroom break . We would have a day to recuperate from the long drive and get used to the 100 degree temperatures with extreme humidity.
Among the many cemeteries we were going to be visiting to take pictures of family headstones, which included going over into Quincy, Illinois. We were also going to be looking for two burial sites for the Long’s; in the Adair County Cemeteries book at the Adair County Historical Society, listed is two burial sites, both on private property. One was for my great grandmother, Elizabeth Jane Anderson Long and one of the daughters (Sarah or Emily), and the other was the Reuben Long Family Cemetery. Descriptions and directions to the cemeteries were from 1979:
“These burials are on John Filkins place about 8 miles northwest of Kirksville on B. According to John Filkins, there is a lone cedar tree within 50 feet of the graves which are north of his home and west in a pasture. Mussel shells mark the graves. At one time, site was enclosed by a rail fence. Information furnished by Mrs. Cleve (Juanita Sevits) Adams. Long, Mother and Child (girl) Both were killed when horses hitched to wagon ran away. Mr. Long later married Nancy Ledford Allen.”
“Location: This cemetery is located by going west from Brashear on J. As J curves north there is a road that goes south to a farm house, about 1/8 of a mile. The cemetery is about a half mile beyond the farmhouse, in a wooded area about ¼ acre in size. There are remnants of a fence and the graves are overgrown. All of the stones found were down and most covered with dirt. It is believed that there are slaves buried here also as Reuben Long owned slaves.
Long, Rebekah April 29, 1806 Feb. 1, 1861 or 81 – wife of Reuben
Long, Reuben Dec. 1865 aged 74 years
M.F.L. & J.L.
Long, Judah Dec. 27, 1845 Oct. 17, 1853 daughter of Reuben & Rebecca
Long, Mary F. Dec. 10, 1836 Oct. 17, 1853 daughter of Reuben & Rebecca
Long, Reuben, Oct. 20, 1843 Oct. 19, 1853 son of Reuben
Long, James H. June 27, 1834 Nov. 19, 1853”
I had made contact with Amanda Langendoerfer, the Head of Special Collections and Archives in the Pickler Memorial Library at Truman State University. She was more than willing to try and find out who owned the properties now and make a first contact with them for me before we visited. She did make contact with the folks that own the Filkins property. John Filkins passed away in 2002, but the property is still owned by his daughter, Wanda Riley, and granddaughter, Jayne Sherman. I called Mrs. Sherman and we arranged to meet on the morning of August 13th. I was excited beyond belief! What I had read in print was actually coming to life. To connect with your ancestors, the people you only heard stories about (if you were lucky!) was a dream come true for me.
We all met at the Filkins property and our exploration started the morning of August 13. I expected Mrs. Riley to point out the direction we should go, but to my surprise, the 81 year old came out into the field with us! I had never seen a cedar tree before, but Mrs. Riley showed me several and now it’s one I can identify easily. We wandered around the property in several areas where she thought the burial site might be….we found beautiful butterflies and a huge yellow and black spider, but no gravesite. There was so much green foliage still on the ground it was impossible to see mussel shells, if there were even any left to be found. I had prepared myself for the likelihood that we wouldn’t find anything, after all, 153 years have passed….
As we departed from Wanda Riley and left the Filkin’s property, I should’ve been a bit sad & disappointed; I was anything but that! I was elated that I had come so far and met with such cordial folks that are still willing to keep in touch and also keep looking around their property for me. How many people would be willing to do that?
We headed eastward over into Brashear, population around 273. Every time we went through a town I copied down the population as I just couldn’t believe there were places so small that actually existed!
Time to try and find the ‘Reuben Long’ Family Cemetery. I had the rough directions from the old 1979 Adair County Cemetery Book to go on, that was it. The night before we went scouting, I looked at the area on Google maps and followed the directions exactly, which left me with one conclusion: the only road that took a southern turn after a curve off of County Road J was County Road 269, or Horseshoe Lake Way.
So off we went onto an unknown rocky dirt road, going slow and taking a good look around. According to the directions we would come across a farmhouse and the family cemetery would be about half a mile behind it in a grove of trees about ¼ of an acre in size.
A farmhouse appeared on the left and so we turned off and drove up into the driveway. There were cows in the barn and an old truck in the front so I thought there are a few signs of habitation. I got out of the car and went up to the door, but as soon as I did I could tell that no one had lived there in quite some time. It was empty. Windows were broken. Paint was peeling of the sides everywhere and to my horror, mud daubers (wasps) were everywhere. I’m severely allergic to bee stings, so I very quickly scurried off the front porch and went around back. The weeds were as tall as I was (5′ 7″)….I could see trees everywhere, but nothing that stood out as a spot that might be a burial ground. Back into the car I went, and decided to see if I could find a neighbor at home.
We drove down to the next farmhouse and were in luck. We met a very nice man named Todd Barnes. He was home that day due to a minor back injury and was more than helpful; he called his neighbor and made inquiries on our behalf. The owner told Mr. Barnes that he did recall hearing of a family cemetery somewhere back in the woods behind his home, but was unsure if it was on his property or on the property behind him…..he said he would find out and let us know.
In the meantime, Mr. Barnes said he seemed to recall several family cemeteries in the area but had never investigated and he wasn’t quite sure about any of it, but thought he heard rumors about one that could possibly be ours across from his home….ofcourse, that property belonged to someone else. Mr. Barnes said that the owner was gone quite often and he felt fine with giving us permission to go have a look and explore, at our own risk as well. He warned us about ticks….I was more concerned about the possibility of snakes myself, but the overwhelming desire to find my family took over any inkling of common sense I had, so Hannah and I ventured off the beaten path. Again, the weeds were as tall as we were, and being ever so cautious where we were stepping, just in case.
We carefully moved towards a small grove of trees, much less than a quarter of a mile off the road, probably about 800 feet or so. I had a feeling we were headed in the right direction. This would’ve been a good time to try to do some dowsing, but then again, we had been fortunate that everyone so far had been very kind to us; I didn’t want them to think we were some oddballs from Colorado doing ‘witchy’ things on their property. We finally reached the tight little grove of trees, and at first look, didn’t see anything. Feeling a tad disappointed, I motioned to Hannah to start to head over to the other grove and then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw what looked to be an oblong flat rock…..on closer inspection, it was a tombstone!
All of a sudden my heart just jumped out of my chest! I was so excited! We were very careful to get a closer look at the stone marker, and then discovered another one, right next to it, but being swallowed up by the ground and trees around it. I got out the camera and started taking pictures……we very carefully attempted to brush some of the dirt and debris off the stone that was more above ground, but it was a tight squeeze and difficult to reach.
Here’s what we could read:
Stone 1: MARY daughter of D.M. & A. Pitt
No dates were legible
Stone 2: JOHN son of D.M. & A. Pitt
The only date we could make out was 1858, and since it was towards the bottom of the stone, I’m thinking that was his date of death. The excitement and thrill of finding this family burial site was so exhilarating, I can hardly put it into words! The adrenaline was pumping and I just wanted to shout for joy! Hannah didn’t quite get why I was so happy, after all, this wasn’t our family, but I’m sure as she thinks back on this she’ll start to understand. I’m sure many of you do.
After taking a few more pictures, we headed back towards the road and informed Mr. Barnes of our spectacular find. He was happy for us too, giving a little chuckle as he could see I was still beaming and on cloud nine! He informed us that his neighbor had called back with some not so good news; the ‘Reuben Long’ Family burials were actually on another owner’s property….. a dark look came over Mr. Barnes face and he hung his head down…he said the owner of that property was a Mr. P., (to protect his identity this is not his real name) and he was not cordial, inviting, friendly or nice. Mr. Barnes shook his head as he told us a story of a man whose dog got loose onto the property and he asked Mr. P if he could go look for his dog…..Mr. P. said emphatically, NO. Mr. Barnes had also told us of how Mr. P. had spray painted the property lines on trees and such, and crossing a red mark would provoke him to gunfire!
As much as I wanted to find my 3rd great grandfather and family, I had no desire to join them yet, so I told Hannah that since Mr. P. was certain to be unapproachable, we should be pleased and proud of our findings, and let it go at that. We had gotten close. Close enough that I could just about taste it, but this time around, close enough was going to have to do.
Being a genealogist for 25 years now, with my love of cemeteries and family history, I’ve decided to adopt the ‘Pitt’ family and consider them my own. I’m going to find out their names, who they were and where they were from; Hannah and I are also going down into the history books as finding the ‘Pitt Family Cemetery’, documented and preserved by the Adair County Historical Society in downtown Kirksville, Missouri.
I consider our trip very successful; I found many family headstones in several different cemeteries across 3 counties….
All in all, we surely did find tombstone treasures!
As you may recall when my daughter Hannah and I found the Pitt Family burials, at first glance of the tombstones, the names and dates were barely legible as they were very old, worn and weathered.
Since it wasn’t going to be possible for us to go onto the property of “Mr. P” to search for the “Reuben Long Family Cemetery”, I adopted the Pitt Family as my own.
My genealogical skills kicked in, and indeed, I found them!
Here’s what I was able to find out:
David M. Pitt was born February 8, 1820, in Fleming County, Kentucky. He met and married Amanda Rhodes, September 12, 1842. She was born May 16, 1820, according to the 1860 U.S. Census.
Together they had 8 children:
Elisabeth Ellen Pitt, born June 25, 1843 in Kentucky
Snowden M. Pitt, born February 11, 1846 in Kentucky
John W. Pitt, born July 14, 1848 in Kentucky, died October 20, 1858 in Kirksville, Adair County, Missouri
David Pitt, born February 6, 1851 in Kentucky
Sarah Amanda Pitt, born April 25, 1853 in Adair County, Missouri
Mary Virginia Pitt, born October 23, 1855 in Kirksville; died July 8, 1856 in Kirksville, Adair County, Missouri.
Sarah Belle Pitt, born in Adair County, Missouri
Frances Pitt, born March 6, 1860 in Adair County, Missouri
On the 80 acres once owned by the Pitt Family, my daughter and I found John and Mary. The family moved to Kansas by 1880, and Amanda died November 7, 1895, and is buried in Richland Cemetery, Angola, Kansas. David remarried to a woman named Freedonia Brundolf, but died 2 years later. He is also buried in the Richland Cemetery. John W. was 10 years old when he died, and Mary Virginia was only 9 months old when she died.
They are gone and forgotten for a time, but have been found and remembered again; this time, they won’t be forgotten!