Emmons’s property on the east side of Beardstown.
Oak Grove Cemetery is located on land previously owned by Sylvester Emmons, a man who held many public offices in Beardstown, including mayor. He came to the town from Nauvoo, Illinois in 1844. Along with his other positions, Emmons was the editor of the Beardstown Gazette newspaper from 1844-52.
Emmons and his wife, Elizabeth, built an impressive home at the top of a small hill on their property, just outside the city limits. The house was destroyed by fire on November 1, 1875. Arson was suspected. The home was empty at the time of the fire, except for some old furniture, as the family had recently moved to an address inside the city.
The Emmons home, from an 1874 Cass County atlas.
Several years later, Emmons designated five acres of his property for use as a cemetery and reserved the site where his home once stood for the Emmons family plot.
After Mr. Emmons died in 1881, his wife made the rest of their farm available for Oak Grove Cemetery. Sylvester and Elizabeth Emmons are interred at the top of the hill along with several of their children.
A short bio of Sylvester Emmons.
This view of the hill is to the west, toward Beardstown. The entrance to the cemetery is from the right (north). The Emmons plot is marked by the obelisk at the top of the hill, visible next to the tree in the middle of the photo.
Bell Cemetery Vicinity 1874
I have relatives buried in the old Bell Cemetery on the western edge of the Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish & Wildlife Area, near Chandlerville, and have hiked out there several times over the years.
The Showalter, Robinson, and Baker families are among those who came to Cass County from the State of Virginia around 1850. They owned land in the vicinity of the cemetery, and their names can be found on some of the headstones there. As the frontier moved west, so did some of the families who made the Panther Creek area their home for a few years.
One of the grave markers in the cemetery is that of Crockett Nester. Here is the story of his demise, followed by a few photos taken in Bell Cemetery and vicinity at different times of the year:
Crockett Nestor, a farmer, pretty generally known throughout the county, committed suicide at his home place, near Chandlerville, on last Thursday. The news did not reach here until Friday, and then the details were not given. Inquiry elicited the following facts: Some days previous to the commission of the deed by which he forfeited his own life, Nestor bought, at the store of Mr. Neff, in Chandlerville, several yards of rope which, it was supposed, was to make halters of. Thursday morning some of the boys about the farm, who had been hauling wood past the barn, were instructed by Nestor to take a different route, thus leaving the way clear for the suicide, who evidently feared his purpose might be discovered and his plan frustrated. He told some members of his family that he was going to Chandlerville, and left the house, going to the barn ostensibly to get a horse to ride to the village. This was the last seen of him alive. About 5 o’clock some of the boys went to the barn, where the lifeless body of Crocket Nestor was found hanging from a rafter, stark and stiff. The alarm was at once given, but the body was not cut down until about 11 o’clock that night. The coroner was notified and an inquest was held the next day, the verdict of the jury being suicide by hanging. In the commission of the act all the surroundings show that deliberate preparation was made. Deceased had removed his boots and coat, and tied a handkerchief over his head and under his jaw. A board was so arranged as to enable him to climb up to the rafter, fasten the rope and adjust it around his neck. This done, the suicide doubtless allowed himself to fall from the board and into the opening between the loft and lower part of the stable, where his lifeless body was found hours afterwards.
The Virginia Gazette – Friday, February 9, 1883 – p. 5