In Search Of The Harris Family Burial Grounds

The late 1850’s was a period of unrest and pending rebellion in mid-Missouri.  Family members were pitted against each other as they divided between Union and Confederate sympathies.  It divided the nation.  It divided my family, with brother literally fighting against brother.  Private Moses Harris, died in 1862 fighting with Union forces (1st NE Cavalry Regiment Missouri Home Guard). Jonathan M. Harris, died in 1910, years after serving for the Confederate army under General Price. Stephen Wheeler Harris, fought with Union troops and died in 1926.  All of the brothers are united with other family members buried in the Harris Cemetery.  But my grandmother, Minerva Harris Wright is not there.  She left in about 1855, never to return.

I have vague memories of a photograph of my great-grandfather, Samuel X Wright,[1] taken in the late 1940’s on the front porch of my grandparents’ home in Independence. Until about 2008, I knew nothing about Samuel or his family.  Eventually, I learned that shortly before the Civil War, Samuel’s parents, Samuel Wright and Minerva Harris, moved from Minerva’s family home in Saline County, Mo., to Atchison, Mo. and eventually settled in Atchison, Ks.

It was a shock when I learned that Minerva ran off with Samuel, the husband of Minerva’s older sister, Ruth Ann (“Ruthy”).[2]  Ultimately Samuel left Minerva and moved West. I do not know the rest of the story.  But I am reminded by civil war historians that the disruption in families caused by the pending conflict left wounds that divided families forever.

But I knew none of that.  It was only piece by piece that I began to uncover the basic facts about my Harris ancestors.  My research did reveal that Minerva’s parents were Timothy Harris (1803-1877) and Mary Teeters (1800-1850).  Saline County records confirm that Timothy and Mary are buried in the Harris Family Burial Ground/Cemetery, adjacent to the original Harris farm.   Timothy’s father, Jonathan Harris, who served in the War of 1812, and died after 1830, is probably is buried there as well. When I discovered that the family cemetery was adjacent to the Harris lands, it became important to me to discover it’s location.

My search for the location of Harris Family Cemetery was a challenging process. It was easier to trace my Harris ancestors back to Albemarle Virginia, where Timothy’s parents, Jonathan Harris and his wife, Ann Heard, were raised as neighbors, than to find a cemetery less than 150 miles from Kansas City.

I received help from the librarian in the Genealogy department of the Marshall Mo. public library.  But it wasn’t until my third trip along Highway O, just North of Slater, Mo. that I found it.  Even when I found the right road, the deteriorated condition of the cemetery made it difficult to see from the road. (Country Road 108).  Having finally found it, I struggled with the tall, dense weeds and grass covering the cemetery, as well as my fear of snakes.  I left the cemetery with few pictures and much frustration.

More than a year after my discovery of the cemetery, Terry and I made a return trip on January 26, 2013. We packed sandwiches, our dog, my camera and directions to the exact location and headed out on Saturday morning.

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For anyone who cares, the directions to the cemetery are:

From Kansas City, drive on Highway 70 to the Marshall, Mo. exit.  Take the turnoff to Highway 65.  Drive to Marshall.  Exit at the Slater exit, Highway 240.  When you arrive at Slater, you will see a Casey’s General Store.  Highway 240 intersects with Broadway at Casey’s General Store.  Follow IMG_2253Broadway a couple of block until it turns into Highway O [3] Follow Highway O North until you reach 357th Street. (Country Road 108 was renamed last year.)

IMG_2254If you reach Highway F, you have gone too far. [4]  F begins at 357th Street.

Turn left at 357th Street.  About 1 1/2 miles down this road there is a simple bridge at the bottom of a hill.  The house at the top of the next hill has an address that reads 30643. IMG_2244Directly across from the house, on the South Side of 357th, is the cemetery.  It is identifiable (if at all) by the wood fence on the North and West sides of the cemetery.  The total distance from Casey’s to the cemetery is a total of only 7.9 miles.  It seems much further!

The cemetery is in a serious state of neglect.  I was only able to identify the names on 4 stones. None of them are stones of my direct ancestors, though I recognize the names of their children and other relatives from my research.   Because of the heavy grass and weeds underfoot, it is apparent that stones hidden under the grass will be almost impossible to find unless, and until, the grass is mowed, macheted or burned.  I will include photographs of the stones we located so that you can get a sense of the site.

S.W. Harris, a Civil War veteran, is Minerva’s brother.

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I have not identified the relationship of Rachel Harris, who died August 22, 1929.  She may be Rachel Ferrel, wife of John H. Harris, who records reflect is buried in the cemetery.

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J.W. Gauldin may be the husband of Patsy Harris Gauldin.

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Try as I might, this stone was illegible.

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Willie Wycoff is unknown to me.  Obviously, additional research is required!

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This stone is for another member of the Gauldin family.

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My own great-great-grandparents are not buried here.  After moving away from Saline County, my research suggests that they never returned and had no further contact with Minerva’s family.  My quest for my family roots continues.

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[1]  Our family oral history is that Samuel Wright’s family traveled west with Daniel Boone.  There is also some evidence that the Harris family traveled west with members of the Boone family.  The Harris’s and Heard’s, Timothy’s parents families, lived together in Albemarle, Virginia in the 1700’s before moving through Kentucky and into Saline, County, Mo. in about 1819.  Timothy’s mother, Ann Heard, died in Kentucky.  Timothy’s father, Jonathan, may be buried in the Harris Cemetery.

[2]   Ruthy and Samuel were married in Saline, Mo. on Nov. 28, 1847.  They had three children, Tobias, Robert and Martha.  I have never found a marriage license for Minerva and Samuel nor any evidence that Ruthy and Samuel were officially divorced.

[3] Broadway mergers with Highway O.  If you turn left onto O you will head back toward Marshall.  Do not turn left.

[4]  For anyone who has seen directions to the cemetery on the internet, the sign for Country Road 108 is gone.  It is now 357. Highway O turns into Highway F at 357th.  Do not continue on Highway F.

Passing Of An Era

Terry discovered this rickety old house as we were driving along Highway NN near Slater, Missouri.  Perched on a hill in the middle of the country, it is surrounded by rusting farm implements, a rusted out barbecue grill and evidence of agricultural activity that continues around it as it slowly sinks into the earth.  It looks to me as though it could have been the inspiration for one of the sets for the Harry Potter movies.

As rickety as it appears in this photograph, it is almost impossible to capture the image as we first encountered it.  The debris surrounding the house, and the utilitarian farm buildings built almost on top of it, detract from a more distant image.

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In her heyday she must have been a beauty.  Now she has been abandoned and is literally falling apart at the seams.  While not the only house we saw in a shambles, she was the most elegant.  As such, she captures most effectively, the tragic death of an elegant country residence and, at some level, the changing way of life in rural Missouri.

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She was a grand lady.

The beautiful buildings in our nation’s Capital

While visiting Charlotte in DC last week, I was able to spend some time walking around the city. I have always been amazed at the beautiful architecture we have in our nation’s Capital.  This is the style of architecture you normally see in Europe, but many of the buildings rival those in much older parts of the world. These are a few of my favorites.

Looking up while exiting the Metro station at Judiciary Square

Looking up while exiting the Metro station at Judiciary Square

Executive Office Building

Welcome To Fighter Town

My recent trip to Phoenix included a visit to Luke Air Force Base. Visit any military base and what initially captures your attention is the spirit and enthusiasm of its inhabitants.  Next are the slogans. Luke’s water tower greets you with “Welcome to Fighter Town”.

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A prominent building encourages: “Aim High Fly Fight & Win”.

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The focus on physical fitness suggests athletes preparing for competitions. Football, soccer, basketball?

None of the above.  Luke Air Force Base is all about jet planes and the pilots who fly them.  Jets are constantly taking off and landing as the pilots constantly hone their skills.  They are supported by ground and air crews without whose capabilities the pilots could not fly.  The F-16 is being phased out at Luke but it has been designated as a pilot-training site for the new F-35.

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Luke is as clean, crisp and appealing as Mayberry. Families here live their lives both intimately entwined with the lives of their military fathers and mothers and filled with the daily activities of families outside military bases.

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The legacy of the base is ever-present through the displays of generations of jet aircraft that have been housed at, and flown out of the base.

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The jets themselves are covered with the symbols of their power and purpose:

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Hate war, love peace?  So do they.

All That Jazz Kansas City Style

Kansas City is known for jazz. While not the birthplace of the music, it would be fair to say that jazz “grew up” here, and has become a part of Kansas City’s cultural identity.  It is not surprising, then, that it is performed in bars, nightclubs and the local parks.

Kansas City Parks and Recreation’s free jazz concert at the Rose Garden late last summer was just my cup of tea.  Mike White, former Jackson County Executive and a prominent Kansas City attorney, is also a jazz musician.  When Mike wants to play, there is always a crowd anxious to hear him!  People brought chairs, blankets and picnics to the concert and made a night of it.  Listening to the sounds of jazz while hanging out with neighbors and friends on a perfect summer night is just hard to beat.

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Did you miss the concert in 2012?  Maybe you should get it on your calendar for 2013.  It is a great way to spend an evening.

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iPhone camera. The reflections were unintended, but I think they enhance the mood of the photograph.

Fun With iPhoto

After months with iPhoto on my computer, I visited Apple last weekend for a 30 minute appointment to find out how it actually works.  Okay, I should have figured it out myself. But with just that brief tutorial behind me, I thought it would be fun to show you what a rank amateur can do to change a photograph to make it better than the original.

Here is my original photograph taken on a drive to Harrisonville:

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It isn’t rocket science that I should never take a photograph through my car window.  But the roads were really muddy and there was a car coming up behind me.  So I just stopped the car, quickly took this shot, and moved my car before the driver behind me reached the bridge.

With “quick fixes”, I was able to crop the photograph to eliminate the hood of my car from the photograph:

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After reframing the snapshot, I moved to “adjust” to enhance the color and sharpen the photograph.  Here is the result of tweaking with the “adjust” options:

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Nothing magical about the changes, but every step toward better photographs is a step in the right direction.