THE OLD CEMETERY AT GARDNER BRANCH
By Peggy Smith Hake
On Highway 17 going toward Tuscumbia, only a short distance west of Iberia city limits, there once existed a cemetery with many grave sites located on the west bank of Gardner Branch. It no longer can be found: only blackberry briars and tall orchard grass is growing there today.
The memory of the old cemetery had been hidden in the far reaches of my mind for many years until a letter from Wichita, Kansas, got me back on my "memory trail." I could not remember for sure, but I thought there were once old tombstones in that cow pasture. Had I not played around them and caught crawdads out of Gardner Branch when I was a child all those years ago? Some of the old stones were once piled behind a dog pen and stacked in a ditch near the creek.
I have learned that my great-grandfather, Harrison Smith, and his two sons, Phelix?Pea and my grandfather, Frank, hand-carved some of the stones in that cemetery so I have special interest in them. My ancestors were well-known stonemasons in the Big Richwoods for many years. Frank Mace (now deceased) of Iberia, told me he could remember the old cemetery so vividly. At one time he thought there were 30 to 40 headstones standing. As a child he remembered visiting the cemetery with his mother, Mary Adams Mace, and helped her put American flags on the graves of some old Civil War soldiers.
Frank was the son of George A. Mace and Mary C. Adams. Mary's mother was kin to the Long family who lived in the general vicinity of Iberia before the Civil War. Frank stated that some of his kinfolks are buried there, including the Longs and some of the Adams as well. Frank also believed there were folks buried in the old cemetery from the families of Castleman, Dial and Peterson. I also think there were members of the Stewart family buried there. The Stewart and Long families were among the earliest settlers of the Iberia community. The Longs and Stewarts were kinfolks and came to Miller County together about 1840 or perhaps earlier.
The Old-timers who could have remembered this forgotten cemetery have been gone for many years. Too many years have passed since any interest has been shown toward this old burial site once called Gardner Cemetery...Sad Story...
I suppose Gardner Cemetery received its name from Gardner Branch flowing nearby. Evidently Gardner Branch was named for the Felix Gardner family who owned land just east of Iberia in the late 1800s and early 20th century. The little creek would have probably been part of the Gardner land during those years.
I went to the census records for Richwoods Township before and have the Civil War years to locate the families who may have lived in the general area where the cemetery was located. The family names I found included: Stewart, Long, Allen, Lane, Noyes, Dyer, Record, Short, Marks, Gardner, Bailey, Bond, West, Tucker, Lenox, Shackleford, Arnold, Condra, Groves, Dickerson, Farnham, Jones, Blize, Ponder, Aust, Moore, Hume, Setzer, Smith, Schell (black family), Lawless/Lollis (black family), Allen (black family). You can use your imagination and speculate that perhaps some of these old ancestral family names may have been on some of the gravestones that no longer exist.