By Peggy Smith Hake
I have had some inquiries recently asking if I knew anything about the graves that are located outside the south wall of the Iberia Cemetery. Several years ago I wrote a story about the graves and since there may be those who did not read it the first time, I am going to reprint it once again.
The present cemetery at Iberia has been in existence for more years than most realize. Outside the south rock wall there is an old gravesite that a tombstone and then inscribed is Elijah Dyer. The Dyer family was among Iberia's earliest settlers. They came into the Big Richwoods in the late 1830s. Elijah Dyer was the son of Haman and Frances Dyer and died at an early age.
I have been told there are several graves in that area of the cemetery where Negro slaves were buried, but I have not been able to confirm this because all the people who would have had first-hand information are long gone. I have interviewed some of the older residents of the area and all have told me they heard the stories of the slaves being buried there but did not know when or where this happened. I decided to use the next best solution and try to do some research to see if I could come up with anything concrete…...
There were several early families in the Iberia vicinity who were slave owners according to assessments made before and during the Civil War years. These assessments are at the courthouse and the black people were assessed the same as the pioneer's livestock! It is difficult for me to comprehend all that occurred in those years and even more difficult to try to write about it.
Elias Allen came to Miller County from Barren County, Kentucky in the early 1840s. He was born 24 August 1809, a son of Isaiah and Rachel (Brown) Allen. His parents, brothers, and sisters also came to Miller County. Elias married Mary Gardner on 6 January 1842 in Miller County and she was also native of Barren County, KY. She came to central Missouri with other members of the Gardner family.
The Allen family was owners of several slaves and brought them to Miller County when they moved here. In the 1859 Miller County assessments lists, Elias owed 6 blacks; his brother, Joel Allen had 9; and their father, Isaiah, owned8 slaves. By 1862, after the Civil War had begun, the three Allen families were still slave owners but the value of each had been drastically reduced.
Elias and Mary (Gardner) Allen bought land just south of the Iberia Cemetery location and owned it all their lives. They donated an acre of land to the school district and the old Allen School was built on the site. It was the only school near Iberia for many years with the exception of Iberia Academy. After the Civil War, the Allen slaves were given their freedom and some remained in the Iberia vicinity. There is a marriage in Miller County records for the marriage of Josephus Allen to Stephanna Ann Allen on 2 December 1866, performed by Charles Tallman. They were former Allen slaves.
Another early pioneer family who owned land in the general area of the Iberia cemetery was Samuel P. and Mary Malvina Tucker. They also were slave owners. On August 31, 1858, the Tucker's conveyed a parcel of land "13 rods square" (one acre) to the Trustees of the United Baptist Church of Christ in the Big Richwoods. The trustees names were Reuben Short, James Bowlin, Paulin Gardner, Alvis Dunkin/Duncan and William R. Right/Wright. In the deed it stated the land was "for the use and benefit of said Baptist Church for a place of public worship and cemetery for the use and benefit of the neighborhood and to be kept expressly for that purpose." That was the first mention of the old cemetery that is still in existence.
A church was built on the land which is now part of the Iberia Cemetery. I do not know how long the old church existed but do know local residents sometimes called it "Sulky Church" because of conflicts that arose from time to time within its membership and the attitude some showed toward others!
In old death records at the courthouse, I found some folks were buried in 'Sulky Cemetery' including: Walter F. Bilyeu d. 1884 age 3 months; William I. Bilyeu d. 1888 age 18 years; Frank B. Condra d. 1888 age 30 years; Henry Paulin/Paulding Gardner d. 1887 age 73 years; baby male Gardner d. ? age 12 days; Stella D. Trent d. 1886 age 10 months; George Long d. 1886 age 85 years; Charles Arthur Mace d. 1886 age 1 month; Leonard L. Sclone/Slone d. 1884 age 3 years; and Pearl S. Skaggs d. 1886 age 2 years. Only three of them have gravestones---Henry Paulin Gardner, Charles Arthur Mace, and Pearl S. Skaggs. NOTE: Henry Paulin Gardner was my great, great grandfather who came to the Iberia area in the early 1840s with his wife, Elizabeth (Bailey) Gardner and their children. They were also from Barren County, Kentucky.
The oldest graves in Iberia Cemetery are located on the north side toward Highway 42, easily visible as you enter the grounds. The earliest burial record in Barnhouse and Kelsey's "Inventories of the Iberia Cemetery" was in 1868 and many people died over the next 3 decades of the 1870s-80s-90s.
The Tuckers and the Allens were landowners in the cemetery area in the 19th century and are buried at Iberia Cemetery, so they did not leave Miller County but remained in the Iberia community until their deaths:
Elias Allen 1809-1891
Samuel P. Tucker 1817-1896
Mary Allen 1821-1894
Mary Malvina Tucker 1822-1884
Once can only speculate now about slaves being buried in unmarked graves at the site of the old church and original burying ground of Iberia Cemetery. Knowing that the families of Elias Allen and Samuel Tucker owned several slaves each and both owned land in the cemetery area, I am left with the assumption that one or both families may have buried their Negroes at Old Iberia/Sulkey Cemetey….as with the identity of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, only God knows for sure……Since the Dyer family were not listed as owners of slaves, I am almost certain that if there are any blacks buried near Elijah Dyer, they were not part of the Dyer household……
NOTE: There are several graves of the Lawless/Lollis family in the Iberia Cemetery and they have gravestones to mark their burial places. They were born slaves but were given their freedom after the Civil War and remained in the Iberia area. May people remember the Lollis families of the Big Richwoods…….. I also have the obituary of William Driver, a black 'Free Will Baptist' minister who lived and died in the Iberia community. According to his obituary, he was also buried at Iberia Cemetery in the 1930s but his gravesite was not recorded in the inventoried records of Barnhouse and Kelsey and he does not have a tombstone that marks the place of his burial.