Old Geode Park and Jester Cemetery are named after the colorful crystalized stones found in the area.
OLD GEODE PARK - OR - JESTER CEMETERY
Located on the North Bank of Skunk River, about the center of Section 1 WW (or Southwestern corner of Geode State Park), in AUGUSTA TOWNSHIP, Des Moines County, Iowa, you will find the OLD GEODE PARK or JESTER CEMETERY.
Erosion and vandals have now destroyed this old burial ground. Portions of this cemetery have dropped into the Skunk River while vandals had brought further damage to it. Geode State Park officials have taken it into "protective custody" - which consists of a few remaining grave stones. The two BADLEY stones were complete and in good condition. The stone for JOSIAH HOBSON and two JESTER stones were broken but the inscriptions are decipherable.
This cemetery was copied by Jean Hale on April 2, 1971 of Denmark, Iowa and the following was taken from the Fort Madison, Iowa DEMOCRAT, June 22, 1957.
OLD CEMETERY IS UNEARTHER BY PRISONERS
A group of State Penitentiary prisoners, assigned to the Geode Park Honor Camp, recently uncovered what might be Iowa's oldest Cemetery, located high on the banks of the Skunk River, about three miles Southeast of Lowell. The Cemetery has been absorbed by dense timber and brush.
There are nine tombstones, hewed from rough granite rock. Some of the stones are still readable. According to the lettering, the earliest burial took place in 1843 while the last was in 1855. Several of the stones have been destroyed and others are illegible.
The oldest stone, laboriously carved, reads: GEORGE E., SON OF J.R. JESTER, DIED DEC. 18, 1843, AGE 1 YEAR, 7 MONTHS AND 7 DAYS.
The latest, dated 1855, reads: ELIZABETH BADLEY, DIED MAY 15, 1855.
The JESTER FAMILY has two other stones which can be deciphered. In addition to GEORGE E., there is a stone reading: ABRAM, SON OF E.E. JESTER, BORN JUNE 9, 1815, DIED SEPTEMBER 2, 1846.
And the other JESTER stone contains an original epitaph. The stone reads: JAMES JESTER, DIED JUNE 1, 1850, AGED 39 YEARS 3 MONTHS AND 8 DAYS. "REMEMBER FRIENDS AS YOU PASS BY - AS YOU ARE NOW SO ONCE WAS I - AS I AM NOW SO YOU MUST BE PREPARE FOR DEATH AND FOLLOW ME".
The only other readable stone was: JOSIAH HOBSON, BORN DECEMBER 22, 1788, DIED OCT. 8, 1846.
A clearing, about 50 yards from the Cemetery, could have housed a settlement - although there are no signs of ruins. Officials believe the Cemetery is located on State property - but no in the official Park area.
Who were these people? Could the HOBSONS and JESTERS and BADLEYS been victims of early Indian raids? Could these families have been wiped out by disease? And why was the Cemetery abandoned - and apparently forgotten? Could there still be some BADLEYS and JESTERS and HOBSONS in the LEE COUNTY area?
Warden Percy A. Lainson, of the Fort Madison Prison, has taken an interest in the old Cemetery and he believes a group of prisoners will volunteer to renovate the area in their spare time. Twenty-four Iowa prisoners are serving their sentences as workers in the Geode State Park.
The Cemetery, perched high on a bluff of the placid Skunk River, commands a magnificent view of the area. It could be made into a lasting monument to the JESTERS and HOBSONS and BADLEYS - as well as to the rest of the brave settlers who developed early IOWA land. And JAMES JESTER's epitaph - "As you are now, so once was I ...." , would be read and contemplated again by "passers by".
BADLEY, EZRA d. 12 Sept 1860 Age 19y 11m 23d
BADLEY, ELIZABETH d. 25 May 1855 Age 52y 2m 18d
HOBSON, JOSIAH b. 22 Dec 1788 d. 8 Oct 1846
JESTER, ABRAM C. SON OF E. & E. b. 9 June 1845 d. 2 Sept 1846
JESTER, GEO. E. SON OF J. & R. d. 28 Dec 1843 Age 1m 7d