The Mitchell Co. Pioneer Cemetery Restoration Project
Mitchell County Pioneer Cemetery
Restoration Project

Project Provides Dignity,
Respect and Honor

Neal Du Shane, of Fort Collins, Colorado, is the coordinator for the Mitchell County Pioneer Cemetery Restoration Project (MCPCRP). He has several volunteer Coordinators, guiding various additional volunteers on individual projects.



The MCPCRP got its start in April 2002 with the question by Neal: “Wonder if there are any Ghost Towns in Mitchell County”? What do
Quick Dex

General Info
Progress Reports
Overall Info
Newsletters Etc.
Hands-On Projects
Pioneer Cemeteries have to do with Ghost Towns you ask? Logically it is reasoned that a Pioneer Cemetery may be the only remaining physical evidence that has survived in these historic communities, since 1850 when Mitchell County started to be populated and settled.



Since 1850 there have been approximately 50 known communities in Mitchell County. A few were no more than Post Office’s in a farm house centrally located or the non developed dreams of the Pioneers. It is interesting to view the plot plans of these communities and see what the pioneers dreamed for that community. Some may or may not have been plotted but turning into Ghost Towns were communities such as Glendale, Leo/Cardiff, Old Otranto, Dudley, Wapsie, Bartlett Grove, Newburg, Bridgeport, Morseville, Wheeler, Penneyville, Bailey, Dixie, David, Holbrook Corner/Nelson, Bucknam, Watertown, Stillwater, Jenkins Center were but a few. Transportation or lack of was the demise for most of these communities. It could be argued there are 5 to 10 communities that currently survive.



Be an MCPCRP Booster! Click here to download a WORD document (booster2.doc) that you can print out, fill in the details, and send it to Neal...



General Information


A Pioneer Cemetery as defined by the State of Iowa as a cemetery having six or less burials in the past 50 years. It is currently documented there are 63 cemeteries in Mitchell County. Of these 63 cemeteries, 39 are classified as Pioneer Status. Almost 62% of all cemeteries in Mitchell County are classified as Pioneer Cemeteries.



MCPCRP has budgeted that if all work and materials were hired or purchased, to restore the 39 Pioneer Cemeteries in Mitchell County, an expenditure of over $64,000 would be required to bring them back to honorable and presentable condition. This does not include future care, repair, maintenance or inflation.

You can see that MCPCRP is in need of financial donations. Reducing this expenditure would be volunteering equipment, materials, supplies and volunteer labor.

100% of donations to MCPCRP are used for restoration; we are all volunteers and Not-For-Profit. Assistance from the State Association of Iowa Pioneer Cemeteries (SAPIC), Mitchell County Board of Supervisors, various Townships, Booster Memberships, business and individual donations his provided very limited working capital. We are less than 1 % to our goal.



The objective of the MCPCRP has four main goals. First is the cleaning of the sites so that the graves of Mitchell County Pioneers can be honorably presented. Secondly, to the extent possible, we want to copy the data from the tombstones and share it with the world via the Mitchell county IaGenWeb site. Third, is to restore the headstones as close to original condition as possible. Forth, is to maintain the restored Mitchell Pioneer Cemetery site for the future.

More specifically, our goals are:

  1. Research the exact location of the Pioneer Cemetery.
  2. Physically locate the Pioneer Cemetery.
  3. Clean and clear the derelict cemetery from centuries of neglect.
  4. Restore and preserve the Pioneer Cemetery.
  5. Document and record those interred.
  6. Register the cemetery.
  7. Restore and preserve the headstones.
  8. Post names on the Mitchell County IaGenWeb site for genealogical and local history purposes.
  9. Arrange for local "Adopt a Cemetery" program for continued futue maintenance.



If your organization or group would like to learn more about the Mitchell County Pioneer Cemetery Restoration Project (MCPCRP), we have a Microsoft Power Point Presentation available and one of our Coordinators will provide a thirty minute presentation to your group. Please contact Merri Cross or Larry Kershner to arrange to give the MCPCRP presentation to your group. Larry Kershner and Merri Cross are busy giving presentations and fund raising to various groups.



MCPCRP is diligently researching, as well as documenting genealogical information in all Townships in Mitchell County. MCPCRP staff is working to appoint volunteers to assist with all 39 Pioneer Cemetery projects.

Dudley Pioneer Cemetery in West Cedar Township, with the leadership of Marilyn O'Connor, should be finalized in the spring with the Monument already installed with assistance of the Osage FFA. A perimeter fence with a gate will be installed by this coming summer.

Grove Pioneer Cemetery in Burr Oak Township, N.W. of the ghost town of Leo/Cardiff has been located. Further research and documentation is required at this site.

Holbrook Corner/Nelson Pioneer Cemetery (between New Haven and Riceville) seems to have been lost forever. No documentation, historical data or physical evidence, at this time, has been found other than what has been written in historical books. There were two headstones in this Pioneer Cemetery.

Liberty Cemetery at Little Cedar/Wheeler, while not classified as a Pioneer Cemetery, data compilation is underway. Expected to be documented, finalized and posted on the internet shortly.

Lohr Pioneer Cemetery in East Cedar Township is 98% complete and being maintained with tender loving care from the Steve Ham family and Robert Hollatz Cedar Twp Trustee. This Pioneer Cemetery would take first prize for being in the worst condition. Literally this cemetery was under a windfall of trees and debris. (See the pictures below) Our hat is off to Steve and Bob for the many hours they spent restoring dignity to this Pioneer Cemetery.

Mona Pioneer Cemetery in Otranto Township is well on the way to restoration. Thanks to Loren Meyer Otranto Twp Trustee, as well as residents of Otranto Township and donations from area businesses. This Pioneer Cemetery is one of the largest we have to restore – almost one acre, with approximately 63 documented burials and many headstones to be repaired.

Old Newburg Pioneer Cemetery in Newburg Township is on hold in respect to physical restoration. Some probing to find headstones has been completed but more is required, plus restoration is the goal.

Old Otranto Cemetery seems to be appropriately nicknamed “The Mystery of Mitchell County” in that we are finding it's like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. Persistence on our part will locate it, guaranteed. Conflicting historical information has confused its location. It's there; we just haven't found it yet.

Osage Pioneer Cemetery (Original) has been located and identified. On W side of S. 7th St at the IC RR tracks. Additional probing and dowsing will be required to provide additional data as to those interred.

Oscar Peterson Pioneer Cemetery in East Cedar Township has been documented and located. Research continues to document those interred there. If you have any information you can share on this cemetery we would welcome your input.

Scott Pioneer Cemetery in Section 2 of Jenkins Township has yet to be located. Little is known with the exception of a brief mention in a 1963 historical writing.

Smith Family Pioneer Cemetery in East Cedar Township, with Coordination from Marlene Kershner, research continues with probing, dowsing, as well as restoration should start shortly with completion expected next summer. Volunteer assistance from the land owner, Larry Kershner and Kathy Pike.

West Cedar Township Pioneer Cemetery has been researched and documented. Dowsing and Probing has been accomplished by Larry and Marlene Kershner in a limited attempt with results of 8 or 10 internments. Restoration is proceeding slowly. We have located one readable headstone with 4 or 5 additional stones. If you have any information you can share on this cemetery we would be appreciative.

Wayne Township Cemetery E. of McIntire, while not classified as a Pioneer Cemetery, Merri Cross is in the process of recording and documenting those interred there. Expect to be completed and posted on the internet shortly.

Union Valley Pioneer Cemetery S.W. of Orchard is on the verge of being lost forever. It’s on private land, the landowner is receptive to limited access and more work is needed here to preserve what is left of this once, one acre Pioneer Cemetery. If you can assist with this project we would appreciate your efforts.

Unknown Pioneer Cemetery – (97-17-17-2) in E. Cedar Twp. Section 17, Not Dudley Pioneer Cemetery, opened in 1863, 2-3 burials, at one time referred to as “Indian Mounds”. If you have any information you can share on this we would be appreciative.

Unknown Pioneer Cemetery – (100-18-21-6) in Otranto Twp. Section 21. Burial of Lorenzo D. Merry (first death in the township 1855) was rumored to be located at Merry’s Ford at the north end of Otranto Park. If you have any information you can share on this we would be appreciative.



The destruction of headstones is caused for the most part, not by vandals, rather deer and cattle that use the upright stones as scratching posts. Once the headstone is toppled off the base, over centuries of time, the main part of the headstone can be covered in dirt, vegetation and debris. Probing with a metal rod normally can find the headstone laying just an inch or two below the surface. The goal is then to upright the headstone and reattach it to the base. A fence needs to be installed to help protect the repaired headstones from further deer and cattle damage. Time and elements also take their toll on upright headstones.



MCPCRP is continually researching these 39 Pioneer Cemeteries. Research data has been limited for the most part, to what is written in Leona Montag's book, The Story of Mitchell County, the Mitchell County Historical Society, County Libraries, plus records provided by the Court House and Abstract Office. If you have information or pictures you could share we would be grateful for helping our research.

Adding to the confusion in researching these Pioneer Cemeteries is “Local Reference” names. To the point that one cemetery in Otranto Township was researched to be known by five (5) different names since 1850 and changed once again in 2002, none of which was the recorded name. Many burials were known and recorded at the courthouse with different cemetery names depending on what the local residents knew the cemetery name was at the time. Many were never recorded with an official name or location.

Some Pioneer Cemeteries in the current southern most three miles of Mitchell County may have been recorded in Floyd County before this 3 mile strip of land was acquired for Mitchell County. Unfortunately these records may have been lost in the Floyd County Court House fire on February 4, 1881 that destroyed all records in their courthouse.



If you are interested is assisting MCPCRP in any way, we could use your expertise, please contact one of the Coordinators listed above or Neal Du Shane to become involved in this extremely fun and worthwhile project.



If you have information or photographs you can share we would appreciate any information you have. Photographs or historical articles will be documented, logged and returned to you within two weeks. Please send donations and contributions to Neal Du Shane at the address listed below. Please make checks out to Neal Du Shane Treasurer MCPCRP.

It’s like eating popcorn; once you start you will find it hard to stop!

April 27th, 2003 marked the opening of the MCPCRP website hosted by Thanks Rootsweb!






Newsletters & Newspaper Items

January-June 2004 Newsletter -- Jun 10, 2004

1st Quarter 2004 Newsletter -- Jan 29, 2004

2003 Newsletter -- Mar 16, 2003

Fall 2002 Newsletter -- Nov 22, 2002

April 2003 Story -- Mitchell County Press, featuring: Lohr Brothers

April 2003 Story -- Mitchell County Press, pub. 4/30/2003

Aug. 2004 Story -- Mitchell County Press, pub. 8/19/2004




Hands-On Projects



Mona Cemetery

Click HERE, to go to the page that discusses progress on the Mona (a.k.a. Farley) cemetery, and a little bit of discussion about the McKinley (or Newburg) cemetery.

(Click here for a map showing location of Newburg cemetery. (Click here for a map showing location of Farley cemetery.)








Otranto Cemetery

We are also getting closer to locating the Otranto cemetery, which according to some sources is on the north edge of the town of Otranto.

If anyone has pictures, historical data, or histories of cemeteries in Mitchell County, please send it to Neal.

Click here for a collection of messages and graphics regarding Otranto cemetery.

(Click here for a map showing location of Otranto Cemetery.)





Lohr Cemetery

Lohr Cemetery is in East Cedar Township. Click here to go to the Lohr Cemetery Page where there are many great photos documenting the cleaning up of the cemetery.

Update! That file updated with new photos - June 2005.

Click here for a map showing location of Lohr Cemetery.)






Dudley Cemetery

Click here, to go to the page that discusses progress on the Dudley cemetery. There are many great photos.

Click here to see a map showing the location of the Dudley Cemetery.

Click HERE, to see the installation of the monument at Dudley cemetery (Aug. 2004). Several really good photos.






Smith Family Cemetery

Click HERE, to go to a page concerning Edith Smith's tombstone from the so-called Smith Family Cemetery, near the "Iron Spring," on the River Road south of Mitchell. We also have the official table documenting the graves at the Smith Family Cemetery.

Click here to see a map showing the location of the Smith Family Cemetery.



Restoration Tutorials



PowerPoint Presentation

To download the 9.5 megabyte PowerPoint Presentation telling about the MCPCRP, click here: pp080803.ppt.   You may need to right click that and select SAVE LINK AS.

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Persons interested in volunteering to assist with these projects should contact Neal.

Contact information:

Neal Du Shane, MCPCRP Coordinator

Kermit Kittleson, WebMaster

UPDATED: Jan. 1, 2005

UPDATED: March 4, 2013