Sunday, March 30, 2014

Taphophilia! Sunset Hills - Boonville, MO - Part I - "Little Willie"

Willie - "The Little Stranger" - Photo by Jim Schmidt
"[He] bade me select some stones, asking how I would have them lettered. I chose some that he would ask nine dollars for, and said 'All I want marked on them is: "Willie, the Little Stranger."' He assured me that they should be immediately lettered, and if I did not leave to-day, might go out to the burying ground with him in the morning to see them set. I thanked him, returned to the hotel."

- Went to Kansas - Miriam D. Colt - 1862

One of the great things about living in Columbia, MO, is that I'm not too far from historic towns on the Missouri River.  One of those is Boonville, Missouri (named for Nathan and Daniel, sons of the famous Daniel Boone), which can trace its history to the early 1800s.  There's a lot to appreciate in terms of its history, including many extant buildings, and I'm sure I'll be visiting many times and posting many time as well!

Today's post concerns one of several historic cemeteries in Boonville: Sunset Hills Cemetery, established 1841.  A wayside marker at the cemetery gives some additional information:

Entrance to Sunset Hills - Photo by Jim Schmidt
 Originally this cemetery was known as the “old Methodist Episcopal Church Burying Ground.”  The area was possibly used as early as 1818, but certainly several burials had occurred here by 1820.  In 1841, prominent local merchant Jacob Wyan began proceedings to turn over the burial ground to the City of Boonville. The ground was accepted by the city, and served as the city cemetery for many years...Sunset Hills was the burial place of the Illinois and Iowa soldiers who died of disease or other causes while stationed in Boonville during the Civil War, but the bodies of these men were exhumed and reburied in the JeŠfferson City National Cemetery after the war.

Among the well-documented burials in the cemetery is that of "Little Willie" Colt and his father, William Colt. They died within weeks of each other in Boonville in 1856 from a fever contracted as they traveled overland from Kansas. The town cared for them in their final days, and laid them to rest, and it cared for a devastated wife and sister who survived to complete the trip home to New York.

Headstones of "Willie" and William Colt - Photo by Jim Schmidt
 The travels of the family are told by the wife/mother, Miriam Davis Colt, in her 1862 book:

WENT TO KANSAS: BEING A THRILLING ACCOUNT OF AN ILL-FATED EXPEDITION TO That Fairy Land, and its Sad Results; TOGETHER WITH A SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF THE AUTHOR AND HOW THE WORLD GOES WITH HER

You can read the entire book by clicking on the image below...you can read transcriptions of the chapter describing the deaths and burials of Willie and William at the "Kansas Collection" website here.

https://archive.org/stream/wenttokansasbein00colt


More photos of the Colt's and Sunset Hills below:

Photo By Jim Schmidt

Headstones of Willie and William Colt - Photo by Jim Schmidt

Headstone of William Colt - Photo By Jim Schmidt
The heights of the cemetery afford some amazing views of historic Boonville and bluffs overlooking the Missouri River in the distance - Photo By Jim Schmidt

The heights of the cemetery afford some amazing views of historic Boonville and bluffs overlooking the Missouri River in the distance - Photo By Jim Schmidt
Photo By Jim Schmidt
Backward "N" on this crudely written headstone - Photo by Jim Schmidt

Photo by Jim Schmidt
Photo by Jim Schmidt

But wait! There's more!  Part II of this post will be about a Civil War skirmish nearby and a marker/memorial for several soldiers killed in the raid.  A future post will also cover the bigger - and more ornate - Walnut Grove Cemetery, also in Boonville, established 1851:

Walnut Grove Cemetery - Boonville, MO - Photo by Jim Schmidt

2 comments:

Mark Noce said...

Cool...spooky, but cool. It's amazing what great historical resources graveyards can be:)

Guy Clinch said...

Thanks for posting these photos. I just finished the chapter of Miriam Colt's book where Willie dies. So sad. Was glad to be able to see his resting place.