Hunter Cemetery, Rock Port, Atchison County, Missouri, USA


The land of Hunter Cemetery was donated for burial purposes by a pioneer settler, William Hunter, in 1844. The oldest tombstone now in the Hunter plot is at the grave of Jennet Hunter daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. and E. Hunter who died October 16, 1846, at 17 months of age.

In its first years it was known as the Bluff Cemetery because it is located on the western slope of the loess hills at the extreme east edge of the Missouri River bottom lands. Later, however, because the land had been donated by the Hunter family, the name was changed to Hunter Cemetery.

On May 29, 1929 a group of ladies formed "The Ladies Association of Hunter Cemetery" to aid the menfolks, who up to that time had been in charge of caring for the burial ground and the raising of funds for maintenance and repairs. Through the years the women's group raised funds at fish fries, dinners at farm sales, and food sales in Rock Port, as well as through annual donations from members. The first officers elected were Mrs. Ethel King, President; Mrs. Myrtle Salfrank, Vice President; Mrs. Melvina Richards, Treasurer; and Mrs. Linnie Hunter, Secretary, a position these ladies held for over 40 years.

The following article was published in the Atchison County Mail in May 2009.

80 years of the Ladies Association of Hunter Cemetery

May 29 [2009] marks the 80th year of the Ladies Association of Hunter Cemetery. This group, when formed in 1929, included thirteen ladies with an intense desire to help their menfolk with the caring of the cemetery. Those ladies have long passed away but their legacy remains to this day. Through the past 80 years, there have been many members who have continued the organization's goal. Their purpose, as stated in their constitution is to "beautify in all practicable ways the cemetery and secure ways and means to have the right and proper care taken of all lots, and to notify the owners of the lots or monuments that are in need of repair." Also stated is that "membership was based on any woman whether a resident or not, who has a relative in the cemetery or is especially interested in it." At their first monthly meeting, Ethel King was chosen as President; Myrtle Salfrank as Vice President; Melvina Richards as Treasurer and Linnie Hunter as Secretary.

These women had ingenious ways of raising money for the cemetery. They had rummage sales, ice cream socials, fish and chicken dinners, food sales and were known for serving lunches at many auctions throughout the years. There were times when they had an all day meeting which included quilting and then they would sell chances for the quilt at their events. They even provided lunch for the dedication of the Brownville Bridge in 1939. In 1941, they served the dinner for the Rock Port Alumni Banquet. On occasion, they would even serve a free lunch at the cemetery on "decoration day" or Memorial Day, as we know it today. Back in the day when these events occurred, they might only profit a few dollars. Remember, these were the days of $.40 lb coffee, $.25 lb hamburger and $.22 lb hotdogs! Because of the diligent work of me Ladies Association of Hunter Cemetery for the past 80 years, the cemetery has been beautifully maintained and improved throughout the years.

Throughout the life of the cemetery, people have graciously donated money for the cemetery's care. In the early years, the ladies decided that rather than sending thank you notes to all those who donate time and money, it would better serve the cemetery if that postage money was saved. That practice continues to this day.

Hunter Cemetery has a long and proud history. The cemetery began when William Hunter, one of Atchison County's pioneer farmers, gave land for the cemetery in 1844 and was known as Bluff Cemetery. The first burial was in 1846. Sometime after the Civil War, it became known as Hunter Cemetery in honor of William. Hunter Cemetery can be described as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Atchison County. It overlooks the Missouri River bottom to the west. The first reported meeting of interested parties of the cemetery was known to be held December 16, 1893 in Langdon with several men attending. An election was held resulting in John H. Hunter, John Cooper and John M. Anderson being elected directors with George Wood chosen as the chairman and J. M. Anderson as the secretary. The cemetery has always been an important part of the area community. In 1934, in excess of 100 people appeared on a clean-up day. Of course, lunch was served by the ladies! In 1965, after a 21 inch rainfall, there was substantial damage to many graves in the cemetery. More than 25 men and machines appeared to help repair the damage.

Fast forward to today. The cemetery has been expanded, driveways have been expanded and paved, new fencing installed, old storage shed removed and many other improvements completed during the life of the Association. Of course, there is the continual care of the lawn and trees. The Association is proud of the recent purchase of U.S. flags. These flags are placed along the fence and flown during Memorial Day weekend. It is an awesome sight! The Association meets annually now but continues to do the good work that began with the founding ladies 80 years ago. The Ladies Association encourages anyone who is interested in Hunter Cemetery's care to attend their annual meeting which will be held this year at the Bank Midwest meeting room at 1:30 PM, June 17, 2009. As this Memorial Day weekend nears, please take the time to drive by this majestic cemetery and take in its beauty. You'll be glad you did!

St. Joseph News-Press, Sunday, May 24, 2009, page E10

A peaceful plot

Photo of Julia Bennington, Uldeen Cooper and Elaine Eilers
photo by: Blake Hannon/St. Joseph News-Press

Julia Bennington, Uldeen Cooper and Elaine Eilers are the three members of the Ladies Association of Hunter Cemetery. The group, whose goal is to raise funds to maintain the cemetery's grounds, will celebrate its 80th anniversary on May 29.

SMALL TALES - A look into the ordinary and extraordinary lives of people in our community.

Three ladies make sure Hunter Cemetery maintains a long life

By BLAKE HANNON - St. Joseph News-Press

Just off of Interstate 29 in the town Rock Port, Mo., there's a gravel road that leads to Hunter Cemetery. At the foot of the hillside cemetery, in the brush right by the road, there are blue iris flowers, planted decades ago that continue to spring and spread on their own.

And keeping Hunter Cemetery alive and flourishing is what the Ladies Association of Hunter Cemetery have done since 1929. The group initially raised money through farm, provision and rummage sales and by organizing fundraising dinners and fish frys to raise money for Hunter Cemetery's upkeep.

Now, on the verge of celebrating its 80th year of existence, Ladies Association of Hunter Cemetery members Elaine Eilers (vice president), Julia Bennington (secretary of treasury) and Uldeen Cooper (president) keep the organization alive, gathering once a year to discuss Hunter's concerns.

"It's not a meeting. It's, I call Elaine and say, 'Hey, Elaine. You want to pay a bill?'" Ms. Bennington says. "It's a very casual way of doing that, but it seems to be working well."

Through their annual meeting, they've managed to accomplish a lot. In the last 10 years, the ladies have started a Web site (www. and used funds to build a fence and a paved road for drivers. They also pay for cemetery's insurance and landscaping, to fill-in sunken graves which date as far back as 1846, and to doctor any damages done to grave stones by vandalism or the elements.

All of those years of fundraising from previous members must have paid off, considering the Ladies Association of Hunter Cemetery receives donations from Rock Port residents and people from Iowa and Nebraska who, like the ladies themselves, have loved ones who have passed on and call the scenic cemetery overlooking the river bottom home.

"I think that everybody that helps always has a vested interest in it," Ms. Eilers says. "There's not a person on this (river) bottom here that doesn't have family here."

As time passes, the Ladies of Hunter Cemetery will continue doing their perpetual care, knowing the land and their efforts matter to so many

"They really appreciate the cemetery and the way it looks and it's maintained, and we hope it stays that way when we're gone," Ms. Bennington says.

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