In the spring of 1992, a search began on the grave of a woman by the name of Sarah Ann Warr Rathbone. The family Bible contained a funeral notice indicating burial in the Union Campground Cemetery on September 16, 1874. In searching for the grave site it was discovered the cemetery was located in, Township No. 29, Range 21, Section No. 3 of Greene County Mo.
A NEW BEGINNING
The Year 1993 was a turning point in the history of Union Campground Cemetery. Descendants of a family searching for genealogical information discovered the historical site as they were searching for the burial of an ancestor. The long, dormant period ended! An awakening occurred!
After the discovery, a search began to find descendants of other families still living in the Valley Water Mill area. A nucleus of 14 descendants, plus husbands and wives, met together to talk about the cemetery and formulate plans for the future on Sunday, March 13, 1994, at 2:30 pm, in the Community Room, third floor of the main library, 397 E Central, Springfield, MO. The decision was made to incorporate the group and this goal was accomplished in March, 1994. That same year a survey of the cemetery was completed and barbed wire fencing installed. The arduous task of restoration began.
Anne Appleby volunteered to chair a committee to investigate procedures to incorporate. She volunteered the services of her son David Appleby to complete the appropriate forms and submit them to the Secretary of State of Missouri. It was noted that the Association could not accept donations until they were incorporated and had a tax exempt status. This meant that there would have to be officers, directors and bylaws.
The first officers were Jean Rayl, President; Elaine Mott, Secretary; and Viola Nimno, Treasurer.
At a meeting, August 30, 1994, Pansy Harvey was elected Vice-President.
The first annual meeting was scheduled for Saturday, September 24, 1994, 1:00 pm. A by-laws committee was appointed to draft the by-laws for the Union Campground Cemetery Association.
In September of 1995 the 501 (C) (3) tax status was applied for and received. In November of 1995, the Missouri sales tax number was applied for and received. In March of 1996, the fence project was completed.
At a meeting in March of 1996, a representative of the Ozarks Presbyterian PCUSA gave us the deed to the cemetery. This was filed at the Recorders office of Greene County Missouri, in Springfield.
At the March meeting of 1996. the position of Corresponding Secretary was added to the by-laws.
In the fall of 1996 The Technology Department at Southwest Missouri State University agreed to construct two rustic signs for the cemetery. We are required by law to have at least one sign in position to identify cemetery. On April 18, 1997, two signs were erected, one sign at the northwest corner by the walk-in gate, and the other in the southeast corner.
Many people have helped in the restoration process of the cemetery. After the death of Jim Rayl the cemetery sat unattended and nothing was done. In the spring of 2005 another group started working on the cleaning process. It was almost like starting over again, since it had been 7 years since any work had been done. In the fall of 2006, it was to the point we were ready to start filling sunken graves and putting up head stones. Then in January of 2007 a severe ice storm damaged much of the area around Springfield. We had to start all over again. We are now back to the point of filling the sunken graves and head stones again.
The historical significance of the Union Campground and Cemetery was recognized by the Greene County Commission on November 6, 2000, when an order was issued for its inclusion in the Greene County Historic Sites Register. The recognition was proclaimed not only because the campground and cemetery played a central religious and cultural role in the lives of Greene County’s earliest settlers, but because the old headstones in the cemetery may offer further discernment into 19th Century patterns of life and death in the Missouri Ozarks.
Research will continue on this unique piece of Ozarks heritage. Answers will be sought about the people who lived and died in the Valley Water Mill area, and perhaps some day there will be a better understanding of the campground, the church, and the old graveyard.
The Union Campground Cemetery Association invites anyone to join the association who is interested in preserving and perpetuating this historical site.