With many unmarked graves, volunteers are digging through records to find the names of the unidentified.
“A lot of these are kids graves all the way up to 20 years old that have never had a marker and that’s just sad.”
Established in 1841, the churchless-churchyard is older than the city it resides in, yet Peace Church Cemetery in Joplin remains the final resting place of both the known and the unknown.
“Many of the graves here are not marked,” says volunteer Jim Beeler, “and that’s just sad.”
Without a family connection, it can be nearly impossible to identify the deceased at one of the oldest cemeteries in Jasper County, but the work of Beeler and other volunteers seems to be beating those odds.
“We’ve found husbands that are buried here with no wife’s headstone, wife with no husband stone,” Beeler shares. “We’ve found families with no children stones. the rich, the poor, the black, white, Indian, even warriors from the different wars.”
Websites like Find-a-Grave have also been instrumental in the process — providing Jim and his team with records they otherwise would have maybe never seen.
Recently, they were able to identify a Civil War veteran.
“His name is Charles Vinson and he served in the 33rd Indiana Infantry. The way I came up with that is because on Find-a-Grave I’ve been checking on individuals that are buried here, and his name showed up as being buried at Peace Church Cemetery.”
Through communication with an Indiana professor and confirming his death through a 1901 article in the Joplin Globe, the volunteers were able to get Vinson a headstone through Veteran Affairs, and will hold a dedication on Saturday.
“Most of the stones were because people were just poor and were not able to afford a stone,” Beeler says. “Even today you know stones are very expensive.
“We’ve been able to make concrete stones and put their necessary information on those particular stones and we’re just more than happy to be able to do that.”
…taking care of all those who Rest in Peace.