Sunday Snapshot: The tree stump monuments at Clinton Cemetery


A local weather forecaster suggested that Kansans needed Dramamine in order to survive the roller coaster that is March weather in the Midwest. When I woke up this morning, there was snow and sleet on the ground. But Friday was beautiful and warm and Jim and I went for a drive to take in the sunshine. We found ourselves driving around Clinton Lake.

Clinton Lake at dusk.

Clinton Lake at dusk.

I have a few childhood memories of Clinton Lake, but I did not know back then that the lake was relatively new, having been completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1977. The town of Clinton survived; some other unincorporated communities vanished into the watershed district. Near the town of Clinton, though, is Clinton Cemetery, which turned out to be a treasure trove of gnarled trees and old and interesting graves.

Except for in communities with easy railroad access or a local stone mason, elaborate monuments are scarce in Kansas before the 1890s. Headstones celebrating those with birthdays before 1800 are also scarce west of the Kansas City area. And yet, here in Clinton Cemetery, there are several examples of beautiful tree stump monuments, stones with embedded porcelain photographs, and other creative and intricate markers. There are graves for children of men who fought in the Revolutionary War and there is at least one marker for a former slave born in 1799.

Nickerson Cowan (also listed as Cowen in the cemetery records). "Passed to the Spiritland of the 17 Day of May 1886, Aged 87 Years. A slave till Lincoln's proclamation on 1 January 1863.

Nickerson Cowan (also listed as Cowen in the cemetery records). “Passed to the Spiritland of the 17 Day of May 1886, Aged 87 Years. A slave till Lincoln’s proclamation on 1 January 1863.

Should you find yourself at Clinton Lake this summer, make a little time for the museum (which is open May through October) and this cemetery. It is worth a visit.

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