Thursday, August 19, 2010

In Search Of: The Farnsworth Family Burial Ground!

One of the great out-of-the-way places to go "In Search Of" when wandering out and about the Osborne County, Kansas countryside is that of the Farnsworth Burial Ground, located on the former family homestead along the banks of Plum Creek just a three or so miles southeast of Portis.  Eleven members of the Farnsworth family were interred here between 1888 and 1976.  In 2006 an effort was made to clean up the site, but since then only a lone hunter or two have come across it, no doubt more than  surprised to see a historical marker standing well away from the nearest road informing them that they've stumbled onto a burial ground!

BACKGROUND:  The Farnsworth family traces its roots back to Roger Dade Farnsworth in England, who died in 1297. His ancestor Mathias Farnsworth arrived in America in 1657.  Eight generations later Lynde and Ellen farnsworth moved their family to this farm on the banks of Plum Creek in 1885.  This burial site began with the death of infant Anna Farnsworth in 1888, followed by her brother Walter in 1895. Family patriarch Lynde was next in 1901.  World War I veteran Donald Farnsworth was interred here in 1970, and the last burial was that of William L. Farnsworth in 1976.  Three generations of the Farnsworth Family are buried here, including Harriet (Dedman) Farnsworth.  Shortly before her wedding to Walter E. Farnsworth in 1887 Harriet was involved in an altercation with a student during a literary society meeting at the nearby Green Ridge Schoolhouse. The incident was made famous in the 1936 book Sod & Stubble by John Ise.

Those lying in marked graves:
Arthur Lynde Farnsworth (August 25, 1873-June 17, 1950)
Lynde Earl Farnsworth (November 5, 1831-March 27, 1901)
Nellie Eaton Farnsworth (March 27, 1889-November 24, 1918)
Walter Eaton Farnsworth (November 11, 1858-January 25, 1950)
Harriet Olive [Dedman] Farnsworth (February 9, 1856-March 22, 1922)

Those lying in unmarked graves:
Anna Farnsworth (1888-1888)
Donald M. Farnsworth (January 21, 1897-December 15, 1970) World War I veteran: 3rd Machine Gun Company, 16th Infantry, U.S. Army,
Ellen S. [Eaton] Farnsworth (May 11, 1835-February 1915)
Nina Luella (Carter) Farnsworth (August 6, 1901-July 7, 1953)
Walter M. Farnsworth (1894-1895)
William Lynde (February 14, 1891-December 31, 1976)

So, if one would want to find this site for oneself, one needs to have sturdy hiking clothes (pants are a must!), a generous spraying on oneself of OFF or some other repellant, contract the services of a knowledgeable guide, and it's time for a min-adventure into the wilds of Osborne County, Kansas!

If you know where to look, then as you head east/southeast of Portis on a rock road that turns to dirt before too long, you can glance to your right and see a large clump of trees and other growth - just one of dozens like it along this portion of the road.  The clump conceals the remains of a one-story native rock building that once served as a stagecoach stop.  The road started as the stage route from the city of Downs to the southeast to Portis along the northern edge of the North Fork Solomon River valley.   In the mid-2000s the building was partially torn down. 

So after one pulls over beside the clump of trees and other growth that conceals a one-story native stone rock building that once served as a stagecoach stop, one must cross a quarter mile of wheatfield (or corn, depending on the year) to the southwest.  On the southern side of the field one is confronted with this 13-foot high, 100-foot wide hedge row consisting largely of wild marijuana.  Finding a way around/through this hedge is an adventure in itself.

After managing the marijuana hedge, one works through the chest-high growth for about 300 feet - keeping one's arms up because of the poison ivy and other probable surprises - until one finally comes across an Osborne County Historical Marker and the top half of a metal gate.

View of the gate and the Historical Marker. 

The 2006 Osborne County Historical Marker is in surprisingly good shape! It tells the history of the burial ground and lists those who are interred here.

Looking past the gate into the burial ground one can see a single marker rising amid the growth.  As one stands and does this, one can also feel the mosquitoes making quite a meal out of oneself.

Looking southwest across the Farnsworth Burial Ground.

Here is the view of the burial ground looking northwest to southeast. The fence surrounding the site was repaired in 2006 by Osborne County Tourism volunteers and is still in place.

The western half of the Farnsworth Burial Ground.

There are two large tombstones in the Burial Ground.  This one is to Nellie Farnsworth, 1889-1918.

The other stone is a memorial to Walter and Harriet (Dedman) Farnsworth.

Still to be found is the brick-like stone for Arthur Farnsworth, 1875-1950.

The temporary marker on the grave of the patriarch of the family, Lynde Farnsworth, 1831 -1901, can at least still be found.

That's it.  Just four stones, leaving six people in unmarked graves, including a military veteran.  Is this site just a small preview for all small rural cemeteries in Kansas within the next twenty-five years, let alone by the end of the century?   Food for thought.