After leaving Riverside Cemetery, Christi and I picked up her friend Jacqueline and went to lunch in downtown Marshalltown. When I mentioned what I was doing, Jacqueline asked if she could go along if we planned on going to any other cemeteries. Even if it meant just sitting in the car, since her mobility is limited.
By looking on my Find a Grave app, I saw that Timber Creek Cemetery (TCC) was just south of town so we headed in that direction. You actually cross Timber Creek twice before you get there.
According to Find a Grave, TCC has around 1,100 burials. The Timber Creek Cemetery Association was organized on May 15, 1868, but from dates I saw, burials were taking place several years before that.
The exact start of Timber Creek Township is disputed. According to “History of Marshall County, Iowa” by N. Sanford (written in 1867), the settlement of Timber Creek was established when “Mr. J.M. Ferguson and Josiah (actually Joseph) Cooper settled on the south side of the grove in 1848.” According to another book written in 1878 “The History of Marshall County”, it was started in 1861. I’ll share more about Joseph Cooper later.
TCC is a well kept cemetery. The grass is mowed and the markers appear to be in good shape.
However, it didn’t take me long to discover one of the reasons the cemetery was so well mowed.
Surrounding a huge, old tree was a pile of old footstones that had been pulled up. I could see the initials on them. A few were smaller grave markers that were broken or had simply been tossed into the pile. One was for an infant, Perry Campbell, who died in 1867.
To be frank, it made me angry. I don’t know the people that take care of the cemetery so I don’t know the details behind this. But I do know that it’s not unusual for those who maintain older cemeteries to pull up the footstones to make mowing the grass easier.
Find a Grave showed a 2014 photograph of the same tree with the same footstones around it, so this was not recent. I find it very sad considering the people that buried their loved ones didn’t have any intention for the footstone to end up in a pile under a tree like unwanted rubbish.
UPDATE: Someone from the Timber Creek Cemetery Association contacted me in April 2021 to let me know that it was true that 30 or 40 years ago, someone had indeed removed the footstones from their original locations in order to make mowing easier. She also told me that some of the other stones had been dug up over the years, some having been underground three or four feet. Reuniting the footstones with their original markers is a long and difficult task that will take time but the volunteers are hoping to do so in the months ahead.
Two graves I saw were for the VanHook family. Henry Thomas Van Hook died at the age of 28 in 1876. The stone says he was the husband of E.A. Vanhook, who I believe to be Eliza Ann Hook. A stone for Matilda Hook is beside it and I believe that to be Henry’s mother, who died in 1872.
I located Henry’s will on Ancestry, which contained many bills submitted to his estate. One was for his casket, which cost $25 and came from C.W. Pinkerton, a dealer in “furniture and coffins.” That may seem strange but at the time, the same man who sold you a dining room chair might also make your coffin. Based in nearby Gilman, C.W. Pinkerton was also an undertaker and likely handled Henry’s burial.
Henry’s epitaph reads:
? my wife and children all
From you a father Christ doth call
Mourn not for me it is in vain
To call me to your sight again.
Henry’s death left Eliza with three children under the age of 10. According to the 1895 Iowa Census, Eliza was born in Illinois and belonged to a “Friends” church and the 1915 Iowa Census confirmed she was a Quaker. The 1920 U.S. Census shows her living with married daughter Florence Brown (a dressmaker) and her family. Eliza died in 1935 and is buried at Riverside Cemetery, as is her son, John, and daughter, Florence. They both died in 1951.
As I noted earlier, one of Timber Creek’s earliest white settlers was Kentucky native Joseph Cooper. According to his son John’s obituary, Joseph and his wife Martha Ferguson Cooper left their Indiana home for Iowa in 1847, living briefly in Jasper. They settled on Timber Creek in 1848 (the same year Iowa was made a state) along with Martha’s brother Joseph Ferguson and his family. The two Josephs were among the first to purchase land in Marshall County from the U.S. government.
Martha gave birth to her and Joseph’s 11th child, Carl, in 1849. She would be the second adult death recorded in the area in 1852, so she was among the first to be buried at TCC. I suspect the shared marker for her and Joseph was not made until after his death in 1877.
Included in John Cooper’s obituary is an account of some Indians living nearby. A settlers’ stockade called Fort Robinson was built (about 90 square feet) on the land of Arthur Robinson. According to one account, it was built after the same settlers allegedly burned down a nearby Indian village and then feared retribution.
About 24 families took refuge there, with their cattle left outside the walls and their crops in the hands of the Indians until the U.S. Army arrived to take the Indians to Missouri. The presumed Fort Robinson site has a historical marker on it, but no archeological evidence has turned up to indicate just exactly where it was.
Another early Timber Creek settler buried at TCC was John Fletcher Campbell. A native of Knox County, Tenn., Campbell was born in 1824 and moved near Springfield, Ill. as a child. Obituaries note he was a friend of Abraham Lincoln’s as he grew up. Later, his father moved the family to Jasper, Iowa. Joseph would meet up with Joseph Cooper and Joseph Ferguson around that time. The land he purchased at Timber Creek would eventually become known as Campbell’s Grove.
A bachelor at the time, Campbell and his brother, James, headed for California in 1852 in search of gold. After two years in the mining districts, John returned to Iowa by way of the Isthmus of Panama and around to New York City by boat, then home to Marshall County. During his journey, according to an obituary, he “carried about $2,400 in gold coin sewed up in the inside of his buckskin vest.”
John married Matilda Denney in 1856 and settled into farming life. The couple had several children, five that lived well into adulthood. Second son Alvin Campbell died in 1884 at the age of 21 and has the only white bronze marker that I saw at TCC.
John was a successful farmer, adding more acreage to his holdings over the years. He died of cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) in 1905 at the age of 81. Matilda died in 1934 at the age of 101. In the photo below to the left of their monument, you can see the marker for their infant son Robert, who was born and died in 1862.
I also learned that the infant Perry Campbell (see photo further up) was the nephew of J.F Campbell. Perry was the son of John’s brother, George, and wife, Jane Bowen Campbell. Although George and Jane lived in nearby Jasper, they buried Perry at TCC.
Finally, I’ll share this double marker for the children of the Rev. Isaac Johnson and Elivra Overheiser Johnson. The Johnsons came to Iowa in 1857 from Ohio and Rev. Johnson preached in several small churches in the area of Timber Creek, and the counties surrounding it.
The year 1868 was a tragic one for the Johnsons. On May 6, a 24-day-old infant died. Daughter Aradilla, not yet three years old, died in November of the same year. The Johnsons would have five children that lived to adulthood, but losing these two little ones must have been hard to take.
After taking Jacqueline home, we headed west out of Marshall County back toward Omaha. But we had a few more Iowa cemeteries to visit before we completed our journey.
Next time, I’ll take you to Graceland Cemetery in Avoca.
AJ Swanson said:
I read every one of your posts at length – the word on the Van Hook headstone is “Farewell” – and now, back to work!
Thank you, A.J.! I could not make it out, my eyes are not so hot these days. So I really appreciate it! 🙂