STAFFORD COUNTY — The Martin Cemetery, researched by Taylor Clark as a 4-H leadership project, has been approved for placement on the Kansas Register of Historic Places.
St. John High School sophomore Clark, 15, visited Topeka Aug. 8 for Martin Cemetery to be considered for the Kansas Register of Historic Places.
The Martin Cemetery was the burial ground of Stafford County Exodusters, former slaves who migrated to Kansas in search of a better life.
‘‘After three years, it was great to have all our work recognized,” Clark said. “It was a great meeting that went really well.”
Clark’s interest was sparked by St. John teacher Jon Bauer, who teaches about Kansas black history. She researched Martin Cemetery, which was built more than 100 years ago in Stafford County west of the intersection of U.S. 50 and U.S. 281.
She used microfilm to confirm through newspaper articles those who are believed to have been buried at the Martin Cemetery. She researched the Martin family through ancestry.com online and conducted research at the Stafford County Historical Museum and Stafford County Register of Deeds office.
Kansas Historical Society employees visited the site in May. Sarah Martin is the Kansas Historical Society National Register coordinator. Ironically, the wife of Martin Cemetery patriarch Joseph Martin was Sarah Martin. The patriarch, Joseph Martin, lived to be 92 years old.
Martin Cemetery will be submitted for the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places, a process that takes several months.
Clark received support from her mother Natalie Clark, a Stafford High teacher; her grandmother Amy Dudrey, a seventh-generation Stafford County resident; and Clayton Grimmett, Stafford County commissioner.
‘All the support was very encouraging,” Clark said. “The Martin Cemetery project had the most letters of support of any project.”
Clark said Grimmett will propose to Stafford County commissioners that additional signage and improved fencing be added at Martin Cemetery.
“It’s a great accomplishment to preserve a property where ex-slaves are buried,” Dudrey said. “Now, the property is protected and can’t be disturbed.”
The Exodusters migrated to Kansas on the false rumor that the Federal Government would set aside free land for former slaves. That’s why Joseph Martin migrated from his life as a Kentucky slave to Kansas.
Those with clearly identified markers at Martin Cemetery include Joseph Martin (1828-1920), Dora Hilton (1978-1944), George Hilton (1971-1954), Martin’s wife Sarah J. Martin (1831-1906), Martin’s son Wilson Martin (1880-1907), Martin’s daughter Ella (Martin) Perkins (1881-1922) and F.C.H. Footmarker.
The following family members are believed to be buried with wooden markers that have disappeared — Zachara Bowens, Jake Fuller, Mrs. Jake Fuller, Joan Gardner, Charles Glass, father of Charles Glass, Rueben Hill, Helen Martin, Joanna Martin, William Martin, Blanch Payton, Daisey Stewart, James Tate and Nora Tilford.
Documentation on Stafford County cemeteries was recorded in “Etched in Stone,” written by Kimberly (Parten) Sallee and Ken and Jan Parten.