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Cemetery tours offer insight into area history
Mother Francis and father Nikodem Krestine have a picture on their tombstone in the Timken Cemetery. Timken is one of the few places in the area with pictures on the stones. Many of the settlers in that area were Czech with names such as Albina and Lhotka. - photo by KAREN LA PIERRE

Each rich in heritage, area cemeteries are their own book telling the story of the harsh prairie life in the 1800s and 1900s in central Kansas. Not the scary places of movies or of tomorrow’s holiday, they are calm, quiet places of peace.

Made from granite, marble, metal, limestone or even a simple board, these grave markers recount life from the days when one of every nine babies born died before its second birthday. The names of those of Germany or Czech heritage, ranging from Blazenka to Pius, can be found in the small cemeteries on windswept hills beside dirt roads, once remembered and loved by family members.

The Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau offers a brochure with area cemeteries marked.


Large numbers of freed slaves, called Exodusters, moved to Stafford County after the Civil War. During the late 1870s, rumor spread throughout the South that the government was giving land to former slaves. It was untrue, but the Kansas Fever Exodus began. Between 15,000 and 20,000 African-Americans came to Kansas, in part because the state took the side of the Union during the Civil War .The 1st Kansas Colored Infantry were the first African-Americans to fight for the Union.

The Exodusters thrived on the prairie because of their vast experience in farming. George and Catherine Washington Walker, buried in Great Bend, came to Kansas in the 1880s. Catherine was an ex-slave, and George may or may not have been. Oil was found on their land and they became richer than they ever dreamed.

At one point, 400 African-Americans lived in Stafford County and some buried their love ones in the Martin Cemetery, west of Stafford. Few markers remain, but at least 14 people are believed to be buried there without markers.

Family members of Oscar Micheaux, who produced 44 films and is a famed African-American filmmaker, homesteaded near Seward. Micheaux is buried in the Great Bend Cemetery and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Civil War Veterans

Not only did large numbers of Kansas men serve in the Civil War , large numbers settled in Kansas after the war. The Civil War nurse Mary Bickerdyke borrowed $10,000 from a bank and brought 300 homeless veterans to Kansas. The stones of many Civil War veterans are marked with a brass star with the initials G.A.R. on them. The Grand Army of the Republic was an organization for Civil War vets similar to the American Legion.