Shirley Hurd is a lifelong resident of Fort Scott and a researcher at Old Fort Genealogy Society (OFGS).
In 1995 she started to research the Mayhew Cemetery, she said in a press release. “This cemetery was set out in a deed in 1885, when the owner, Henry Mayhew sold all but a 100 x 100-foot section where his son-in-law was buried.”
The cemetery is predominantly an African-American burial site .
At the time she began her research, she and two others made a visit to Chet Ober (the property owner) of the site and asked if he could show them where the Mayhew Cemetery was.
“The location (Ober) took us to is where the Mayhew No. 2 cemetery is located,” she said. “Mr. Ober told us that he asked Bourbon County several times to fix up the cemetery. He stated that the county dozed the tombstone, sometime after 1961, into the river, and told him to use the ground as farmland.”
Others Have Sought Info About the Cemetery
Prior to Hurd, in 1973 OFGS Member Gerald Wood met with Ober.
“He stated that he tried diligently to get someone to help preserve the cemetery, but when they were unable to do so, they had it bulldozed since they needed the land,” she said.
In 2006 Hurd was asked for information about the Mayhew Cemetery by Sandra Dudley who was writing a story about the cemetery.
Hurd told Dudley all that she knew about the cemetery and Dudley attempted to view the site.
Dudley found a sign that stated “Do Not Enter – Hazardous Waste – Keep Out” and a Fort Scott City employee told her she was not allowed on the property, that it was private property, according to Hurd.
Dudley published a booklet in 2007 named “The Buried Roots of African-American Ancestry in Fort Scott, Kansas” which includes information on the Mayhew Cemetery.
Hurd Started Researching Again in 2019, After a Hiatus
Last year, she had another join in the research.
“In 2020, Ann Rawlins joined the research of the Mayhew Cemetery and we soon located Mayhew Cemetery No. 2 from aerial maps,” she said. “We believe that Mayhew No.1 could no longer hold any more burials in the 100 x 100-foot lot and burials were started north of the original site, and then to the east just south of the (Marmaton) river bank.”
The updated list of names is now about 175 buried in the two sites of the Mayhew Cemetery, she said.
“There is a Civil War Soldier buried in Mayhew, along with some that were freed as slaves and retained their slave owners’ names,” Hurd said. “There is an entire family that died in 1911 – 13 of whooping cough and other complications due to disease at that time. There are newborns, children, families, neighbors, and a couple (of people) that even lived to be 100 years old. There are so many stories of these families that need to be told.”
“Restoration of the cemetery is not possible,” Hurd said, “but there is a plan to have a memorial stone with all the names of the deceased on it placed in Fort Scott.”
The memorial stone will be financed through personal and business donations.
“If you would like more information on the Mayhew Cemetery, please stop by OFGS Library or give me a call,” Hurd said.
OFGS’s phone number is 620-223-3300 or her email address is email@example.com. The office is located on National Avenue, in the basement of Memorial Hall.
Ann Rawlins is a librarian at Old Fort Genealogical Society and recently assisted Hurd on the project.
The site for Mayhew Cemetery No. 2 was unknown until Rawlins’ twin brother, Dr. Wayne R. Tucker, used lidar photography of the area. He found that there were two separate locations that were divided by a low channel.
“Once this was discovered…and we had located and recorded GPS coordinates of several surface items,” Rawlins said, “we have been authorized…to dig, but are still working on surface finds.”
“There are many buried in Mayhew who would never have been posted in the local newspapers or death records, so the total number of burials may never be known,” Rawlins said.
“Robert J. Hoard, Ph.D., State Archeologist of Kansas Historical Society is investigating the sites,” Rawlins said, “and has now classified them as historic and archeological cemeteries.”
Currently, a moratorium is in effect that Fort Scott city crews can only brush hog the area to maintain it, and no further damage to the site can be done.
The document is signed by former Fort Scott City Manager Dave Martin and authorized by the Fort Scott City Commissioners, Rawlins said.
For an upcoming information event on the Mayhew Cemetery:
To donate to the memorial: