This small Missouri graveyard is the last sleep for about 40 people, 26 of which are identified by death certificates. It was part of a community of former slaves called “The Kingdom.” Elizabeth, the matriarch of the community, had been owned by Cole’s grandfather, Charles Younger, a land
speculator. Charles fathered two children with her, Catherine (Kate) and Simpson, and freed them all upon his death in 1854.
His will also stated that the children be educated in a free state. At age 12, each was taken to Oberlin, Ohio, for preparatory education followed by enrollment at the college.
Elizabeth would not see her son again until he was 21.
While daughter Kate attended Oberlin (1861-2 and 1866-69), Simpson, at age 13, joined the 27th United States Colored Troops, becoming one of the youngest-ever soldiers of the Civil War. His name can be seen today on Plaque B-43 at the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington D.C. In the 1930’s, he was interviewed for one of the 93 slave narratives from the state of Missouri. After the war, Simpson pitched on one of Oberlin’s first integrated baseball teams; the college’s Resolute Baseball Team won their division.
In 1888, the light-skinned Simpson became enraged when a Kansas City theatre refused to seat his darker-colored female companion in the orchestra section which was reserved for whites. Simpson’s suit alleging equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment made it to the Missouri Supreme Court. (Although decisions all favored the theatre owner). Kate, who did not feel at home with her black family, married a white man who’s relatives shunned her. More tragic, her husband was a murder victim later on.
In addition to Kate and Simpson, Elizabeth had five more children and two husbands after Charles. The first was still a slave. He was killed in 1861 after a visit to his family, when he did not arrive back at his owner’s farm before dark. Her second husband was a freed black man who had lost his first family to influenza.
Charles Younger, who left his legitimate family in Cass County MO to live with Elizabeth, was buried on the land they shared. However, his legal wife had his body exhumed and reburied. She contested the provision in his will that gave Elizabeth the land she and Charles lived on, but his friends helped her hold onto it.
It is believed that Cole Younger and his outlaw gang stopped by “The Kingdom” whenever they headed through Missouri.
Elizabeth and her daughter Kate are buried in the cemetery. The first burial known for certain occurred in 1858, Theodore Younger, aged 4. At the last recorded burial, 1988, the cemetery had been in use for 130 years.
After acquiring the land, Nancy’s cousin cleared away overgrowth and shored up existing gravestones. His wife researched unmarked graves and they made additional markers.
I’ve always loved old cemeteries, the more forgotten the better, and I can’t wait to visit this “living history” if I ever get close!
How about you? Any cemetery stories to share?