A Visit to "The Kingdom" ~Tanya Hanson

When I learned that my friend Nancy’s cousin has a historic cemetery with a Cole Younger connection on his land, I knew I had to find out more about it and the folks buried there.

 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?


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43 thoughts on “A Visit to "The Kingdom" ~Tanya Hanson”

  1. When I was in Ireland for a clan reunion, we visted many cematariies where many of our clan were buried. One intersting headstone that I saw was the name of “Patrick O’Donnell” which is my brothes name, but this Patrick happned to have died at a very young age in 1600 something. I took a picture of the grave marker to show my brother when we got home. Other than that time, I am not really one for looking at headstones in the cemetary.

  2. How interesting! I love old cemeteries. The stories you could glean from the graves if only they could talk. I think it would be wonderful to have a cemetery in my backyard. To be the caretaker of a piece of history would truly be something. I hate to see graves fall into neglect. Makes me so sad. So kudos to your friend Nancy’s cousin for keeping those on the property in good shape! Thanks for such a great blog.

  3. Hi Kathleen, yikes, seeing one’s name on a tombstone LOL. I bet your brother thought that was a cool souvenir. My interest in old cemeteries might have started in college when we, for art projects, had to go “rubbings” of headstones, with charcoal and rice paper. The old cemetery in town had lots of ’em. Thanks so mu for posting today!

  4. Hi Linda , I agree, neglect seems disrespectful somehow. Most touching are the graves of little ones. Sigh. In Boston, I enjoyed, whether that’s the right word or not, seeing Cotton Mather’s grave and in Philadelphia, that of Ben Franklin. Made them seem more real somehow. Thanks for the post, filly sister!

  5. What an interesting post! I love cemeteries. My grandparents are buried not far from a headstone reading ‘Gone and Forgotten’. The grandchildren of this family plan to change it after all of her children are gone but it is sad to see. There is a gentleman here in Nebraska that gives talks, complete with pictures, based on his travels around cemetaries. He films interesting headstones and had heard about this one but had never located it. Because I saw an article about him in a paper, I contacted him and he traveled to film it and other. There is also a headstone in that same cemetery that is like an old treestump that says ‘Our Birdie has flown away’ and at the bottom is a carving of a dead bird.

    When my friend and I travel we will stop in cemeteries to see what unusual ones we can find. Sometimes we take our lunch and eat surrounded by the peaceful quiet and there are usually water and a restroom nearby.

  6. Hi Tanya,
    Here, in town, we have a “Pioneer” cemetary. It has recently been helped to come back by our Cemetary committee. All the weeds were removed and the headstones put upright. Lots of really old family names.
    But, there is my favorite one in the Kern River Valley, by Lake Isabella. Actually by Onyx. I have stopped there many times, not only to rest, but to meander through the headstones. It is all dirt, but it is taken care of.

  7. Hi Connie, we sound like kindred spirits. I loved the cemetery outside my college down…going back years later, when we were in Nebraska for a wedding, I was so surprised how big it had “grown” since my college days. Sheesh. Such history. Thanks for spending time with me today.

  8. HI Mary J, oh, the stories that pioneer cemetery could tell! I always find children s’ graves the most poignant. Their stories never got told. So we should do it for ’em, no? Thanks for visiting Wildflower Junction today.

  9. Interesting post, Tanya. I too like graveyards if they have historical significance.

    My cousins and I visited Buzzards Cove, Tennessee several summers ago and while near we visited an old graveyard where our great-grandmother was buried. It was all grown up and we were warned there might be snakes. So, we tread carefully as we moved through the thick grass. Suddenly my legs started stinging (I was wearing shorts) and I quickly made my way out. Learned I’d been in bull nettle. I was miserable the remainder of the day.

    I’ve heard a quick cure for the sting is urine, but wasn’t about to try it.

  10. Tanya, I’m a cemetery freak. Growing up, we lived across the street from a big park that was adjacent to the main cemetery. Well, you can just imagine what us kids did. We’d jump over the fence into the cemetery and go read the headstones and make up stories about what might have happened to the people.

    My mom was from a very small town, and she’d tell stories about different things that happened when she was growing up–tragedies that a young girl would always remember. When we’d go down there to visit, of course, many times we’d go to the cemetery. There was a child’s grave that had no headstone. It was covered with abalone shells, marbles, and at one time when I was very young, there were some other toys there, too. That was really sad. As a mom, I can only imagine how torn I might feel to go to my child’s grave and see his toys there. I don’t think I could do it.

    When we were passing through TN last summer we stayed at a Ramada Inn that had an ancient cemetery right there beside the parking lot–the tombstones were from the 1600-1800’s. I was just so amazed that it was right there in the front door.

    Loved this post. I never knew all this history. Very interesting!

  11. Hi Linda, laughing out loud. I can understand avoiding this home remedy. But I remember nettle stings and rashes from my ramblings as a kid in the Sierras. Buzzards Cove sounds like an awesome name for a setting, and searching for a great-grandma’s grave is a marvelous story seed!

    Oh, good luck at LASR where you’ve been nominated for Book of the Year. I already voted!

  12. Hi Cheryl, we had a hotel once right next to a cemetery in Nebraska. Yes, that was the view from our room. I didn’t have time that visit to go exploring, though.

    Not long ago we visited Point Arena, way north in California. On a walk one morning, I found a very forgotten cemetery but yes, some of the graves were decorated with long-lost toys. I’ve got lots of pix…I sense another “cemetery” blog coming on.

    Thanks for the post, filly sister!

  13. That’s a wonderful, little known piece of history. It would be fun to travel and see the old stones.

    My cousin asked me to find the headstones of distant relatives who lived in Oregon in the 1800’s. They are in a pioneer cemetery in Oregon City. My husband and I made it a point to look for them last year when I was in the valley for a book signing. It was fun, wandering among the old stones, looking for the right names and dates. Gives you a feeling of where you came from.

  14. Hi Paty, that sounds like a search I’d like to do! And I agree, somehow their spirits “talk”. My origins stem from far across the sea, but also Missouri pioneers. I should go explore, for sure. I started an ancestry search (my goal for 2013) recently, so maybe I’ll find out some irresistible details. Thanks for stopping, Paty!

  15. Don’t you love that name for the cemetery–The Kingdom. How wonderful to think of loved ones and friends iin the Kingdom of God.
    Old cemeteries–lands, yes, I’ve tromped around in my share. My older and younger sisters worked on research for years to get us into Daughters of the Republic of Texas. They live in N. Texas, where all our ancestors are buried, and since they live near each other, and since the like to do geneology work (I do not), they did almost all the work. However, I did take several weekends to meet with them up there and we searched for old cemeteries over a lot of counties. Some of them were on ranches, private, and we’d have to find the ranch house and ask persmission to visit the cemetery. No one ever turned us down, and in fact, all were in horrible deterioating shape. Such a shame. But one by one, we found our ancesters.
    However, to this day, we have not found dear Aunt Lizzie. She was not important to our proving our Texas ancestery–we just wanted to find her.

  16. Tanya, I lived next to a cemetery as I was growing up. Loved it and the people buried there became my imaginary playmates. One of the headstones were from the Blizzard of 88 that killed a teacher and some of her students as she tried to lead them to safety. Years later I married the great grandson of one of those who found them.

    One of the stories the gentleman from North Platte tells about cemetaries is that a town here in Nebraska refused to bury a former slave in the cemetary but allowed him to be buried outside the fence. Many years later the town moved the fence.

    Thanks so much for sharing this information today.

  17. I love old cemeteries, too. Occupational hazard of a historical fiction writer, I suppose. 🙂
    I’ve got three cemeteries near me that I like to visit. One I haven’t been to for years and this makes me want to go back. About a mile north of my house, on an old country road is a tiny cemetery they call the Catholic Cemetery. It’s neglected, though I think in recent years it’s been restored somewhat. The most recent burial there has been in my married lifetime but most of the graves are older and they are my husband’s ancestors. Not exclusively but lots and lots of Connealys are buried there. Including his grandparents and one baby brother.
    I love that place. I used to take my kids over to it and we’d walk among the few headstones and I’d say, “That’s your Grandpa Tom’s double-first cousin Helen’s parents, they built the house we live in now.”
    Or, “that’s your Great-grandma and Great-grandpa Connealy, they are Grandpa Tom’s parents and their house is….
    It was a great way to keep the family history alive.

  18. The town where I still go to church, we’re in the country between two small towns, was my mother in law Marybelle’s hometown and her roots are really deep. Her ancestors helped found the town and there are streets and townships named for them. This is her father’s MOTHER’S family. She was especially proud of that line, and she has the paperwork to make herself and my daughters, eligible to belong to the Daughter of the American Revolution.
    I’d drive into town on Memorial weekend and go to the cemetery with Marybelle and she loved to walk into the really old parts of the cemetery and talk about the town founders and tell personal, funny and some really impressive stories about these pioneers.

  19. The third cemetery is in the other little town near me and that is an old, old community. The second oldest settlement in Nebraska. Walking around in the old parts of that and trying to read the weathered, tilted headstones is like a walk into history.

  20. Tanya,
    Great post. I like strolling through older cemetaries as well. Not only is there so much history and fodder for ‘what if’ thinking, but it’s a great source for names of bygone eras. There are several small, almost forgotten cemetaries in the countryside that are especially interesting to visit

  21. Hi, Tanya. I’m Nancy’s cousin who has the honor of being caretaker for The Kingdom Cemetery. My husband and I moved to the land in 2005. Please come visit. Each person buried on Kingdom Hill have a story to tell. Some tragic and some joyous. Jo

  22. What fascinating history, Tanya. Made me wish I could visit that cemetery, too. There’s a book right there.
    My next historical (THE BALLAD OF EMMA O’TOOLE, a September release) is set in Park City, UTah. One of my research books is about the old cemetery there, which dates back to the early days of the 1800’s mining boom. Some wild stories there, including people who were murdered or hanged.
    You’ll hear more about it when the book’s closer to release.

  23. We have quite a few pioneer cemeteries here where the 1849 gold rush happened. At one time I was on a committee that tried to get the cemeteries cleaned up. The strangest story I heard was a group of Boy Scouts decided to mow the weeds in one of the cemeteries on the outskirts of Placerville, CA. They removed all the headstones and after the place was neat and clean, they couldn’t remember which stone went to which grave and there were no records. 🙁

    Fun post to read, Tanya.

  24. Celia oh no! Aunt Lizzie simply must be found. At least in one of your books!

    Actually, y’all, I’m picking up some pretty fine story ideas today.

    Celia, thanks for posting, my Sweethearts of the West pal. xo

  25. Connie, that’s simply a sad story, about the slave. I’m glad the fence was moved later on. I’m sure that’s why The Kingdom buried their own.

    I know Nebraska kinda well, particularly Platte Center. Actually that’s where the hotel was right next to the cemetery.

    Thanks so much for these facts which do belong in fiction! Great details.

  26. Hi Mary, such good stuff. I hope you make it back to the cemetery soon. How wonderful to live to close to your kids’ roots. California’s too big. We spread out too much, sheesh. Funny thing, though, when my mom’s parents moved from Kansas to California (he was a pastor and got a call to a congregation), her dad’s parents and all his sibs came along, moving into nearby communities.

    And you live in a historic family home. I’m jealous! xo

  27. Mary, again jealous! What terrific family history you’ve got going. My family lore is pretty snoozer. You lucky girl. I an see how your interest in writing historical fiction got its start! xo

  28. Hi Jo, thanks so much for sharing the pictures today and for your historical tidbits. It helped me so much to put the blog together. I know, I’ve been meaning to take a girls trip with Nancy one of these summers and get some wonderful locales visited. I do intend to come meet you! Thanks again, and God bless!

  29. Hi Winnie, I so get the idea of finding truly accurate historical names. Although the names of some of my ancestors, the Olgas and the Hildas, probably wouldn’t make it as heroines for my books, I really don’t like historical fiction that uses made up or too modern of names. (Kathleen Woodiwiss comes to mine, but who am I to critique a bajillion-selling author, sheesh.)

    When we were in Boston, we visited the supposed grave of “Mother Goose.” xo

  30. Howdy Elizabeth, you know I can’t wait for it! I know how much fun you must have had researching your upcoming book.

    We visited the long-abandoned mining country of Southern California last summer, and the legends still abound! What crazy towns and lifestyles that era was. (okay, not very grammatical but you get the drift LOL.)

  31. Hi Paisley, oh Placerville is one of my favorite places ever! I’ll be thinking of this story again and again, the lost and mixed up gravestones. Very funny even if a tad sad. Thanks so much for posting today, and congrats on your release!

  32. No stories here but there is a graveyard near where I live. I have walked through it a few time and there are a lot of old stones in it that you can’t read the names on anymore.

  33. Hi Quilt Lady, kinda sad to be forgotten, your name washed away by time. But somehow intriguing, too. I so appreciate you commenting today! Wish I could take a walk their with you.

  34. Glad Jo was able to see this. We had two cemeteries close to our home in NE. One is at a Lutheran Church that is still in use. The other is a Seventh Day Advantist which is a historical site now. They mow it once a year for Memorial Day. Asparagus grows wild on it which we harvest. It’s very interesting to read the grave stones and sad to see all the children’s graves. Interesting info!

  35. Hi Nancy, I sure thank you for realizing I’d love to post on this wonderful old cemetery ~and thanks to Jo, too. I remember the asparagus cemetery when we were there for your son’s wedding. And kids’ graves are the saddest, that’s for sure.

    Thanks for everything!

  36. We visit cemeteries when we travel. They are interesting and tell much about the area and the culture. The most interesting ones we have visited were in Quebec Province. I noticed the husband’s and wive’s had different last names on the same tombstone. They list the woman’s full maiden name: Mary Ellen Smith, wife of Donald Arthur Gagne. the husband would be listed by his name. I can’t remember exactly how children or single women were listed. Whether it was: Anne Marie child of Donald Arthur Gagne and Mary Ellen Smith or Anne Marie daughter of Donald Arthur and Mary Ellen Gagne. Listing the wife by maiden name does make ancestry research easier.
    We passed one church with rows of grave markers only inches apart in the row and the rows only a foot or two apart. There was no way anyone in a coffin could have been buried under them. There was no one at the church to ask. I finally went to a small store nearby and asked. The church needed to expand its building and parking lot and had no land but the cemetery. They chose to move all the stones for display then build and pave over the graves.

    I do have some interesting stories about cemeteries overseas, but there isn’t time here.

  37. Well girls, I also like visiting cemeteries. I also had great.and great-great grandfathers fought in the long ago wars. We used to live in a little town in KS. that is in Ghost-town books. Elgin, KS. My husband and his family lived their from early 1900’s so are much older. At one time his grandpa was the Sheriff. I don’t know when the place was founded, but it was the place that the cowboys drove the cattle to put on trains. Across the street from where I lived there was still a big dip in the field near the fence where the cattle were driven to get rid of ticks, etc. before being able to load them onto the train. A very old western town. We used to visit the old cemetery there. What touched me at the numbers of children there. I remember one couple who had 4 children buried there, all before the age of two. I can’t imagine that. Always wondered about their stories. There was a few with no tombstones anymore. Also found out there were several old family ones way back in trees. No longer cared for. Wouldn’t even know from the road. Was sad! Lots of history there. And wish I could remember the many tales I heard while living there. We also went to a town about 14 mi. away, Sedan, Ks. to stroll the cemetery for most of his family were buried there. Tho they lived in Elgin, the grandparents were buried in the own. So, the others followed. You see, we had to go to that little town to go to the PO, Gro, etc. All we had was a small cafe. Maxie

  38. Sorry, shd. have read my writing before submitting. The cattle were driven thru this big vat that had stuff to kill all of the ticks. That was why the big dip was there. And, my great grandfathers are buried in a small TX. town, Kosse.

  39. While this story of the Younger brothers is being talked about, I wanted to say the Younger Brother’s gang and 2 others(can’t remember the names) were killed in Coffeyville, Ks. while robbing the bank. They have a bldg. there with momentos, and the original bank fault and large photos of the gangsters lying on the sidewalk all in a row after being shot! The story was told that the only reason they were caught was greed. There was another Bank across the street and they robbed them both at once! You could get postcards and information about them in that museum. Maxie

  40. Tanya, what a great story! Good for Charles Younger for freeing his and Elizabeth’s children, and making sure they were educated. Thank you for sharing their history.

    I, too, love to visit old cemeteries. Several years ago I traveled with a friend to San Saba, Texas, where some of her ancestors had lived. She wanted to locate their graves. We learned about an old cemetery outside of town and drove out there. Not only did my friend find the graves she was looking for, but we also discovered a very old head stone leaning against the back of one the ones she’d found. Writing was still visible on it. to our amazement the stone was for another ancestor of hers, probably the father of the man whose head stone it leaned against. The birth date was from the late 18th century, shortly after the Revolutionary War. Were we thrilled to see this? You know it!

  41. Hi Patricia, great info! For a sec I wondered if they put the caskets upright LOL to cram them in. Kind of a practical solution when needing more parking, I guess. We have a local park, Cemetery Park, that is built over a forgotten graveyard, but I think somebody has records somewhere. Kinda practical, too.

    Would love to hear more of your cemetery stories, Patricia. Thanks for posting!

  42. Hi Maxie, wow, what wonderful details, I sure hope you’re a writer with that trove of goodies! I had distant relatives in Coffeeville…I seriously need to do some ancestral exploring, for sure.

    Thanks for sharing these nice posts with me today!

    Lyn, wow, what a great surprise! I just love history when it actually “touches” us. So good to see you here!

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