Things are looking up at the poor house
Owner asks for sign for unusual grave marker
Armed with the confidence of having the county’s former poor house recently named to the state’s register of historic places, owner Nancy Marr approached county commissioners Monday with a request.
“I am here to bring concerns about the pauper graveyard at the poor farm,” Marr told commissioners. “The ‘Negro boy’ grave is a shame to Marion County.”
The graveyard is just north of the poor house on Old Mill Rd., sited on county property.
The poor farm was opened in 1890 after two years of construction work, Marr said.
Marr said people generally believe the grave holds the remains of a child who died at the poor house.
“This was a young black man who died in a freight train car,” Marr said.
No records have been found to verify Marr’s story or determine the identity of person buried there.
Marr said the grave marker has been noted in books and travel magazines, bringing shame to the county because of the appearance no one cared about his name.
“No one knows his name,” Marr said. “Marion County should be honored for taking a black person and laying him to rest with a marker. It should not be condemned.”
Commissioner Kent Becker asked Marr if she was requesting a sign that explains what really happened, and Marr said yes.
Becker said it would be nice to have the grave identified.
Commission chairman Dianne Novak asked who would be responsible to do the research.
Several suggestions were made, and commissioners agreed to see who would research the matter further. No decision was made on whether to place an additional sign at the grave.
Identifying the remains would be an added enhancement for the massive 40-room, two-story stone poor house, which was named to the state’s register of historic places in November.
Deterioration from age, weather, and remodeling by previous owners precludes the property from being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but state recognition could open the door to grant possibilities, Marr said.
“We hope that funding can come through so it could be brought up to par,” she said.
Marr hopes state recognition will spur commissioners to take responsibility for the cemetery and grave marker. Volunteers from Harvey County have been mowing and caring for the cemetery.
A second stone structure on the property may have been a military outpost during the Civil War, Marr said. A similar structure exists in Council Grove, and additional research may turn up more information, she said.
Last modified Jan. 17, 2018