In 2016 improvements were made on the Gee’s Creek Cemetery, located about five miles from Jamesport, MO, in Grundy County. As you may recall, for years this cemetery was overgrown with weeds except around Memorial Day, when the grasses were burned in efforts to help visitors find graves.
One person who was very concerned about revitalizing the cemetery was J. Ray Smith. His paternal great-grandparents, George and Sarah Smith, and maternal great-grandparents, Jacob and Martha French, along with numerous other Smith and French ancestors are buried there, so the care of his ancestral resting place was close to J. Ray’s heart.
When the Nathan Neeley family moved to the house adjoining the cemetery, things begin to change. As noted in a previous article about them, the Neeley family adopted the cemetery as their pet project, making sure that it was mowed and cleaned, which included cleaning the fence rows. Though they had no loved ones buried there, they worked hard with expenses coming out of their own pocket. That in itself was a major improvement and accomplishment.
Since the Neeleys took it upon themselves to “get the ball rolling,” others have joined their efforts recognizing that there were still needed improvements.
One thing that remained was a lack of signs or gates anywhere to distinguish the name of the cemetery. Pity the cemetery researcher coming from out of the area for the first time. It was difficult to determine if this was Gee’s Creek or another of the number of rural cemeteries. If you are not a local, you have no clue.
A group called “Friends of Gee’s Creek” took care of that need. They installed a sign and a new gate on the north side of the cemetery. The gate was donated using the J. Ray Smith Memorial Fund. The letters were donated by Landmark Manufacturing, the Fabrication by Whitney’s Radiator & Welding out of Trenton, who gave materials at cost and then with a discount on top of that, too. Lest we forget, volunteers set up the gate with help of Samuel Miller and Eldon Flory.
As this is written in 2016, overgrown cemeteries seem to multiply in rural areas. The reasoning that one person cannot make a difference comes to mind and is used over and over as an excuse for not getting involved. Gee’s Creek Cemetery, however, stands out as an example of how one person, one family, one group of friends not only made a difference, but changed the course for future generations. May that be said for each of us.
— written by Lanita Sconce Smith, Daviess County Genealogical Society