In 1854, a 5-acre tract of farmland was sold to the City of Lexington, Missouri by William Smarr and his wife. It was designated for use as a “public cemetery.” In 1864, Mr. Smarr was killed by Union soldiers because of his Confederate sympathies. We have not determined who was buried on the land from 1854 to 1872. Two of possibilities are that it was used as a potters’ field, or a burial ground for slaves living in Lexington.
In 1872, the County Surveyor (B. Bliss) was ordered to plot out the cemetery, and he made his report shortly thereafter. At this point, it was referred to as the “Negro cemetery.”
The City of Lexington officially deeded the property on October 25, 1890. Here is an excerpt from the quit claim deed:
Whereas the city of Lexington in the County of Lafayette in the State of Missouri by a resolution passed by its City council at a meeting held in the council chamber October 23, 1890 and approved by the Mayor which said resolution appears in full in the record of the proceedings of the council meetings of said City, instructed and directed the Mayor of said City of Lexington for an on behalf of said city to convey by quit claim deed all the right, title and interest that the said City of Lexington may have, own or hold in and to the real estate hereinafter described. Now therefore know all Men by these Presents that the City of Lexington of the County of Lafayette in the State of Missouri party of the first part and Israel Burls, W. Henry Claus, George Jones, Henry Hall and Simon Lewis, trustees for the colored people of Lexington, parties of the second part.
. . . .
To have and to hold the same with all the rights, immunities, privileges and appurtenances there to belonging unto the said party of the second part and their successors forever in trust for the colored people of Lexington to be used as a grave yard and burying ground.
There was a pest house (quarantine facility) on the property.
On another historical note: On October 25, 1890, the Lexington Coal Mining Company paid the trustees $500 for an easement to “excavate and mine said coal and remove the same from under said land, and the full right of way under said land and along said veins and seams of coal and the space made vacant by the removal of such coal for the purpose of constructing and maintaining the necessary roads, tramways and other improvements and constructions for the removal of all such coal and all coal from the adjacent and neighboring lands that may be owned by said company or its assigns. . . . It is hereby agreed and understood that the said trustees aforesaid and their successors, the ministers and officers of the colored churches of the City of Lexington, and the colored people generally of said City are to have full right of ingress and egress to and from said graveyard over the lands of the said Coal Company and its assigns for the purpose of the burial of the dead therein . . . .”and shortly after the sale, the trustees gave an easement to the Lexington Coal Company so they could mine it.
The oldest headstone we can find dates to 1872.
Mary and Isaac Hayden
Mary Hayden died October 16, 1872, and her husband Isaac on October 4, 1886. We have no other information for the couple at this time.
Many of those first buried at Forest Grove were born into slavery, but as free people the scope of their labors has mirrored the times. Military veterans of domestic and foreign engagements are laid to rest among the coal miners, horsemen, smiths, farm hands, civic leaders, merchants, musicians, morticians, athletes, carpenters, cooks, domestics, barbers, educators, and construction workers who made their homes in this historic river town. Some of their stories appear elsewhere on this website.