Poor Farm crosses going back up

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

Crosses are going back up at the old Allen County Poor Farm north of town. That decision came at during Tuesday morning’s county commission meeting.
Crosses have been roadside about four miles north of Iola for decades. Whether they marked graves or were symbols is not categorically known — and probably won’t be without excavations — but most people think they marked grave sites.
The old wooden crosses were recently removed by Allen County Community College, which now owns the land. Public outcry led to their return.
New crosses, made of steel tubing, will be fashioned by David Allen, a welder who lives near Mildred.
Allen started the drive to re-install the crosses because he is convinced his great-grandfather, John Newton Watson, is buried there. Allen told commissioners he would also mow the cemetery, if no one else would, and pass the chore along to his children.
Commissioners said in-stead that mowing should become the responsibility of Carlyle Township. After County Clerk Sherrie Riebel said Carlyle Township governance was inactive and she was unsure whether the township would accept the obligation, the idea of a maintenance committee to care for the area was bandied.

THE POOR FARM dates to the late 1800s and Watson’s funeral and burial “in a little cemetery there” was documented in a May 12, 1912, story in the Register.
Over the years crosses were maintained by volunteers, including Boy Scouts and a camping group.
The Poor Farm building burned in 1933 but was replaced two years later; the building was later closed. In 1972, ACCC purchased the farm to use in its agriculture program.
John Masterson, ACCC president, reviewed why the crosses, most near collapse from rot, were removed.
Masterson said the farm manager each year arranged mowing of the cemetery, though it was complicated by a ditch that made access difficult in wet times. Access worsened this spring during prolonged wet spells.
After checking with several people with historical perspective of the area, Masterson said “nothing definitive showed it as a cemetery. We found no historical information and figured it was symbolic.” That led to the crosses being removed.
The crosses’ absence caused little more than a ripple until Allen went to see his great-grandfather’s resting place and found a patch of high grass. He called County Commissioner Gary McIntosh and the cemetery became a public issue.
Masterson said he’d like responsibility for care of the cemetery to be assigned, and “if it’s not ours, we’ll gladly relinquish it.”
McIntosh said he thought the county should be in-volved, which led to responsibility being given to Carlyle Township or a committee, whichever proves the better fit.
Commissioners said they appreciated Allen’s zeal in wanting to keep the cemetery spruced up and accepted his bid to furnish new crosses — the county will pay for materials — but thought long-term care should fall to a public body.