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Cemetery suit headed for federal court
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Accession/Serial #: MO4390__.467   BLM Serial #: MO NO S/N
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  Patent Description     Legal Land Description     Document Image     Certified Copy  
Acres: 160
Metes/Bounds: No
Title Transfer
Issue Date: 3/1/1846
Land Office: Plattsburg
Cancelled: No
U.S. Reservations: No
Mineral Reservations: No
Authority: April 24, 1820: Sale-Cash Entry (3 Stat. 566)
Document Numbers
Document Nr.: 537
Accession/Serial Nr.: MO4390__.467
BLM Serial Nr.: MO NO S/N

While the battle to save several family cemeteries on property slated for development at Kansas City

International Airport (KCI) has been in the local media for the last year, the story may soon go national

with a move to federal court.

Late last month, an action was filed in the US District Court of Western Missouri asking for expedited

action approving the identification and possible relocation of several cemeteries which lie in the path of


Olin Miller, a familiar local figure who has been involved with this issue from the start, has a vested

interest in the case, as a descendent of those interred in the KCI area. He is sextant of the more than 120-

year-old Miller-Rixey cemetery.

“Progress may be necessary, and desirable, but history need not be destroyed by it,” Miller said. “To assure

the speediest discovery and removal of all the affected graveyards and unknown graves, if that is what is

necessary, this court action is a positive step.”

The federal lawsuit preceded a motion to stay a state court action in Platte County, presided over by Judge

Abe Shafer. In that case, the City of Kansas City was unable to demonstrate it owned two of the cemeteries

it asked permission of the Court to relocate.

Another descendent of those buried in the area has also joined the cause, asking for consideration for

African-American slaves buried in both marked and unmarked graves. Last spring, Miller, historian Shirley

Kimsey and other concerned citizens believe they located a slave cemetery possibly containing 80 graves.

“How shall we bring to these slaves and indentured servants fulfillment of the promise made to them when

they were granted citizenship under the United States Constitution?” said descendent Oralee Watkins.

“Isn’t this a great opportunity for all of us to work together to prove America is without exception the land

of the free?”

Watkins is the daughter of Warren Watkins, who said that according to the United States Census, Platte

County was home to 300 slaves in 1830 and 4,000 in 1860.

“Not everyone fled on the Underground Railroad to Kansas,” he said. “Most were buried here in Platte


And while the area holds obvious significance for the descendents of those buried there, it also holds

national significance, according to archeologist Dr. Mark Raab.

“Platte County history, once ignored, has come to be regarded as one of the most significant of the pre- and

post-Civil War era,” Raab said. “The ‘border wars’ may have been the first skirmishes and then battles of

what became the War Between the States. These grounds were settled long before Europeans arrived, by

Native Americans. Prairie, farms and plantations hold keys to the story of how our Missouri River basin

evolved to what it is today. The area is covered with treasures which do not have to prevent or even slow

down development — indeed — history and development can enhance each other.”

Platte County falls within the areas already recognized in the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area

Act, which was signed into law in 2006 by President George W. Bush. In this program, 37 regions across

the nation are recognized, including eastern Kansas and western Missouri, for distinctive history, culture

and landscape that tell the story of the quest for national and individual freedom.

Miller has suggested the City of Kansas City set aside five acres near the existing Miller-Rixey cemetery

for the proper relocation of burial grounds, and maintain the area as parkland.

As two of the cemeteries in question are in the vicinity of the proposed Bombardier Aerospace assembly

plant, it does behoove the City to resolve the relocation and ownership issues.

Senate Bill 1234, sponsored by Sen. Charlie Shields, is currently moving through the Missouri Senate, and

is the first step in bringing the Bombardier plant to KCI. The bill would allow the Missouri Department of

Economic Development to offer state assistance to Canada-based Bombardier to build a $375 million

passenger jet assembly plant.

Despite late opposition, R-3 bond issue passes easily

Many Platte County R-3 School District patrons arrived home on Monday evening and discovered a

postcard in their mailboxes urging them to vote against the R-3 bond issue on Tuesday. Apparently, most of

those patrons paid little attention to the direct mail piece, sent by a committee called Platte Countians for

Tax Relief.

More than 68 percent of the 2,318 R-3 patrons in Platte County who cast ballots voted for the $7.95 million

bond issue, which will fund new elementary classrooms at Paxton School, renovations at the current Barry

School, a new vocal music room at Platte County High School and various other improvements, including

parking lot and playground projects. The final unofficial vote in Platte County was 1,560 for and 717


“We are very appreciative of the continued support we receive from the community,” R-3 Superintendent

Dr. Mark Harpst said. “We look forward to another project that will benefit our students and patrons for

many years to come.”

Harpst declined to comment on the opposition direct mailer.

Tombstones, fences, destroying or mutilating in abandoned family or private cemetery, penalty--abandoned or private burying ground, defined.

214.131. Every person who shall knowingly destroy, mutilate, disfigure, deface, injure or remove any tomb, monument or gravestone, or other structure placed in any abandoned family cemetery or private burying ground, or any fence, railing, or other work for the protection or ornamentation of any such cemetery or place of burial of any human being, or tomb, monument or gravestone, memento, or memorial, or other structure aforesaid, or of any lot within such cemetery is guilty of a class A misdemeanor. For the purposes of this section and subsection 1 of section 214.132, an "abandoned family cemetery" or "private burying ground" shall include those cemeteries or burying grounds which have not been deeded to the public as provided in chapter 214, and in which no body has been interred for at least twenty-five years.

(L. 1987 H.B. 60 § 1)

Visiting abandoned family or private burying ground surrounded by private property, right of access, when, enforcement by sheriff --court's power to disinter.

214.132. 1. Any person who wishes to visit an abandoned family cemetery or private burying ground which is completely surrounded by privately owned land, for which no public ingress or egress is available, shall have the right to reasonable ingress or egress for the purpose of visiting such cemetery. This right of access to such cemeteries extends only to visitation during reasonable hours and only for purposes usually associated with cemetery visits.

2. The sheriff or chief law enforcement officer of the county in which the abandoned family cemetery or private burying ground is located shall enforce the provisions of subsection 1 of this section.

3. Nothing in section 214.131 and this section shall be construed to limit or modify the power or authority of a court in any action of law or equity to order the disinterment and removal of the remains from a cemetery and interment in a suitable location.

(L. 1987 H.B. 60 §§ 2, 3, A.L. 1997 S.B. 58)

Registry of cemeteries to be kept by division--fee may be charged for copies--surveyor locating unregistered cemetery to file with division, form.

214.283. The division shall establish and maintain a registry of cemeteries and the registry shall be available to the public for review at the division office or copied upon request. The division may charge a fee for copies of the register.

(1) If, in the course of a land survey of property located in this state, a surveyor licensed pursuant to chapter 327, RSMo, locates any cemetery which has not been previously registered, the surveyor shall file a statement with the division regarding the location of the cemetery. The statement shall be filed on a form as defined by division rule. No fee shall be charged to the surveyor for such filing.

(2) Any person, family, group, association, society or county surveyor may submit to the division, on forms provided by the division, the names and locations of any cemetery located in this state for inclusion in the registry. No fee shall be charged for such submissions.

(A.L. 1994 S.B. 496 § 214.280 subsec. 3)

Violation of nuisance ordinance--abandonment--action authorized--costs--eminent domain.

214.205. 1. If any cemetery not described in section 214.090 is found to be in violation of a city, town, village or county nuisance ordinance for failure to cut grass or weeds, or care for graves, grave markers, walls, fences, driveways or buildings, the governing body of such city, town, village or county shall be authorized to take those actions necessary to restore and maintain the cemetery, and the governing body shall be authorized to charge the expenses of such actions against the cemetery. If actions are taken by a city, town, village or county pursuant to this subsection, the city, town, village or county may assess all true costs of restoration, maintenance and operation against any responsible person, partnership or corporation whether such person, partnership or corporation is a lessee, lessor, equitable title holder or legal title holder to the unmaintained cemetery. Any city, town, village or county which assesses costs pursuant to this section reserves the right to pursue any and all legal, equitable or criminal remedies to collect such assessed costs. Any city, town, village or county which pursues a civil remedy pursuant to this section may employ independent attorneys and law firms to collect the costs of restoration, maintenance and operation of any unmaintained cemetery.

2. As used in this section, the term "abandoned cemetery" means any cemetery, except one described in section 214.090, in which, for a period of at least one year, there has been a substantial failure to cut grass or weeds or care for graves, grave markers, walls, fences, driveways and buildings or for which proper records have not been maintained pursuant to section 214.340. Whenever the attorney general determines the existence of an abandoned cemetery in this state, the attorney general shall immediately proceed to dissolve the cemetery corporation owning the same. Upon the dissolution of such corporation, title to all property owned by the cemetery corporation shall vest in the municipality or county in which the cemetery is located, and the endowed care fund, together with all investments then outstanding, and all books, records and papers of such corporation shall be transferred to the treasurer of such municipality or county and shall become the property thereof. Upon the transfer of such property and funds, the governing body of such municipality or county shall care for and maintain such cemetery with any moneys of the cemetery corporation, including the principal of and income from the endowed care funds, and, if such moneys are insufficient to properly maintain such cemetery, then it may use funds of the municipality or county.

3. In addition to those powers granted the attorney general in subsection 2 of this section, every municipality or county in which any abandoned cemetery is located may acquire through its power of eminent domain such cemetery, together with all endowed care funds, maintenance equipment, books and records, accounts receivable and other personal property used or created in the operation of the cemetery and owned or controlled by the person or association which owns the cemetery. The municipality or county shall acquire the cemetery and related property subject to the rights of owners of burial lots or other interment spaces. Upon so acquiring the cemetery and related property, the acquiring municipality or county shall operate and maintain the cemetery as a public cemetery. The municipality or county which so acquires an abandoned cemetery shall not be liable for any act or transaction which occurred prior to such acquisition, including, without limitation, any obligation to third parties or incorrect lot ownership or burial records.

(L. 1990 H.B. 1079)

New Information
Suggested MO Statute Changes
Iowa Cemeteries Statute
Iowa Cemeteries Statute

Related Links
RSMO Missouri Chapter 214
RSMO Missouri Chapter 214
RSMO Missouri Chapter 194
RSMO Missouri Chapter 194
CSR MO Endowed Cemeteries
Endowed Care Cemeteries - Professional Registration
Oregon Historic Cemeteries Commission
Abandoned Cemetery Legislation Virginia
Indiana Cemetery Law General
Indiana Pioneer Cemetery Restoration
Abandoned & Historic Cemetery Legislation Washington
Pioneer Cemetery Statutes - Nebraska


"Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead, and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals."    -    William Gladstone
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Jan 13, 2010, 7:43 AM