This site has a copyright all rights are reserved. You may link to this site.Welcome to our Knoles Cemetery Restoration Project site!
These orange stakes are unmarked graves. 239 of them! Two more were found after brush was cleared. Please help me find names for them, since the tombstones are gone. The latest burial makes 242.
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History of the Cleveland County, Pottawatomie County area:
After the Shawnee and Pottawatomie Indians chose their allotments the land was prepared for land opening. On 2 May 1890 the first census had only two townships in County 3, Norman and Noble. Then on 24 May 1890 the Cleveland County area was called Little River County, then temporarily it was called "Third County" or County 3. On 25 Aug 1890 the voters elected the county name as "Cleveland County". On 22 Sep 1891 Shawnee-Pottawatomie Land Run extended the eastern boundary of Cleveland County 6 1/2 miles. The northern boundary was moved south from the present day 59th street to 89th street of Oklahoma County. The results increased the size of the county by about 1/3. The Land Run of 1891 brought a flood of hopeful residents into the county. The signs for the original boundary for the Pottawatomie Reservation can still be seen when driving down Highway 9 and I-40.
The Historically significant Knoles Cemetery (formerly Pleasant Ridge Cemetery) is a one-acre cemetery, located on a small hill one tenth of a mile west of Harrah Newalla Road, and on the north side of Franklin Road, slightly west of the intersection at 19135 E. Franklin Road. The legal land description describes it in the southwest corner of the southeast corner of four acres prior to the current use of metes and bounds that describes land in the number of feet. The Knoles School/Church/Cemetery’s four acres is in the southeast corner of the 160 acres in southeast quarter in Section 2 Township 9 Range 1 East. Then the cemetery is in the southwest corner of these four acres.
Lillie Frazey, a baby of George W. Frazey is buried next to him and would have been buried in the cemetery on 25 Feb 1893. George and his family had been in the territory since 1887. His children may have been the first to be buried there though Mr. Knoles said that an old indian that lived at the river bottom, Pecan Creek and was the first to be buried there. This Indian might have been Chief Ellis. He died in 1883. Yet the Knoles family said that this Chief was a friend to Martin Knoles and Martin did not arrive in the area until 1893. Another person said that they remembered a tombstone dating back to the 1870's. This would have been the time that the land was being surveyed in preparation for the allotments and land opening so perhaps a surveyor died and was buried there. This tombstone is missing.
The Flint and Farnsworth families came to this area as missionaries and were teachers there. This information is found in the Advent Newspapers. Martin Knoles is first listed on the 1893 Tax Rolls for Little River but didn't file a land patent on his land until 1903. The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald had an article in 1894 stating that 5 people (Horace, Mary and Luther Flint, Ermina and Irvin Farnsworth) had started a Seventh Day Adventist School in Linden at 149th and Harrah Newalla Road , the other was Pleasant Ridge (Knoles) at Franklin and Harrah Newalla Road. This family had been Seventh Day Baptist and converted to Seventh Day Adventist. Ermina (Flint) Farnsworth was a school teacher and had taught Seventh Day Adventist School in Kansas in the 1880's. Her husband, Irvin E. Farnsworth, was the Pastor for the church when it began. In 1894, that same year, the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald wrote another article about a Seventh Day Adventist Church being started in the area. The church and school was called Pleasant Ridge and must have been started about the same time. Lena Knoles had a Methodist prayer book that was inscribed "Riverdale Sunday School, Linden 1894. It is possible that the schoolhouse was a school building Monday-Friday, Pleasant Ridge Church on Saturday and Riverdale on Sunday.
Martin Van Buren Knoles patented his 160 acres for $14.73, which somehow contained the school, church and cemetery, also some of the town of Linden in 1903. This was less than 10 cents and acre. He sold these four acres of land, after he gained it in his land patent, to the Pleasant Ridge School District # 65, on April 19, 1906 for $60.00. At this rate his $14 investment would have been worth $2,400.
The school was still called Pleasant Ridge in 1910 and remained so until about 1914. During the early 1900-1917 the school name could be found listed in various places as both Knoles and Pleasant Ridge.
Knoles Cemetery and School land is just south of the ghost town of Linden Township, which was located on the northeastern edge within Martin Van Buren Knoles' 160 acres of land. Linden’s town center was at SE 164th and Harrah Newalla Road. Another reference puts it at SE 134th and Harrah Newalla Road. Reading old newspapers Linden, and Pleasant Ridge sometimes are the same and other times the towns are listed separately. A few times the newspaper even listed the town as Knoles but this town name never caught on.
Knoles Cemetery is in the vicinity of the current towns of Newalla, and the community of Little Axe of Cleveland County, Oklahoma and Pink of Pottawatomie County. The Pottawatomie County line is one mile east, with the old Pottawatomie County line (Reservartion boundary) six miles west. Knoles Cemetery is eleven miles south of Newalla, eight miles northeast of Little Axe, and three miles northwest of Pink and 18 miles from Norman. It lies four miles east of Lake Thunderbird which was put in in the 1960-1970's. In the 1890's the cemetery was within the Pottawatomie County area. One of the Indian burial grounds for the Shawnee Indians was where Lake Thunderbird is today. It has been moved to a newly created burial ground (in 1970's) AST Cemetery though many of the Indians are buried on their allotments all over this area. Some are said to have been buried at Knoles. Before restoration began there were piles of logs about 3-4 feet long laid widthwise and 6-8 feet long laid lenghtwise. In between there was soil. This is the way the Shawnee Indians buried their dead. When the members of the tribe were asked they denied that any of their tribe could be buried at Knoles even before the creation of the AST Cemetery even though Martin Knoles stated his Indian friend was buried there. At the time it was not known that this was the way that the Shawnee Indians buried their dead so the rotted wood logs were cleaned up for easier mowing.
The Linden community was established shortly after the land run of 1889 and the post office of Linden was established on October 17, 1893. The Linden Post Office was annexed into the Newalla Post Office and discontinued January 24, 1906 effective February 14, 1906. The first Post Master was James L. Swailes. Mr. Swailes also owned the Merchantile where Fred Knoles was a clerk. Fred was the son of Martin Knoles. If Pleasant Ridge had a Post Office the information has not been discovered.
The name Pleasant Ridge cemetery is found in government documents titled “Headstones provided for Union Civil War Veterans 1879-1903”, attached to George W. Frazey’s name, which is a Civil War Veteran that was interred in the Knoles Cemetery on 26 Jun 1896. An unknown researcher also has ancestors of his family listed as buried in Linden. The 1890 Veteran’s Census and several of the censuses in the 1900’s list the area as Little River, not Linden or Pleasant Ridge. One map shows the area of Little River to contain all of 9-1E, but some of the early tax rolls list it as Norman.
Knoles Cemetery (aka Pleasant Ridge Cemetery) is the only cemetery within at least eight miles in Cleveland County and within four miles crossing into Pottawatomie County. The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald stated that the area was full of Germans, Absentee Shawnee Indians and Pottawatomie Indians. One portion of this Little River area on the 1892 Tax Rolls was nearly exclusively Indians. The Little Jim's, Pecan's, Hale's, Wall's and many others. The Indians were encouraged to give up their Indian ways and "take up the white man ways."
Two people of the Linden Community were inventors. Lucinda Wilson was a woman inventor from Linden. In 1903 Lucinda and Charles Wilson patented the “Cotton Picking Bag. Charles Wilson patented the envelope in 1904.
Martin Van Buren Knoles was a Representative of the Shawnee or Pottawatomie Nation appointed by the Oklahoma Governor and accompanied the Shawnee or Pottawatomie Chief to Washington D.C. for Indian Bureau business. His granddaughter said he was an interpreter for them. It is said that the Pottawatomie Chief met one of his wive in Washinton D.C. Martin Knoles was also a delegate for 9NR1E to the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention and voted whether Oklahoma became a state in 1907. Martin Knoles participated in the elections with colorful Oklahomans like Peter Hanraty, Charles N. Haskell and William “Alfalfa Bill” Murray, the Convention President. Martin Knoles and his family are buried at Knoles Cemetery. He was frequently call upon to serve as a juror
In 1910, a 15-year-old boy, Luscian King Truscott Jr, was a student at Stella School, who lived in the Little River Community . His father was a physician in the area. In 1912, he wrote a letter to Fred Knoles asking to teach at Knoles School. He was given the job to teach under another teacher and roomed with the Fred and Sarah Knoles family. Later, in 1917 he joined the Army and was accepted at West Point. He became a Four Star General, who successfully commanded the Third Infantry Division, VI Corps, U.S. Fifteenth Army during World War II, succeeding General Patton.
The Knoles School (District # 65) functioned from 1893 until its annexation on June 3, 1947. The schoolhouse was built several times over the years. Clifford Moody wrote in his biography of the first schoolhouse being a log structure with one window and a dirt floor that was latter connected to the new schoolhouse and a family with the last name of Rogers lived in it. He mentions several of the dying. The community and school consisted of Whites, Shawnee and Pottawatomie Indians and “colored” people as stated on the school censuses. Knoles School together was not yet segregated.
Knoles school along with Red Hill was annexed into the Stella School District 19-20, and then on June 17, 1962 all of these schools were annexed into Little Axe School District 70 giving any attached land (and cemeteries) to Little Axe. The Knoles School building was sold in 1952 when the three acres of school land was sold to the C.O. Wilson's Family which was approved by his relative W.A. Wilson who sat on the C-I School Board, but a map shortly after that shows the land belonging to W.M. Wilson. It is said that the school building is in one of several places, either in Norman or sold it to a black man for a home that lived up Harrah Newalla Road, or to a man that lived south on Harrah Newalla Road that used it as a barn and painted it pink. A transaction for the sale of school land/building has not been found nor has the notice announcing the sale as required by law that the school system was selling any school property. The building from 1952 has not been found. Mr. Floyd Wilson built his house near this building site to use the school well. A 1970's map shows the school land as 3 acres. All county schools had cellars but even in this area of tornado alley, Wilson filled in a not leaking cellar. He stated he filled it in with rocks and junk he didn't need. I bet when the large tornado came through in 2013 he wished he hadn't done that. Why would you fill in a good, dry, nonleaking celler in an area prone to tornados.
The Knoles Cemetery deed consists of one acre. The School was on three acres. In 2009 the one-acre cemetery had portions of rows of graves visible. There are many more no longer seen and some extend under Wilson's drive and in his yard and horse pasture. Ground Penetrating Radar was able to show the locations of the 239 graves no longer marked. Hope still exist that someday these graves will be marked with names of the dead. Cement blocks were donated by an anonymous donor to remark these graves and tombstones are being remade to replace the missing ones.
In 2013 Wilson's daughter, Terri said that when she would visit her father in the summer as a young girl, the children were often sent out to clean up the cemetery to occupy their time. She said there were many more tombstones. One summer when she arrived the tombstones were knocked over and broken. She asked what had happened to them and Wilson told her that a tornado destroyed them. (though not their home or the trees in the cemetery.) The children were sent to put them back together and set them back up. The following summer she returned and most of them were gone. Again he told Terri that a tornado again destroyed the cemetery and the tombstones were all gone, taken away by the tornado. The website by NOAA lists every tornado that has hit Oklahoma since statehood down to the nearest intersection and no tornado is listed as damaging Knoles Cemetery or Pleasant Ridge Cemetery. Terri was taken back by this information, understanding that her father had not been telling her the truth and that he in fact had caused the destruction.
Knoles Cemetery’s legend is that there are a lot of Shawnee and Pottawatomie Indians of the community buried scattered throughout the Knoles Cemetery, including an Indian Chief. This Chief is said to have been a friend to Martin Knoles, so if this is true he had to have died between 1893-1917. It is said that some of the Indian graves were marked with fieldstones of various repeating shapes. The fieldstones were removed by the Wilson's and piled up on the side of the cemetery or buried along with some traditional tombstones. The Knoles family saw this destruction in the 1980's. When returned after running home to get a camera the tombstones were gone. Floyd and Sharon Wilson stated the tombstones were removed so that they could mow easier, though they were not asked or hired to mow. Some of these fieldstones were found off the side of the cemetery. One of the footstones found was covered in asphalt.
The legend of the Indian Chief was passed down to the Knoles descendants that, in the northwest corner of the east half of the cemetery was a burial mound of the Indian Chief. Logs were then seen stacked in a pyramidal shape encompassed this mound. The logs are now gone. This is similar to the way the Shawnee Indians graves are. The bordering neighbor, Mr. Wilson, has since leveled this mound and dug into it. Dirt has since been brought in by the caretaker in an attempt to fill this grave back in. The Wilson's dump truck was parked in this area for years and he frequently graded the cemetery to remove soil and sell it. The graves to Wilson were only worth the dirt they were buried in. Mr. Wilson stated he filled in the school cellar. Community legend is that when the neighbor filled in the cellar of the Knoles School, they filled it with tombstones from the cemetery. Several Knoles family members remember seeing them stacked up inside the Wilson's fence. Floyd stated that the 1 foot thick walls of the cellar did not leak, he just had junk to get rid of. Why would you fill in a dry cellar in Oklahoma. In 2013 a tornado came very close to his house. I am sure he was wishing he could use the cellar.
A metal detector was used in the cemetery and three very torn up, rusted, metal grave markers were found buried an inch or two under the dirt. One is thought to be the marker for Floyd Dickinson who died between 1960-1968. The I.O.O.F Cemetery verified the manufactured time frame of the marker as the correct time frame. Another has been found and it is much older. The two of the temporary markers documented by the WPA in 1936 were not found. It is not known if Mr. Dickinson is a WWI, WWII or Korean War Veteran. There is a WWII Veteran with his name and living in the general area of Pottawatomie County listed on Ancestry.com. The Dickinson's were friends with the actor James Garner, and were related to the Davis family who married the Knoles and are linked to my family. One of the Dickenson's was a Justice of the Peace, another served on the school board at District 66. A few of these metal markers are seen on a video made by the Knoles family in the 1980's.
The Doolin Family that was related to the outlaw Bill Doolin, lived in Little River at Section 21-R9N1E and in 10-1E, and is documented in the Norman Transcript as harboring Bill Doolin while he was sick in the 1890's. The neighboring Pottawatomie County was well known at that time for some of the most violent saloons of the era. The outlaws would use Pottawatomie County as a hiding spot because lawmen were not allowed to chase them into Indian Territory. John Womack wrote that Violet Springs had had so many gunshots fired that the shells covered the ground outside the saloon like gravel.
There are at least three Civil War Veterans buried at Knoles Cemetery: George W. Frazey, Company B 14th Iowa Infantry, died 23 July 1896, Horace Flint, Company K 13th Wisconsin Infantry, died January 30, 1907 and Martin Van Buren Knoles, Company A 152nd Regiment Illinois Infantry, died January 1, 1917. These men and their families evidentially migrated to the Oklahoma Territory. There may be many more veterans buried at Knoles. There are forty-nine veterans listed on the 1890 Veteran’s Census. Of these only half of their graves have been located in other cemeteries or documentation that state their location have been found. The other approximately 25 grave locations have not been located at all, nor has documentation stating the graves location. They could possibly be in this cemetery since they lived in the area. Several books about the veterans grave locations have been written but it is based on information given to the author by families so if the family did not submit information then the veterans grave information did not make it into the book. It is suspected that the records for this cemetery were destroyed when the Knoles School/Church was sold. Although Wilson liked to tease that he had them and would not give them to me, or he would tell of various different fates. The Oklahoma Conference for the Seventh Day Adventist are looking through their archives. The local newspaper for this era might lend clues to their locations.
After the Knoles Schoolhouse was sold with three acres of its land by the School Board (upon which Wilson's family member served), the cemetery was retained by the Cleveland County School System and cared for by Sarah (Alls) Knoles, the daughter-in-law of Martin Van Buren Knoles and Melena "Lena" (Davis) Knoles. Sarah formed an association for the cemetery and would insist that people come out once a month and clean up the cemetery then the clean up crew would have picnic on the cemetery grounds afterward. Sarah and Fred’s baby daughter, Jennie Vietta Knoles was buried there in 1898 and another that died without being named, its birth and death date is unknown. Sarah's daughter walked through the cemetery and wrote down a few names, also some of the information was taken from Sarah's bible. Other canvassings (WPA, Spaulding, Pickard, etc ) were done at various times but none of them contain all of the names buried at Knoles Cemetery.
After Sarah’s death in 1968, the cemetery fell into disrepair. The school did not maintain it. A member of the Cleveland County School Board was also a family member of the neighbor bordering the cemetery. The School Board Member/family member sold three of the four acres to Mr. Wilson, excluding the cemetery from the sale. Little Axe School retained the cemetery and leased the oil and gas rights to Henry Brendle for a number of years. Little Axe School had forgotten they owned it over time due to staffing changes, retirements and records being sent to storage. The Cleveland County Court Clerks Office, under Helen Jansing, had purged the court files, discarding the school records that showed the school land annexations. These records were tossed from the second story window of the Cleveland County Courthouse. An employee of another department found piled on the sidewalk and took them to John Womack who combed through them and wrote four books. Some of these records were turned over to the Cleveland County Genealogical Society.
Overtime, no one knew who owned the cemetery and no one maintained it. The bordering neighbor, Mr. Floyd Wilson, took advantage of this, running off anyone who came to the cemetery, stating he owned it, it was his front yard or it was his family cemetery. He soon started removing tombstones, and encroaching his fence. There was once wrought iron fencing with a large arched gate that had the cemetery and schools name on it that stood at the northeast corner of the cemetery. This fence and arch are gone. A new one was commission in 2013 by Lisa Westbrook. It was built by Donnie Bowman and his nephew Dalton.
Wilson's horses and farm equipment were on the west half of the cemetery where his fence encroached the cemetery toward the east. This neighbor used the east half of the cemetery as a location to discard his trash, wood, old fence panels and burned electric poles and storage of more farm equipment. This led people of the community to think he owned this land, making them less willing to dispute the destruction. He also admitted to cutting into the cemetery to change the location of the school drive and installing a new drive for his home he built in the 1976. Note that at this eastern edge where the cemetery drops off are graves that are the width of adult graves but only a half as long as they should be. There are six graves under his drive at the top of the drive which is at the top of the hill. They were marked with red x's, orange paint or concrete blocks. The graves that were on the hill at what is the bottom of his drive are now gone. The original school drive started on Harrah Newalla about 175 feet north of Franklin and went west across 200 feet and then turned north. This bypassed the graves. The widened area of his current drive is where the old drive turned to go north. By moving the drive he removed many graves. Portions of the original drive can be seen on google earths history. Mr. Wilson states there can't be graves under his drive, he removed too much of the dirt. He also removed the dirt that was in the one acre east of the cemetery. A man that use to walk to Knoles School when he was a student there stated that there was a trail that ran from the corner of Franklin and Harrah Newalla catty corner up to the school. On both side of this trail were graves. This area has been graded down six feet by Mr. Wilson and the dirt (which contained graves) sold.
Mr. Durkee, who was hired by the county to survey the area for the purpose of widening Franklin Road, performed a survey in 1964. He had also surveyed this area in 1929. This area hadn't been surveyed since the establishment of the metes and bounds before 1889, but Mr. Durkee's family had been the neighbor to George W. Frazey in 1890. He mistakenly read the school deed, which stated there were four acres of school land with one of these four acres being used as a cemetery. He measured it as five acres total, four as school land and one acre being used as a cemetery. This mistake allowed a larger measurement for the three acres then it should have, shifting the cemetery to the west, running the eastern property line down the middle of the each of third row of at least sixty-seven graves, dividing each grave in half, giving the adjoining neighbor the bottom half of each of these graves in one row and all of two other rows. This miss measurement also pushed the cemetery south. The Durkee survey gave thirty-three feet of easement on the south end that contained graves to the county for the widening of Franklin Road. His survey showed that Knoles Cemetery was there and that the easement would take up some of the graves in the cemetery. These graves were pre 1937 and possibly as early as the 1887, when Franklin Road was just a wagon trail and before easements existed. The road widening should have shifted to the south or the graves should have been relocated with the supervision of the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The Oklahoma Department of Health was never contacted by the County to get permission to move these graves, nor was the school and no notice was filed at the county level.
In the late 1970’s Franklin Road was widened according to the easements established by the Durkee survey and at least 8 graves of each of the 30 rows of graves were graded away. One known grave that was graded away was, Luther A. Flint, my 2nd great grandfather, the son of the Civil War Veteran, Horace R. Flint. Luther was a carpenter and helped to build Highgate College that become Griffin Sanitorium and other Norman structures. These graves where scattered down Franklin Road. Several pieces of tombstones have been found but they are not the pieces with names. The south end of the cemetery was slowly eroding and in need of stabilization so that the graves that were dangerously perched on the edge didn't become exposed or fall off the edge. The County Commissioner George Skinner was contacted and asked to build a retention wall. This request was denied. One of the graves in danger belonged to the Civil War Veteran, George Frazey who was a body guard for the body of the assassinated President Lincoln. A request to bring dirt into the easement to shore up the wash area was also denied.
Wilson and his daughter both said that Donald Gilson, his step son would take bones that would wash up after a rain in the area graded by the county to school for show and tell. When asked if the bones were returned to the cemetery, Wilson said he threw them away. In 2013 the endangered graves were disinterred, moved and re-inturred after a court order was obtained. After the relocation the wash area was leveled into a gentle slope and sodded.
In February of 2011, the property lines of the cemetery were repined according to the Durkee survey showing the atrocity of the misplaced boundary line, further showing endangerment of the cemetery that borders land with the destructive neighbor. A request was made to survey all the way back to the original 1873 survey and the 1893 land deed. The surveyor was only willing to go back to the 1964 survey.
Of those documented buried there, only eight original tombstones still exist. Harry C. Stallings in 1968 and James and Naomi Pickard in 1992 along with the many times the Knoles Family documented the tombstones visually surveyed the cemetery. Over time the names on their list of those tombstones still in existence decreased as tombstones disappeared. Lisa Westbrook is in the process of replacing the missing tombstones, trimming trees, cleaning up the cemetery and replacing the fencing.
Research is still being done to find names of people who might be buried at Knoles Cemetery (Pleasant Ridge). While work is being done, longstanding residents of the community would stop by to see what was going on. Many state that they never knew a cemetery was there since nearly all signs of it were gone, trees had grown up shielding the few remaining tombstones and the Wilson's would run people off the cemetery telling them it was his front yard. The Wilson's would call the sheriff several times over this. People were surprised to see the cemetery being cleaned up. Compliments and encouragement comes along weekly.
When street signs directing to the cemetery were replaced, Wilson would call the county and complain, demanding that the signs be removed. The county refused his request. He did not want visitors and it was his attempt to prevent them.
A string grid was laid in attempt to plot the rows and graves that the Pickards had plotted and filed at the Cleveland County Genealogical Society and the Oklahoma Historical Center. Little yellow daffodils and purple irises began to peek up, giving a hint of where some people are buried, falling perfectly within the grid. Purple violets spring up where the makeshift tombstones are announcing that the location of the marker is correct. The ground radar was able to identify one metal casket, two vaults and one large buried structure like a vault or tombstone that was about the size of three graves. There are several babies graves and one of interest that has two adults buried close together and one infant in the middle and on top of the two adults. One grave is a very large grave that the ground radar company said is a very, very large persons grave near Wilson's drive. The graves from the 1930's collapsed in 2011 announcing the date of their creation. This can be verified by graves in the county that have dated tombstones from the early 1930's. Those graves collapsed in 2011 year also.
The graves in the east half of the cemetery are very close together, indicating very early burials without a casket or very thin caskets. The graves in the west half are spread further apart, yet still in rows. Wilson once said the graves are that of animals and painted this on the side of his barn. When told that an archeology/anthropology would excavate them and if the graves were of animals (cows, horses etc. ) then burying them in the cemetery was illegal and Wilson could be prosecuted. Then if they were found to be human than he could be prosecuted for desecrating a human cemetery. Either way, he could be in trouble. If the over 25 graves in the west side were indeed animal then he was a bad farmer to loose so many all at once so that they could be buried in groups. These graves are not the size of horses or cows, they are the size of humans. When he was told he could be prosecuted either way he appeared to look panicked.
After the tornado of the last week of May 2013, a small tree fell in the storm. Two foot stones were found buried under the tree. They belonged to Jennie Vietta Knoles and Arminitia Asher Crouch.
A water well was drilled and electricity for a light was put in. This allowed a columbarium to be built. It is 6 feet tall and about 170 feet long. It has 84 niches for crematory remains and has room for nearly 500.
The Knoles Cemetery is all that is left of the school, the community of Linden and Pleasant Ridge and most of Little River. It is the final resting place for people of the community, Veterans, Native Americans, Pioneers, Boomers and Sooners of the Land Run of 1889.
In April of 2013 Knoles Cemetery became active again with the burial of Christopher Stout.
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