ORCHARD | As a member of the Mitchell County Pioneer Cemetery Research Project (MCPCRP), Dean Steffen, Orchard, has helped restore many pioneer cemeteries around the county.
Steffen has taken on a restoration project at the original Orchard Cemetery, which now consists of a single grave and the only remaining headstone of little George Moore, who died in April 1863.
Orchard was developed as a way point on the railroad which ran through town. Being on a creek with ample water, it was a natural location for development, said Neal DuShane, coordinator of the MCPCRP.
“The formation of the community required the development of a cemetery,” DuShane said. “Along with this development, a place was required to inter their dead.”
According to DuShane, the original Orchard Cemetery was founded but abandoned for a cemetery location closer to town.
“Allegedly, the first cemetery had all the graves exhumed and relocated to a new cemetery,” he said. “We all know the intentions are honorable of town folks, but they don’t have a way to identify unmarked grave sites.
“More than likely than not, it was the responsibility of the family to exhume and reinter the deceased member(s) of the family, not the town government.”
Moore's family moved to the Dakotas. It is assumed they were not informed of the relocation.
The only remaining, identifiable marker is in remote woods in the middle of a Mitchell County farm.
Steffen and DuShane have visited the grave site several times. However, Steffen has taken it upon himself to preserve the little grave and headstone in the abandoned, derelict cemetery.
“Dedication by individuals, such as Dean, is preserving these legends of our heritage,” DuShane said.
“I grew up in the area, fished in the area,” Steffen said. “It’s a lonely place and regardless of who is buried there, they still need to be respected.”
Steffen keeps the brush cleared and the grass mowed around the site.
In addition, DuShane said the two have found another location in Orchard which provides indications it was a burial location for the Native Americans who camped along the bluff of the creek.
“Interesting, some of the Native American graves, in this area of Iowa, are in what is referred to as ‘Indian mounds,’ more in a circular and mass graves, not individual grave sites,” DuShane said.
“But the graves of Native American in Orchard are individual and number approximately 40 graves.”