Pioneer Cemetery, located on the southeast corner of U.S. 160 and Woodlawn, is the oldest known cemetery in Wellington -- the final resting place for many of the people who settled the land, built streets and made a town.
It is not known when the cemetery was started, although Sumner County was founded in 1871 and it is believed that the cemetery began in land that at that time was tall prairie grass.
For the past year-and-a-half, the Sumner County Historical and Genealogical Society (SCHGS) has been researching the Pioneer Cemetery, originally called Wellington Cemetery, and plans to learn more about the people who are buried there.
“It’s something we thought we should do,” Jane Moore, president of SCHGS said.
Last spring, a carpentry class at Wellington High School, built a kiosk, which the SCHGS plans to fill with posters and information about the cemetery. Recently, the SCHGS was awarded a $2,800 grant from Kansas Humanities, a non-profit group in Topeka, to aid in its research and filling its kiosk.
It is not known who all is buried at the cemetery, Sherry Kline, vice-president of SCHGS said. Some graves were never marked. The stones have fallen off or disintegrated from others. But the historical society has learned some interesting things about several of the people buried there.
There is a big gravestone for a man named Milholland, a Civil War veteran and one of the town founders. There are other markers for -- a man who was killed in a gunfight, a man who, after settling in Wellington, later became mayor of Caldwell, and three men who were hanged as horse thieves.
Both Union and Confederate soldiers are buried at the cemetery, but for Moore, the most interesting grave at the cemetery is that in which an African American Civil War veteran is interred. The headstone identifies the man as Thos. Dixon, a “colored soldier.”
Kline said the last burial she knew of to take place at the cemetery occurred in 2004. It is rare for anyone to be buried there anymore.
There is a flagpole in the cemetery, but the historical society wants to place a new flagpole and flag in the middle of the cemetery to stand as a sentinel over the pioneers buried in Wellington’s early days. Plans are for a solar halo to be at the top of the flag, allowing it to be flown 24/7.
“I think it’s really important that we don’t forget the people who came here with nothing and built a town so all of us now could have a better life,” Kline said.