When I was seven years old, I visited Jasper and Newton Counties, Missouri where my mother grew up. I remember Mom’s Aunt May and Uncle Jim in Pittsburg, Kansas, Uncle Ivan and Aunt Laura in Webb City, Missouri, and Uncle Walter and Aunt Dolly in Carthage, Missouri. May Spence Cooper, Ivan Spence and Walter Spence were my Grandfather Spence’s younger siblings. Two brothers had passed away in the early part of the century. Grandpa was the oldest. We spent about a week in the area, with my fondest memory centering upon the huge ice cream social we had with all the local relatives. It was the first time I ever tasted homemade ice cream!
That was Summer 1950.
Fast forward to 1991 and my developing interest in genealogy!
When I was growing up in Iowa, my mother mentioned Moss Springs Cemetery from time to time.
“People worried about the creek rising,” she once told me, “and it was under water sometimes. Grandpa’s family are all buried there.”
Because I heard Moss Springs and Carthage, Missouri mentioned in the same breath, I thought the cemetery was located inside the town of Carthage. And that’s where I started looking when I first started my genealogical research. When I couldn’t find it located there, I asked my mother about it our following visit to Cedar Rapids.
“It’s out in the country,” she told me.
Then she mentioned another name that provided a clue.
After locating Fidelity Crossroads on a map, I sat back and stared in amazement.
How many times have we driven through that area, probably passing the cemetery? I wondered.
In the late 1970s, Howard and I lived in the Ozarks with our children for approximately three years. I remember sliding down I-44 to Joplin one winter and slipping past the exit to Carthage. From there, we skated the rest of the way to Oklahoma City, determined to get there one way or another. I also remember a previous trip after our move to Kansas City. We piled into a car with several relatives and drove down to Arkansas. Our trip home took us through Fidelity Crossroads and straight up the road through Carthage. I remember thinking about Moss Springs–but our time was short and we were anxious to get home safely. On both occasions, I had no idea about the names of any of my ancestors buried there!
“When were you last in Moss Springs?” I asked my mother.
“Your Dad and I went down there shortly after we were married. That was the last time I ever drove a car. I took the wheel and let him sleep. It was raining, and I couldn’t see where we were going. We ended up in Springfield. So Dad woke up, and we drove back to where we were supposed to be.”
1938! I thought as I began my search in the Denver Public Library. Roads have changed and place names have changed since then!
Spring 1994 launched a new announcement from me as Howard and I planned our annual May jaunt to Pennsylvania. We would only be there five weeks that summer, my residency requirement having been fulfilled the previous year. We would travel to Pennsylvania by way of Jasper County, Missouri, where I planned to visit two cemeteries: Fullerton–an experience I already described in a previous article in this section–and Moss Springs.
“Moss Who?” someone asked when we stopped to inquire.
“A cemetery called Moss Springs!” Howard responded.
“Sorry. Can’t help ya! Never heard of it.”
We had already experienced our adventure with Fullerton.
“Mom’s going to have a fit if we’re late for supper!” Howard reminded me.
“It’s near Fidelity Crossroads–just down the road a short distance,” I pleaded. “Let’s try for a little while.”
“All right! But if we’re late for supper, I’ll let you listen to her!”
We headed south a short distance–crossed over the interstate–and noticed a sign: Fidelity Cemetery.
“Is that it?” Howard asked.
“It’s supposed to say Moss Springs!” I responded.
“Well, maybe they changed the name.”
After walking around the cemetery a short time, I realized this was not Moss Springs. But I did find several collateral graves: two Kesslers and one Triplett. I took pictures of those graves as well as one of the cemetery sign. Perhaps we should suspend Moss Springs for another year! I decided.
“Did you say this place was on a side road?” Howard asked.
“A side road that runs beside the interstate.”
“This road runs beside 44,” Howard suggested. “Let’s try it.”
By now it was mid-afternoon. We were to be in Harrison, Arkansas by 6:00 P.M. We couldn’t spend too much time looking because so much of our time had already been spent dealing with Fullerton. However, since we were in the area, we could spend a little time looking.
We had only gone a short distance when I noticed a huge mound in a field beside the road. At first glance, I thought it was a large, volcanic rock.
Then it moved!
“Have you ever heard of an elephant in Missouri?” I asked.
“Are you kidding?” Howard responded.
I pointed, and he stopped the car.
The mound rose and raised its trunk in the air. It changed positions, shook its head and then settled down again–no doubt a circus elephant now in someone’s possession.
“Who’s going to believe this story!” I asked.
“You can tell it and see!” Howard answered.
A school bus stopped in front of us, and several elementary children tumbled out of it.
“Maybe one of these kids will know,” Howard suggested.
A boy approximately ten years old headed past our car.
“Say, could you help us?” Howard called out to him.
The boy and a small girl beside him approached the car.
“We’re looking for Moss Springs Cemetery,” Howard told him.
The boy’s face brightened.
“Oh yeah!” he exclaimed. “I know where that is! You turn around here and you go back down the road!”
He gestured with his hands.
“Then you go ’round like this–“
He swooped his hands.
“And straight down the road!”
“Okay, thank you!” Howard told him. “We’ll find it.”
We sat quietly until the bus pulled ahead.
“You know what he was doing?” I said. “He was visualizing the road!”
“Well, let’s go down this road and see what’s here. We could find your cemetery. Then we need to head out for Harrison.”
Yes, we did find a cemetery, but not Moss Springs. We found Center Cemetery which was right beside the road. I would later learn this cemetery was the sequel to Moss Springs–but when I saw the number of Spence stones there, I wasted no time in taking pictures. Only recently I learned that most of those Spence stones belong to the descendants of Daniel Spence (1806-1857)–brother of my third great grandfather, Samuel Spence (1800-1859).
We spent time taking pictures of the graves and of the old Evangelical Christian Church at the corner of the yard. Then we were back in the car and on our way down I-44 in the direction of Springfield.
We needed to arrive in Harrison, Arkansas by 6:00.
Moss Springs would wait until the following year.