After years of languishing, tiny historic cemetery in Prairie Village enters new era

Headstones that date back to the 1860s still stand in Highland Cemetery in Prairie Village.
Headstones that date back to the 1860s still stand in Highland Cemetery in Prairie Village.

A quiet cemetery whose roots date back to the very first years of white settlement in northeast Johnson County has entered a new era.

After years of limited intervention from its overseer, Highland Cemetery in Prairie Village — tucked away at 65th Street and Hodges — has a new board of directors and vision for the future.

Prairie Village resident Marianne Noll is among the group who volunteered for the cemetery’s board of directors last summer, and gave an update on the status of the property to the city council last week. In May 2016, Noll said, the organization had the cemetery’s first board meeting in 30 years.

First established in 1859, the land for the cemetery came from settler John Nall, who with his brother purchased 240 acres of land in present day Prairie Village and Mission. The Nalls donated half an acre of land for the cemetery and John A. White, a native American who lived in the area, donated an adjacent half acre. Burials began soon after, with the first headstone erected in 1860.

Over the years, many Nall descendents were buried in the cemetery as well:

Pearl_Nall_Headstone

The cemetery was formally charted with the state of Kansas in 1919. In 1965, it was officially platted with the county.

In the intervening years, the members of the Nall and Porter families who had sat on the cemetery board died, and Asher Langworthy was left as the sole remaining member of the group. Langworthy’s efforts to bring other board members in were not successful, and he had difficulty maintaining the property without help. In 1987, conditions had deteriorated to the point that Prairie Village cited the cemetery for lack of maintenance.

Over the past decade, however, the site has benefitted from the help of groups like the Boy Scouts, which have organized clean up efforts. SM East student Logan Bennion made improvement of the site his Eagle Scout project.

Noll told the council that the new board is actively working to shore up the organization’s finances, and has sold five lots and four gravesites in the cemetery since taking over. They’ve also set up a website with a comprehensive overview of the cemetery and information about available plots.

Bowers_Cemetery