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'Forgotten' cemetery revisited

A little-known cemetery located four miles northwest of Dickinson recently came to the attention of researchers compiling the St. Josephs Centennial Book.

Irene Volesky and Caroline Heidt learned of the cemetery when Irene Letang submitted her family history.

It was a combination of both curiosity and an interest in history that led the women to do further research on the cemetery.

The women learned the first area Germans from Russia and the Czech settlers had no church of their own to worship or hold funeral services. The Irish established St. Patricks Church in 1885 and allowed other nationalities to use the church.

In 1898, two homesteaders John Reis and Phillip Heck each donated one-half acre of land to the Rev. John Shanley, bishop of North Dakota, with the stipulation the land was for burial purposes.

In February 1900, Flora and Endina Eberts, 7-year-old twin daughters of Anton and Christina Eberts, died of diphtheria and and were buried in the cemetery. (The spelling on the gravestones listed the name as Ebertz.) Anton Eberts died in 1904 and was burned next to his daughters. Christina Eberts was pregnant when her husband died. Her son John also died as an infant and was buried on top of his fathers casket. The remains of these four people are still buried in the cemetery, although the graves were moved to church cemeteries.

In 1911, John Ireland donated an additional 1½ acres of land to the diocese for burial purposes next to the cemetery.

When the families of Anton Eberts were researching their history for the centennial book, they were reminded of their ancestors and were concerned about the responsibilities of its care.

Thats my grandfather buried there. We used to go and visit it when my grandmother was still alive, said Letang.

My grandfather wanted to be buried by his little girls, she said.

A lack of money prevented the Eberts family from relocating the graves to other cemeteries, she said.

Very few of us knew about the cemetery, except for the farmers and relatives, she said.

Volesky said the cemetery also contains the cross of an unknown grave. In research from a July 26, 1906, obituary, it was noted, John R. Smith section foreman on the east end was instantly killed and terribly mangled in a train accident near LeHigh. He had a wife and three daughters living in South Africa but he and his wife had separated. Interment was in the Dickinson Catholic Cemetery.

The researchers wonder if the report solves the mystery of the third cross. They also wonder if his name really was John R. Smith, or a name assigned to him because of the language difference.

Committee members researched the titles and deeds regarding the cemetery and contacted the Bismarck Diocese.

The cemetery was brough to the attention of Roman Weiler, risk manager for the Fiscal and Properties Office of the Bismarck Catholic Diocese.

He learned it is a diocesan cemetery. It recently was given the name Dickinson Catholic Cemetery.

In a statement regarding the cemetery, he wrote, In 1898, John Reis and Phillip Heck donated two small plots of land to the Right Rev. John Shanley, bishop of North Dakota, with the intent that the land would be utilized as a cemetery. Although there is no documentation that the unnamed cemetery was deeded to St. Joseph Parish of Dickinson, many St. Joseph parishioners were interred there and it was assumed that it was the parish cemetery.

He further stated, The original warranties designated property located in Section 18 of Township 140, Range 96 to be used in perpetuity for burial of the dead. There is no evidence that the property changed ownership by deed and therefore the property remains with the Diocese of Bismarck. The property should be maintained and cared for by the local parish in whose boundaries the property is located.

We do have a lot of little parishes out there who have closed over the last few years. A lot have cemeteries with them. Its not a policy, but it is understood those people in the neighboring parish closest to the vicinity would take care of them if they become abandoned, he said.

It remains unclear who will care for the cemetery in the future.

Im rather proud of the fact they are out in the prairie grass, said Letang. I like the prairie look to that little graveyard. Im glad theres a fence around it. So if no one takes care of it, its no problem with me.