The historic cemetery traces its roots to some of Iowa’s first black settlers


MOORHEAD, Iowa (KCAU) – Nestled in the southern part of the Loess Hills, tucked between miles of farmland north of the sleepy town of Moorhead, lies a piece of history that points to who some of the early black settlers of Iowa.

Monona County Historic Preservation Commission Chair Judy Ehlers says she’s been curious about the cemetery’s origins for more than 50 years and after hours of research, she’s uncovered answers.

“The cemetery actually started in 1882 when Adam Miers donated the land for the cemetery when his mother died,” Ehlers said.

The headstone of Miers’ mother, Mariah, and others can still be seen, and Ehlers says there are twenty graves in total with pink and blue flags denoting people’s genders. Not much else is known about the people buried other than their names in the census records and that they helped Miers settle and farm the land, but one day in December, Ehlers received a phone call.

“I happened to have the opportunity to speak to a guy whose grandparents are buried in the cemetery there,” Ehlers said.

Ehlers says the man on the phone — from nearby Pilger, Nebraska — was able to tell him how his family ended up in Iowa after the Civil War ended.

“The people that were coming were from Ohio and they were from Virginia and they had left a plantation owner…and he gave them a choice, they could either stay with him or leave and so when Adam came , they decided they would follow Adam to that part of the country,” Ehlers said.

Through a process that took more than three years, Ehlers and others helped get the cemetery listed on the National Register of Historic Places last March. Once known as the Black Cemetery, Ehlers says it’s one of only two known in the state and says it’s important to her to honor this special place.

“I think they need to be honored and remembered, not let people run over them or farm over them or whatever happens later. So if we have it there, and we have the sign that it’s on the national registry, it’s not going to happen,” Ehlers said.

Ehlers says Monona County Historic Preservation’s next mission is to raise money for signs that will direct travelers to the South Jordan Cemetery Historic Site.

Interested in more Black History Month content? The full Black History Month special can be found here.


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