From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.

Settled in troubled times

Delaware Cemetery was part of a once-thriving community

Leavenworth Times, Sunday, July 17, 1988

by L. Candy Ruff, Times Lifestyles Editor

When John Loss arrived at the landing of the old pioneer town of Delaware in 1848, the newly settled Missouri River community was torn by the question of slavery. By the time Dr. Lewis Lisha Terwilliger began practicing medicine in the pioneer town, the Civil War was raging.

Both men are buried within yards of one another in what was once called the Old Town of Delaware Community Burial Ground. Mildred Stuckey and Ernest Forbach are their descendants. The pari are well acquainted with the Delaware Cemetery, located on Kansas Highway 5, just south of the Kansas Correctional Institution at Lansing.

"There's a sad story about the death of Dr. Terwilliger," his great-grandfather said Wednesday afternoon. "He had the misfortune, while handling his instruments after amputating Chris Dalton's arm, to run a knifepoint into the ball of his thumb."

The story of his blood poisoning appeared March 23, 1893, in "The Prison Trusty," an early-day Delaware newspaper. The well-known country doctor cleansed his wound with pehnol sodique and "thought little or nothing more of the matter."

Seven days later he was dead. The Leavenworth Times carried the story of his untimely death and told of the contributions he made to the Lansing vicinity. At the time he died, Dr. Terwilliger was just ending a term as president of the state medical society.

The doctor's only son, Marcus Terwilliger, married Anna Frey. One year to the date after the doctor's death, Mrs. Stuckey's mother, Ethel Terwilliger Dohrn was born. The family would often take their children to the cemetery. Their granddaughter, Mildred Dohrn Stuckey, said those clean-ups were back breaking chores.

"It was no easy job to get in here and clean things up. The only time I ever saw my dad chew tobacco was when he had to come out here. He would cut his way to the family lots and hack away at the underbrush," Mrs. Stuckey remembered.

Forbach said at one time the weeds and brush became so overgrown "that you could hide an elephant in the cemetery and never find him." The great-great-grandson of John Loss says the Loss and Forbach family plots were located at the eastern edge, making it easier to keep cleared.

"Old John Loss bought half of the town site of Old Delaware when it went back to farm land," Forbach said Wednesday afternoon. "He built a large farmhouse on a high bluff and you could see the Missouri River and all the valley from there."

For 50 years the land remained in the Loss family. Louise Loss said her father deeded a portion of his land to formally incorporate the cemetery in 1880. She was an elderly women when she recalled in 1953 how the deed was lost.

The deed was destroyed by fire when the courthouse burned. Mr. H. T. Green, a lawyer, told my father that he owned the west block and would sell it to some farmer to raise corn and beans. My father told him, 'Mr. Green you will do nothing of the kind. I have three small children and a grandson buried there.'

The cemetery is located on the second highest elevation in the area. Headstone records indicate the first burial occurred in 1861, but information passed down to these two descendants indicate the earliest Delaware settlers buried their dead in the old cemetery before the Civil War.

By the time the cemetery board became incorporated in the early 1880s, Fred Eason was president, Dr. Terwilliger served as trustee, and John Venerman was the unpaid sexton.

"Old man Venerman had whiskers down to his waist and they were snow white. He was the sexton here for many years and never got a cent for it." Forbach said.

He has lived most of his life within eyesight of the cemetery. The men in his family often cared for the grounds. His first memories center on walking behind a funeral procession where the coffin was carried in a horse-drawn wagon skirted with dark green curtains.

Forbach says a small baby mound is located at the western edge of the cemetery. Here the infants born to women serving time in prison were buried in graves once marked by small stones.

A portion of the Loss property was sold in 1910 to the state of Kansas. The family's farmhouse was the first administration building for the Industrial Farm for Women.

Mrs. Stuckey and Forbach say state prisoners are to be commended for cleaning up the cemetery. When Gary Rayl was KSP director, he showed an interest in keeping the cemetery cleared. Several service organizations have periodically worked in the cemetery to remove brush and repair broken stones.

"We just can't thank those inmates enough for keeping up with this place. You know, I wouldn't mind being buried here if I knew it would betaken care of. This is such a peaceful place and so a any of the old timers are buried here. I just wouldn't mind at all," Mrs. Stuckey said.


Photo Caption


OLD DELAWARE COMMUNITY BURIAL GROUND -- Many family plots, like the one above, may be found in the Delaware Cemetery, once known as the Old Delaware Community Burial Ground. The once-thriving pioneer community vied with Leavenworth for the county seat, but lost. In the photo to the left, two descendants of Delaware early-day families. Ernest Forbach and Mildred Stuckey, talk near the headstone of Dr. L. L. Terwilliger, who died of blood poisoning in 1893. (Times Photos).

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