WELLINGTON — Pioneer Cemetery, located on the southeast corner of US-160 highway and Woodlawn, is the oldest known cemetery in Wellington — the final resting place for many of the people who settled the land, built streets and made a town.
It is not known when the cemetery was started, although Sumner County was founded in 1871, and it is believed that the cemetery began at what was tall prairie grass at the time.
For the past year-and-a-half, the Sumner County Historical and Genealogical Society (SCHGS) has been researching the Pioneer Cemetery, originally called Wellington Cemetery, and plans to learn more about the people who are buried there.
″It’s something we thought we should do,” said Jane Moore, president of SCHGS.
Last spring, a carpentry class at Wellington High School, built a kiosk, which the SCHGS plans to fill with posters and information about the cemetery. Recently, the SCHGS was awarded a $2,800 grant from Kansas Humanities, a nonprofit group in Topeka, to aid in its research and filling its kiosk.
It is not known who all is buried at the cemetery, said Sherry Kline, vice president of SCHGS. Some graves were never marked and stones fallen down or disintegrated from others.
But the historical society has learned some interesting things about several of the people buried there.
There is a big gravestone for a man named Milholland, a Civil War veteran and one of the town founders. There are other markers for — a man who was killed in a gunfight; a man who, after settling in Wellington, later became mayor of Caldwell; and three men who were hanged as horse thieves.
Union and Confederate soldiers are buried at the cemetery, but for Moore, the most interesting grave at the cemetery is that in which an African-American Civil War veteran is interred. The headstone identifies the man as Thos. Dixon, a “colored soldier.”
Kline said the last burial she knew of to take place at the cemetery occurred in 2004.
There is a flagpole in the cemetery, but the historical society wants to place a new flagpole and flag in the middle of the cemetery to stand as a sentinel over the pioneers buried in Wellington’s early days. Plans are for a solar halo to be at the top of the flag, allowing it to be flown 24/7.
“I think it’s really important that we don’t forget the people who came here with nothing and built a town, so all of us now could have a better life,” Kline said.