The Vanmeter Family Cemetery
Saline County, Missouri

From a pamphlet submitted by
G. E. Richards

The Vanmeter Family Cemetery is located on the Pinnacles in Van Meter State Park. The cemetery was located west of the early brick house that the Vanmeters first occupied. That house was west and a little north from the present site administrator's house.

Abraham and Elizabeth Vanmeter and their children moved from Hardy County , Virginia to Saline County, Missouri in 1834, which was in the year their youngest son,Abel James Vanmeter, was born. The family first settled in the Sweet Springs area and later moved north to the present location of Van Meter State Park. The oldest child was a son, David Parsons Vanmeter, followed by two daughters, Mary C. Vanmeter and Rebecca A. Vanmeter.

There are 16 graves in this cemetery -- fifteen members of the family and a faithful black woman who had been with the family for many years. The first graves were of the children of Joseph D. and Rebecca A. (Vanmeter Prosser. David A. Prosser died in 1845. Rebecca J. Prosser and John W. Prosser both died in 1855. The other graves include AbrahamandElizabeth Vanmeter, three of their children, some of their children's spouses, and a few grandchildren. The last burial was that of Mrs. Anna Marie (Pittman) Vanmeter, who died in1944. AnnieVanmeter was the second wife of Abel J. Vanmeter. It was she who gave the first 369 acres of land to the state of Missouri that has become VanMeter State Park. Later that same year, her brother Charles Pittman, donated some additional acres of land to the park.

It should be noted to avoid confusion that Abraham and Elizabeth spelled their name "Vanmeter", as did their children. It is the generations that followed that began spell their name "Van Meter", which is how name of the park appears.

Originally, there was a high iron fence surrounding the cemetery with another iron fence inside surrounding the graves of David Parsons Vanmeter and his infant son, George A. Vanmeter. In 1925 Annie Vanmeter had the iron fence removed and had a sturdy concrete wall constructed to enclose the graves. The entrance is accessed by a stile with which you step up and over the wall down to the grave sites. The entrance is in the center and there are eight graves on either side most with a headstone and a footstone. In the northeast corner is the headstone of Ann Sales, a faithful black woman who had been with the family for many years. Ann Sales was said to have been noted locally as a fortuneteller. Outside the wall is the unmarked grave of one or more black man who had worked for the Vanmeters. There may be other unmarked graves outside the wall as well.

Several years before 1967, vandals ravaged the cemetery and the stones were torn from their foundations. The damage was repaired. However in 1989, the cemetery was vandalized once again. The broken headstones were photographed, catalogued, and put into storage until they were repaired about ten years later. Occasionally the stone along the repair will fail. Since the method of repair requires specific weather conditions, one or more headstones may be in storage at the Visitor Center at any given time.

The Van Meter Family Cemetery is located on the top of a grassy hill speckled with various trees, including black walnut, hackberry, and pawpaw. This was a prominent location for burials, as the Woodland Indians also chose it for that purpose. East of the cemetery are burial mounds, one very evident mound sits right next to the southeast corner of the cemetery wall.

One can visit the cemetery by parking at the gated drive midway between the visitor center and the picnic area on the northeast side of the road, and then walk up the grassy hillside to the cemetery. Another option is to park in the picnic area, walk across the road to the southeast and follow the Cemetery Trail, which starts out as an asphalt path going up the hill to the nature trail that leads to the cemetery.

Individual Grave Sites

  1. Abel James Vanmeter b. 11 September 1834 -- d. 12 July 1920
    Anna Marie (Pittman) Vanmeter b. 7 July 1863 -- d. 21 December 1944
    Married December 10, 1885
  2. Christina A. (Nye) Vanmeter b. 17 October 1846 -- d. 3 April 1883
    Abel Vanmeter's first wife. They were married 1874.
  3. Abraham Vanmeter b. June 1785 -- d. 25 August 1866.
    Elizabeth (Parsons) Vanmeter b. 17 April 1800 -- d. 1 April 1863
  4. David Parsons Vanmeter b. 23 June 1817 -- d. 21 April 1884
    The oldest son of Abraham and Elizabeth (Parsons) Vanmeter.
    His wife, Margaret F. (Nye) Vanmeter, remarried and is not buried in this cemetery.
  5. George A. Vanmeter b. 13 March 1876 -- d. 20 March 1877
    Infant son of David Parsons and Margaret F. (Nye) Vanmeter.
  6. Mary E. Graves b. 18 June 1851 -- d. 18 November 1879
    Wife of G. G. Graves.
    Relationship to the Vanmeter family is unclear.
  7. Sarah E. Smith b. 6 July 1846 -- d. 31 August 1888
    Wife of George W. Smith.
    Relationship to the Vanmeter family is unclear.
  8. Rebecca A. (Vanmeter) Prosser b. 4 August 1825 -- d. 19 February 1881
    Daughter of Abraham and Elizabeth (Parsons) Vanmeter and wife of Joseph D. Prosser.
  9. Joseph D. Prosser b. 24 December 1813 -- d. 14 July 1867
  10. John W. Prosser b. 7 January 1843 -- d. 28 July 1855
    Son of Joseph D. and Rebecca A. (Vanmeter) Prosser.
  11. Rebecca J. Prosser b. 11 November 1852 -- d. 23 July 1855
    Daughter of Joseph D. and Rebecca A. (Vanmeter) Prosser.
  12. David A. Prosser b. 23 November 1844 -- d. 23 January 1845
    Son of Joseph D. and Rebecca A. (Vanmeter) Prosser.
  13. J. W. H. Prosser b. 7 August 1856 -- d. 5 April 1916
  14. Ann Sales b. 1842 -- d. 1901
A light is from our household gone
A voice we loved is stilled
A place is vacant at our hearth
Which never can be filled.
...lines engraved on the stones of David Parsons Vanmeter and Sarah E. Smith.

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