Times were tough.
For G of my A to Z, I wanted to check out this tiny grave site on K7. I had seen it forever, but never took the time to investigate...till yesterday.
Later in the day, I found the image below of settlers in a field. Really triggered my imagination...
Those who have read some of my blogs know that I am prone to droning on and on about how brave the early settlers were, their hardships....
The Real StoryFrom K-7 S, it really doesn’t look like much—just four poles and some kind of stone.
‘Rest.’ The stone reads Asa C., Son of F.M. & E.F. Smith, Born Nov. 15 1856, Died August 30 1857. That means Asa was eight months old when he died.
Turns out, the story of Asa Smith and his family is very much a story of what was going on in Kansas at that time. Kansas territory was founded in 1854 and there was this slavery issue. Bleeding Kansas, when people from the North and South were rushing here to determine the territory’s future as either a free state or slave state. In 1856, Fountain and Emily Smith, along with their newborn son Asa, moved from Alabama to Johnson County.
The government previously promised the Johnson County area to the Shawnee tribe. But, in 1854, the government decided to let others in to claim the land. Just a few years later, people were rushing here to get a piece of it. Johnson County was seen as a kind of paradise, with timber, wild fruits and prairie hay.
Of course, there were a lot of problems most settlers didn’t know about. Because there was no way to prove you had claimed land, there was a lot of stealing of deeds and fighting over property. Three people were murdered in 1858. This was partly because of the politics of the border war, but also because of disputes concerning land claims.
Smith bought his first 160 acres of Kansas land from his brother, Asa, for whom he probably named his son. Of course, less than a year after they settled, eight-month-old Asa died. There’s no way to know how, but it was likely pneumonia or another illness. The Smiths buried their only child on the property, but likely without any frills or excess ceremony.
They understood it was a hard life and that it was hard times. There probably had been deaths similar to that in their family before. After Asa’s death, Fountain and Emily Smith went on to have more children.
By 1865, the 160 acres Smith originally purchased grew to 400. He sold all of it that year and moved to Leavenworth County, leaving behind Asa’s grave. Fountain spent the rest of his life in Leavenworth County.
So, now, more than 150 years after Asa’s death, why do we still care about this grave? There are tons of unmarked graves in Johnson County from children who died on the trail west. Why is this one important enough to protect and even restore? It helped that there was a name on the grave.
“It would be symbol maybe of all those who came early on.”