Morrisburg Cemetery, the Poem, the Family Stories

The beginning of Leora’s Early Years: Guthrie County Roots is enhanced by the poem, “Morrisburg Cemetery,” by Nicholas Dowd, who grew up in Guthrie Center. Grandma Leora knew his father, who was the town pharmacist at Dowd Drug.

Morrisburg Cemetery

“For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withereth, and flower thereof falleth away. But the word of the Lord endureth forever. . . ” I Peter 1:24-25

At the edge
Of the Stuart Road
Sleep the Morrisburg souls.
A hilltop town
Flourishing for a time,
Before splintering
In a storm.
Without warning
Their time came.
Now years of serenity
Cover them
On this high curve.
Decades of summers
Shelter these souls.
A community of friends
Stilled, and now settled
Patiently at rest,
Men, women, children
awaiting the archangel call.
He will find them all
Here, south of Panora
Amid the tallgrass drifts.

— Nicholas Dowd (2014)

Clabe Wilson’s mother, Georgia, was a member of the nearby Morrisburg church and was buried in the nearby cemetery  in 1917. Her pioneer parents and several other relatives are buried there.

The town was laid out in 1855 and was on a stagecoach route. The railroad didn’t include Morrisburg, so the town didn’t grow. When a tornado destroyed the little town on those rolling hills in 1871, the population dwindled, some moving to Dale City.

The church and cemetery are six miles north of Stuart on P28, 8 miles south of Panora on the same road.

Tombstone for John Williams (1807-1828) and Harriet Chilcoate Williams (died 1896). The stone has been updated.

Georgia Williams Wilson, was born in Dale City in 1964. Her sisters, Serepta and Edna Alice, were also born there in 1859 and 1872. Edna and Georgia are buried at Morrisburg, as are their parents, Samuel and Martha Williams, their grandparents John and Harriet (Chilcoate) Williams, as well as several aunts and uncles (who had been born in Ohio).

The homestead of Samuel and Harriet Williams was a mile west of the Morrisburg Church.

I knew that my great grandmother, Georgia Williams Davis Wilson, was buried at Morrisburg. It felt somehow desolate, since her husband Daniel Wilson is buried at Coon Rapids among the Wilsons.
But recently a genealogist has been collecting information about Georgia Wilson’s descendants. He told me that there are at least thirty Williams relatives buried at Morrisburg. So Great Grandmother Georgia is among family.
I had just re-savored Nick’s poem about the cemetery so asked if I could share it, along with the verse he began with. Ever gracious, he said, “Of course. That would be wonderful.”
A poignant blessing.


Ghost Towns of Guthrie County

Nick Dowd also wrote the poem “Meadowlark” that introduces Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II.


  1. Lovely post, Joy. When people starting moving away in all directions, the local cemeteries lost their place as a “gathering ground” for families. Does that sound ghoulish? I don’t mean it that way.

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