old prairieville cemetery

The Old prairievillemain_page_files/spring%20of%202011%20website.pages

The story of an abandoned pioneer cemetery

For years the East “Old” Prairieville Cemetery lay beneath a woods and weeds and briars, largely unknown to anyone except a few local residents. The graves of two Civil War Veterans and a War of 1812 Veteran lay buried along with the graves of early pioneers and settlers of East Prairieville, located just East of Faribault, Minnesota in Rice County.

Sometime in the early 1900’s, the cemetery was abandoned and had  lain largely untouched since.  Efforts in the l980’s and l990’s by John and Jan Dalby, Ole Stark, Helen Stearns, and Dallas Drake to bring this cause to the attention of  officials, went largely unnoticed. 

Coincidentally, in 2007, Timothy Lloyd, searching for the grave of his great great great grand parents, discovered Old Prairieville Cemetery, abandoned and nearly impenetrable.  Tim’s search for the cemetery and the grave of his ancestor set off a series of actions that have led to the restoration of the cemetery which is still “in process”.  With the passage of Minnesota Statute 306.243 MAINTAINING ABANDONED CEMETERIES  and increasing pressure from local citizens, county officials agreed to help.  Their cutting down of the woods and surveying the cemetery paved the way for restoration to begin.

Five summers of work with specially designed equipment uncovered the gravestones of some 55 Prairieville residents.  Most of the gravestones are in good condition, quite legible, and some quite beautiful.  Grass is now growing and gravestones protrude from beds of old day lilies that bloom profusely. Eleven large monuments, buried deeply, and perhaps intentionally, have been raised by a professional stone setter and stand now overlooking the Prairie---the view looking much as it must have one hundred fifty years ago when the cemetery was organized.(see photos at end of website)

The “Friends of Old Prairieville Cemetery” has  made an effort to restore the cemetery in a way keeping with its Pioneer origins.  Beautiful stands of Day Lilies, Vinca, etc. have been maintained while new grass grows around them.  Native trees will be planted and a fence will be erected to maintain the cemetery’s borders.

Margaret Kelly is researching the families buried in Old Prairieville and will be glad to share her findings.  Questions or information about the cemetery should be directed to the Lloyd’s and Ms Kelly at stp@oldprairievillecem.org or at Friends of Old Prairieville Cemetery, Box 450, Northfield, Mn. 55057

            Burials     Photos       Cemetery Plan        Burials.htmlPhotos.htmlCemetery_Plan.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0shapeimage_3_link_1shapeimage_3_link_2

Color guard at Memorial Day service

History of the Cemetery

by Margaret Kelly

Little is known of the history of the cemetery.  In History of Rice County published in 1882, the following paragraph is found: 

    Prairieville Cemetery:  This burial ground is located on the farm of William N. Owens, having been laid out in April, 1860.  The first interment here was the  remains of Mrs. Warren who died April 1855, and who was removed from her  former resting place to these grounds as soon as laid out.  The grounds are now  pretty thickly dotted with head stones and thoughts are entertained of enlarging  them.  

The Rice County Recorder’s Office holds a copy of the original incorporation document for the cemetery which is dated  November 4,1863.    This document includes a description of the cemetery ground as surveyed by the Rice County Surveyor, John Oltman.  This document was signed by the cemetery trustees, the Register of Deeds, and Justice of the Peace, Alpheus Barrick.

The cemetery ground was divided into 65 plots.  Most of the plots measured 16 feet by 20 feet, with five half-plots measuring 8 feet by 20 feet.  The alleys between the rows were 5 feet wide.  A document in the Rice County Recorder’s Office lists the names of the owners of each plot.  Only five plots were listed as “vacant” meaning they were never sold.  The list of names of the plot owners corresponds very closely to the names of the East Prairieville/Cannon City neighborhood families as found in the 1857 Rice County census records. 

As one walks through the cemetery as it stands today, one will find gravestones with the names or initials of 56 people.   Some stones contain the names of more than one deceased family member.  In other cases, only a foot stone with the initials of the deceased was found. The persons buried in these plots are family members of the earliest settlers of the East Prairieville area.  Among them are settlers who were leading members of the community.  [Details of some of these individuals can be found in a separate section of this website.]

Who are the persons buried here?

The first permanent settlers of Section 35 of Rice County came in 1854.  In early histories of Rice county that area is referred to as the “east prairie”.  The 1882 history of Rice County states that this area was “one of the finest prairie lands in the county.”  Most of the early settlers of East Prairieville arrived in groups from states east of Minnesota.    Many had emigrated earlier from Ireland, Scotland, Germany, and Canada.

The grave stones recently found during the current cemetery restoration are memorials to deceased family members of the earliest settlers, and represent a significant segment of the East Prairieville population during the first decades.  Names on those stones found included Corsett, Spencer, Barrick, Hamlin, DeForest, Ross [McRoss], Thompson, Strunk, Powell, Austin, Nelson,and Renslow. 

The pioneers listed above played a significant role in the development of East Prairieville, not only as farmers of the fertile land, but also as providers of necessary services to their neighbors. For example,  W. B. Spencer, whose father is buried in the cemetery arrived in 1854 and soon set up a variety goods store.  In 1858 Spencer also established the first post office. Isaac Hamlin (Jr.), whose parents are buried in the cemetery, later took over the running of that post office, then also became the proprietor of the local hotel. Isaac Barrick and his son Alpheus Barrick arrived in 1855 and set up a blacksmith shop.  Alpheus also served as a Justice of the Peace.  George DeForest, who along with his wife and two daughters are buried in the cemetery, came to East Prairieville in 1858 and set up a  cabinet and carpenter shop.  Rev. John Walker Powell (Sr.) was the first itinerant Methodist minister in this part of southern Minnesota.  He was   stationed in Cannon City in 1863-64, during which time his daughter Flora died and was buried in the cemetery.  Logan Ross [whose name sometimes appears as McRoss] was also a blacksmith.  His wife Eliza and their grandson little Monte are buried in the cemetery.

Many of the original plot owners left the area and moved farther west.  Some left behind their deceased loved ones whose remains were buried in the cemetery.

The large number of children’s graves that were found is a strong testimony to the many hardships these early pioneers faced as they established the East Prairieville community.

East Prairieville Cemetery and the M.E. Church

       The 1900 Rice County plat map of property owners shows that a section labeled M.E. Church (Methodist Episcopal) was adjacent to the cemetery.  All that remains now of the church is the stone foundation and a portion of the iron and wire fence that surrounded it.

However, the M.E. Church owned a plot in the cemetery.  In that plot was found one stone belonging to Flora E. Powell who died in 1864 at the age of one year, nine months and eight days.  Flora was the young daughter of Rev. J. W. and R.B. Powell.  Rev. John Walker Powell (Sr.) was one of the first itinerant Methodist ministers in this part of Minnesota.  In 1863-64 he was assigned to Cannon City and during that year Little Flora died and was buried in the Old Prairieville Cemetery.  Rev. Powell later moved on to the Blue Earth area.  He and his son, John Walter Powell Jr., were responsible for establishing many of the Methodist Churches in southern Minnesota.

Four members of the Embury family, another family with strong Methodist ties, are also buried in the cemetery.  The head of this family was Charles Embury, who was the grandson of Phillip Embury, who established the very first Methodist Church in America.  (Phillip’s son, Samuel Embury, was Charles’s father).  Buried along side of Charles are his wife Hannah Brill Embury, their son Charles Wesley Embury and their daughter Catherine.  The four Embury stones are very beautiful, matching stones.  Census records show that the Embury family was from Canada, and they arrived in the area sometime in the 1860’s.


“Friends of Old Prairieville Cemetery”, a non-profit 501 (c) (3) Corporation was formed in 2008.  Its mission is “to support the restoration and preservation of this abandoned pioneer cemetery.  We do this to honor the War of 1812 and Civil War Veterans and early Minnesota Pioneers buried here.”

Grants from Cannon City Township, City of Faribault Gambling Board,  Thrivent Financial  for Lutherans, Modern Woodmen, and Wal-Mart  have been essential to the restoration as have numerous individual gifts and  donations of volunteer labor.

The need for volunteers to landscape, plan fundraisers, help with a fence and sign, etc. is great.  In addition, donations, no matter how small, are appreciated.

Tax deductible donations may be sent to Friends of Old Prairieville Cemetery, Box 450, Northfield, Mn. 55057.

    Current cemetery looking east

The Cemetery is located two and one half   miles east of Faribault. MN on Hwy 60.


We hope this website will provide up to date progress of  the restoration of East (Old) Prairieville Cemetery. We welcome information that you might have on the history of the cemetery or of its people.  Contact us at


To contribute send a check to:

Friends of Old Prairieville Cemetery

P.O. Box 450, Northfield, MN 55057

                Cemetery 2007

Zabel descendants at 150th Anniversary gathering

            October 2014

Volunteers Bruce Thomas and Steve Kelly crafted these beautiful additions to the cemetery.  Bruce ‘s bench is made of cedar. Steve ‘s  box holds a notebook for visitors to sign if they wish.

A grant from the Minnesota Historical Society’s Legacy Program has made possible the purchase of a sign for the entrance to the Old Prairieville Cemetery.  The signs purpose is to inform visitors of the pioneers who settled here, their achievements, and relationships to the town of Prairieville.


The restoration of the abandoned cemetery, Old Prairieville Cemetery, is almost complete and Friends of Old Prairieville Cemetery are now able to turn to the local historians for help is writing the history of the cemetery and the history of those buried in the cemetery.   We have been fortunate to have John and Jan Dalby, local well known historians who have researched Minnesota Cemeteries for many years, on our board.  We will  share some of the history they have acquired of this cemetery.

Today we would like share information on the garden that we continue to keep up in the cemetery.  When we first began the work of clearing the woods that had overgrown the cemetery we located a strange pattern of bricks  formed into the shape of a square foundation.  We thought for a while that it might be the foundation of a small building such as a tool shed.  More recently though we have discovered that this square arrangement of stones was a grave marker for one of the families who owned that cemetery plot.  To honor them we elected to keep the bricks in place and plant a garden.  The local. Garden Club has helped with this project as well as the volunteers who come each spring for “work day”.