About the Phoenix Pioneer Cemetery

A History Provided by the Sexton, Otis Blankenship

The Phoenix Pioneer Cemetery was formally established November 16, 1874, according to minutes kept of that historic day. The names of the original founders were J.C. Van Dyke, F. Berneberg, William M.P. This year, 2024, is the 150th anniverary of the founding of the Phoenix Pioneer Cemetery.

Mathes, John Coleman, J.N. Woody, S.D. Van Dyke, M.H. Coleman, L. Strong, M.  Liddle, Samuel L. Furry. The group appointed  S.D. VanDyke, William M. Mathes, and John Coleman as trustees. The group laid out the first 130 lots on 2 acres that I believe were donated by the Colver family. The present Phoenix Pioneer Cemetery is an accumulation of 3 parcels of land. The first parcel is called The Old Section and that Is the 130 lots mentioned above. Parcel 2 was acquired from the Richard Bolz family in 1922 and contains 2.5 acres. It was surveyed and subdivided by FN Cummings. Copies of the survey map are available at the Jackson County Courthouse. It contained 6 Blocks and 163 lots. Block#1 has 12 lots, Block #2 has 51 lots, Block #3 has 12 lots, Block #4 has 51 lots, Block #5 has 7 lots and Block #6 has 30 lots. Parcel 3 is the parcel between Church Street and The Old Section . This parcel was purchased from the First Presbyterian Church between 1928 and 1929. This is recorded in the minutes dated January 10, 1929.


Last but not least, Rose Street, which is the Westerly boundary of the Cemetery, was re-aligned during the construction of Phoenix High School and approximately 200 plots and the Cemetery access road were lost in the process. The Phoenix School Board compensated the Cemetery for the loss of lots.  This is recorded in the minutes dated January 21, 1949.

An engraved headstone lying on the ground
Two crosses on greave with flowers and a sign saying "Georgia's Grove, trees provided by Georgia Blankenship"

The Phoenix Pioneer Cemetery was established in 1874 and minutes of the meetings were recorded, but it wasn’t until May 30, 1892, that D. Lehners was appointed sexton and clerk by the Board of Trustees and started keeping a journal of the transactions and burials for the cemetery. Mr. Lehners served as sexton and clerk until 1906 and his journal and burial records are by far the best in the history of the cemetery. His burial recordings define how he identified the Tiers (I), and (II), and plot numbering from left to right. His system is the system used to identify all plots in this compilation. The size of a full lot was 20’x20′, and a half lot was 10’x20’. There are 10 lots in the Old Section that are only 16′ x20′ , (Lot #13, 14, 39, 40, 65, 66, 91, 92, 117, and 118). There are some lots in the New Section that are 16’x20′ as well.

On February 17, 1906, the trusteeship of the Phoenix Pioneer Cemetery was turned over to the Phoenix School Board and Dietrich Lehners was relieved of his positions as sexton and clerk. There are minutes to confirm his removal and Mr. Lehners was given compensation for his services. The Journal of the cemetery transactions was legible and lot purchases and ownership was recorded during the Phoenix School Board years, but there were no records kept of burials.

On June 16, 1930, the Phoenix School Board held a special meeting chaired by H. W. frame, and the Phoenix School Board relinquished trusteeship of the Phoenix Cemetery Association to the following members that were present as follows; Mr. & Mrs. John Bonar, Mr. M. A. Houston, Mr. F. A. Denzer, Mr. J. A. Inman, Mr. E. F. Littlefield, Mrs. C. Carey, Mr. John Roberts, Mrs. L. Blackwood, Mr. C. Allen, Mr. Noah Chandler, Mr. John Wright, Mrs. W. E. Anderson, Mrs. J. 0. Coffin, Mr. & Mrs. Andrew Hearn, Mrs. Donna Graffls, Mrs. Eva Carless, and Mrs. C. Smith. Bert Stancllffe was appointed Secretary of the new association.  So from June 16, 1930 until the present day, the Phoenix Cemetery Association has had many people Involved In the trusteeship and maintenance of the facility. We presently have a board of five members that manage it. All maintenance and upkeep ls performed by volunteers and is funded mainly by donations and an occasional burial or plot sale.

Many headstones laying in a cemetery with trees