Cemetery marks what once was a community

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 20, 2000

Drive south of Austin about six and a half miles and you’ll see the sign.

Sunday, August 20, 2000

Drive south of Austin about six and a half miles and you’ll see the sign. White and a little faded, it leaps out at you at the last minute: "Cedar City Cemetery: 1/4 mile."

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The cemetery is all that remains of the hopes of the pioneers who named a plot of land Cedar City in 1857. They are buried there: the Dickersons, the Phelps, the Watkins, the Stocks, the Osborns and Gemmels and others.

Cedar City did exist once, for a short time. The village was started the year Abraham Dickerson came, in 1857. It had a post office, a saw mill and a grist mill. Records show that Caleb Stock was the first postmaster; he took the post Jan. 8, 1857.

Alfred Cressy, an early pioneer, wrote about the first settlers and their families’ liaisons:

"In the spring came Welcome Chandler and Andrew Gemmel and their families. Before my wife and I arrived, Caleb Stock and Mary Watkins had spent their honeymoon," Cressy wrote. "After their marriage, John Phelps went back to Racine County, Wis., and there married a Miss Lyon, which made another very valuable addition to our young but growing society. Then Timothy Gosley won the affections of Ann Watkins. These three were the first on the list of marriages of Cedar City."


All was going well for Cedar City in its first year, but Mother Nature had her own ideas.

A "freshet," or flood, washed out all three mills, "leaving only the name of the would-be city," according to Cressy.

"In July 1958, another freshet more disastrous, especially to farmers, came and many families lost heavily," the 1892 Mower County Annual said.

The young city grew no more.

Now, the only sign that it ever existed is the cemetery that bears its name, located in Section 32 of Austin Township. David Chandler donated the land for the cemetery, which was surveyed in 1879. Chandler is buried there, too, with his family.

"Such are a few of the notes in early days," Cressy writes at the end of his account of Cedar City. "Jeremiah and M. Phelps had four sons in the Civil War. Mr. Watkins two, Essler two and Chandler one. So I think Cedar City and her people have done something for God and our country worthy a place in the history of Mower County."