FARMER – Driving through the expanse of green wheat fields, on a small knoll in the distance, granite and marble tombstones emerge – seemingly from out of nowhere – barely seen from a mile away. It’s the Farmer Cemetery where homestead families are buried on a quarter acre plot of brown, cracked soil.
Also known as the Happy Home Cemetery, the spot is 14 miles out of Waterville, one mile north of the old Farmer grange hall along Highway 172. A metal gate, chained shut, stands alone at the entrance.
Jim Danielson may be the only person you might regularly see in this spot. He is a fourth-generation farmer who owns acreage where he grows wheat about a mile away.
Some years ago before his father John’s death in 2011, Danielson made a promise to him that he would carry on John’s devotion to the care of the cemetery.
Danielson says there isn’t much to do other than spray and pull weeds. Walking through the property, dust kicking up under his boots, he warns to be careful not to step in a hole. Badgers like to dig in the area, he said.
He hopes vandals won’t bother the plots and with the help of his fiancee’ Jenna Dixon, they put in a section of wire fencing last month to keep tumbleweeds and people’s cars out.
Dixon is the widow of the late Jim Dixon. They restored the historical Nifty Theater in Waterville. She is also on the Waterville Cemetery Board.
There are just over 100 people buried here, and about 60 tombstones visible with family names like Brownfield, Carey, Jacobsen, Johnson, Ludeman, Mitchell, Schacht, Walmer and Whitehalls.
Danielson’s only tie to anyone laid to rest there is a distant one. On the far northwest corner of the property a small, white stone stands, plastic flowers to one side. The inscription on the memorial facing east honors Fred Oberstadt – just over one month old – who died in 1899. Facing west, the honor is for Pauline Oberstadt who died after one week of life in 1903.
“Families had lots of babies and children who didn’t survive,” Danielson said.
The Oberstadts’ parents immigrated from Germany, arriving in nearby Douglas in 1884 where they were married. John Danielson Sr., married Oberstadt’s daughter Marie. They had a son, John Danielson Jr., who was Jim Danielson’s father.
Danielson thinks the last burial at the cemetery was in the 1970s.
He says he’s content with his responsibility of caring for the cemetery especially now that he will be the husband of a cemetery board member who also sees the value in protecting and maintaining homesteader cemeteries in Douglas County.
The wind blows steadily on this day in May as Dixon and Danielson finish erecting the fence along the west side of the cemetery. They load up his farm truck with the tools used to erect the fence – the post hole digger, shovel, and roll of baling wire. They wave goodbye as he turns off the gravel road and onto the state highway, past the locked, ornamental gate and weathered wooden sign – “Farmer Cemetery.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.