A reader was curious about a small and hidden family cemetery in Greene County. (Steve Pokin photo)

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with information on other old cemeteries maintained by Greene County. The update also confirms that Payne Cemetery is maintained by Greene County.

A reader by the name of Shadow White for years has had an interest in the history of a small family cemetery hidden in the shade of trees southeast of the city.

So she asked me about it.

Shadow has a radio show 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on Q102.

As someone accustomed to being asked if “Pokin” is my real name (it is), I had to ask her if “Shadow White” is a work of fiction.

It is not, she tells me. It’s her real name.

I went out to the cemetery Monday, and although I had located what’s known as Payne Cemetery on a map beforehand, I still had trouble finding it.

It’s a sliver of land off of Farm Road 129 at West Overland Street.

The Payne family once worked a large farm here.

Today, the dozen or so tombstones are hidden in an oasis of green surrounded by subdivisions and hundreds of homes.

There’s a sign at the intersection that says:

Old Wire Trails

For Sale Residential Building Site

Jeff Frye/Jim Hutcheson Realtors

Hutcheson says he doesn’t know much about the cemetery and he doesn’t own the land. He’s never read the headstones.

“I think Greene County has taken care of it,” he tells me. “They wanted to know if we were interested in taking care of it. We can’t do that.”

John D. Johnson served with the Union forces during the Civil War. (Steve Pokin photo)

I checked the Greene County Assessor’s Office and all it says is “Payne Cemetery.” The space for “owner” is blank.

Wade McCamey lives nearby and, he says, a few years ago the cemetery was looking overgrown and forlorn.

So he brought his mower over and cut the grass. A maintenance worker employed by Greene County has been mowing it since.

The county has more or less inherited six other old cemeteries that it also maintains. They are:

  • Murray Cemetery, at Highway AB and Farm Road 88, in Willard. It is a designated Greene County Historic Site. A brown historic-site sign is along the road.
  • Alms House Cemetery, off of Highway EE (West Division Street), east of the White Chapel Memorial Gardens, a cemetery, in Springfield. The Alms House Cemetery is also known at the County Farm, the Poor House, Sunshine Acres Cemetery and the Greene County Farm. Writer Kaitlyn McConnell in May 2020 wrote about the cemetery and the history of the county Poor House.
  • Smith Burial Ground, travel east on Highway 60 (James River Freeway) and turn right (or south) on North Farm Road 209 (South Harmony Avenue) to the Harmony Heights subdivision. At the second intersection, turn left (or east) and go to the end of the subdivision. The cemetery is to the northeast.
  • McCraw Cemetery, near Turners, off of Farm Road 138, between Highway 125 (Peachtree Lane) and South Farm Road 221.
  • McCracken Cemetery, about two blocks east of Glenstone Avenue, in the 2000 block of East Turner Street, on the north side of the street.
  • Hamblin Cemetery, at South National Avenue and East Meadowlark.

According to McCamey, the history of the land surrounding Payne Cemetery, as far as he can tell, is pretty much a common tale across the nation.

It once was a large farm. The final occupant grew old and died. The land was sold and developed into houses. A lot of them.

McCamey likes having the little cemetery as a neighbor.

“I think it’s interesting,” he says. “You can go in and see the history. It kind of gives you an idea of what the land was prior to what it is now.”

A reader was curious about a small and hidden family cemetery in Greene County. (Steve Pokin photo)

I surveyed the headstones; the birth date going back the furthest is that of Daniel Payne.

Born: April 22, 1816

Died: May 19, 1897

The 1860 Census spells it as “Paine” and the 1870 Census has it as “Payne.”

Both documents have his wife as “Elvira” and his occupation as a farmer.
Later in his life, his wife is “Mary Melvina.” Her gravestone is next to his in the cemetery.

The cemetery includes a few who died as children.

The most recent date of death I could find was 1948, although I should mention there were stones flat in the ground that appeared to be grave markers but did not have inscriptions.

The birth date going furthest back in history — at least among the gravestones that could be read — is that of Daniel Payne. Born April 22, 1816. (Steve Pokin photo)

Not everyone buried here was named Payne.

He served with unit headed by “Pony” Boyd

John D. Johnson has a stone here. He was a second lieutenant in the Civil War.

Born: Dec. 15, 1841

Died: June 20, 1920

The inscription does not state which side he fought on, but it does say “Co D 24 Mo Vol Inf.”

So I googled that.

Second Lieutenant Johnson fought for the winning side, the Union. His regiment, the 24th Missouri Infantry Regiment was organized in late 1861 from recruits across Missouri mustered for three years of service under the command of Colonel Sempronius Hamilton Boyd.

They were called the “Lyon Legion,” named in honor of Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon, killed Aug. 10, 1861, at the battle of Wilson’s Creek

This is not the first time I’ve dipped into Springfield history and been led to the remarkable man with the remarkable name: Sempronius Hamilton Boyd, otherwise known as “Pony” Boyd.

Boyd served as mayor of Springfield, as a judge and as a member of Congress. He served a stint as the U.S. ambassador to the country once called Siam.

He was the judge in the trial of Wild Bill Hickok, who killed Davis Tutt in a shoot-out on the Springfield Square on July 21, 1865.

And it is none other than Pony Boyd who is credited for first referring to Springfield as the “Queen City.”

In 1876, Mr. Boyd reportedly was doing what politicians do — pontificating. He was delivering a speech in Springfield that was held to celebrate the centennial of this great nation.

While giving that speech, according to John Sellars, executive director emeritus of the History Museum on the Square, Boyd referred to Springfield as the “Queen City,” marking the first documented utterance of that phrase in reference to our city.

This is Answer Man Column No. 13.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at spokin@sgfcitizen.org. His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin