NEWTONIA — An upcoming fall festival, cleaning up the Old Civil War Cemetery and hearing music from the Civil War highlighted Thursday's Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association meeting.

NEWTONIA — An upcoming fall festival, cleaning up the Old Civil War Cemetery and hearing music from the Civil War highlighted Thursday’s Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association (NBPA) meeting.

Cemetery cleanup
NBPA member Don Jessen asked that members put on their calendars Sept. 15 to clean up of the cemetery.
“We will get started around 8 to 9 a.m., so bring chainsaws, weed eaters, shovels, rakes, whatever you think that you could bring and work on,” Jessen said. “We will try to do the best that we can on the time.”
Throughout the year, volunteers have cleaned up the cemetery where downed trees, brush piles and mowing have taken place.
“It is to just kind of finish it up. There are some fine-tuning and things that we could do to make it easier to mow and make it look better,” he said, adding the next cleanup likely will be in April.
During the 40th Newtonia Fall Festival, which will be Sept. 26, Jessen hopes a person will be stationed at the cemetery for visitors.
The Old Civil War Cemetery, located north of town on a dead-end road, has been around since the 1850s, basically about the time the Ritchey Mansion was built. The cemetery is considered the Civil War cemetery because troops were buried there after Civil War battles fought Sept. 30, 1862 and Oct. 28, 1864 in and around Newtonia. At least one Union solider is buried there, Capt. Robert H. Christian. Other Union soldiers buried there were moved to national cemeteries.
The cemetery, which includes 400 graves (200 are unclaimed), was used until the 1900s. The cemetery was run over with brush when John Bell came to town in 1961. Since then, local groups have worked on the cemetery to keep it cleaned up.

Fall festival raffles
Until November, Jessen has organized a few raffles to raise money to help take care of insurance and utilities at the Ritchey Mansion and mowing costs for the cemetery.
“I have a Doug Hall limited-edition, signed print ‘The Message Tree,’ a half a hog that was donated by Cloud’s Meats in Carthage and a 50-caliber black powder gun donated by Tim Lewis at Oak Ridge Pawn Shop,” Jessen said. “He donated the rifle last year, and he was good enough to give us another one, brand new in the box.”
Tickets are $5 each, five for $20 and $4 each for more than five. “We are limiting the number of tickets to around 500 each raffle,” he said.
Jessen said that those who want to purchase raffle tickets, which have gone on sale, can call him at (417) 389-2719 or look for a booth at the Newtonia Fall Festival or the Neosho Fall Festival on Oct. 3 and 4.
Tickets can be divided between items, Jessen said. “Say if you buy five for $20, you can mix and match. You can buy two Doug Halls, two hogs and one raffle. You are not limited to one kind.”

Civil War music
Toward the conclusion of the meeting, Nathan McAlister, a local musician, displayed two musical instruments common during the Civil War: a banjo and a fiddle/violin.
“Most people around here call it a fiddle,” he said. “With a banjo, they (African-Americans) brought that idea to this country with them as far as the gourds (banjos). We took it and, through industrialization, we turned it into another instrument. That was the thing to do back then.”
McAlister played a couple of songs from the Civil War with the two instruments.
“I have been playing fiddle for about 18 years,” he said. “I tend to like to play with people who appreciate the roots of it. That is a big thing in the old-time communities.”