One of Neosho's oldest landmarks is now owned by the City of Neosho. IOOF Cemetery on the eastern edge of town dates to the 1840's when the first burial occurred. Around 1855, the International Order of Oddfellows local lodge took it over and it became the Oddfellows or IOOF Cemetery. It remained under their guidance until 1986 when it became Neosho IOOF Cemetery Incorporated.
In those early years and for many years to come, the cemetery was located outside of town along what was then a quiet country road. Cedar trees, a few of which remain, bordered the property. After the Civil War, it became the final resting place of a number of Confederate dead and local residents.
Now, the Neosho IOOF Cemetery belongs to the City of Neosho, a change in its long history.
Earlier this month, the Neosho City Council voted to accept the deed to the cemetery, which had gone into receivership in August.
According to interim City Manager David Kennedy, when a cemetery falls into receivership, ownership reverts to the ownership of the jurisdiction where it's located. In this case, that's the City of Neosho.
A formal plan is under development but in the meantime, the City of Neosho has complete ownership which includes making future plots available and maintaining the grounds. The city will also be responsible for those maintenance costs which are estimated to be approximately $100,000 per year.
An investigation by the Neosho Police Department that involved possible embezzlement and missing funds that began last June has concluded. No other information is available.
Another issue is that deeds to the cemetery plots have not been received by numerous family members who have relatives buried at IOOF. According to Wes Franklin, acting cemetery board president, the city will address the issue and will issue deeds in the near future.
Franklin is listed as cemetery board president on the quit claim deed but his association with the board began in August. Neither Franklin or any of the current board members had met prior to that time.
The previous caretaker passed away in July 2019 after several years of ill health.
Along with the deed, the City also receives a trust fund worth in the neighborhood of $120,000 but only dividends from the trust may be used and that for maintenance.
IOOF Cemetery has about 11,000 plots. Currently, around 8,500 of those are occupied or sold. The cemetery occupies about 30 acres within Neosho city limits.
Despite the change in ownership, business as usual moves forward at the cemetery.