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  • Writer's pictureTheFormidableGenealogist

Cholera Hill

When I'm traveling by car and have the time, I like to visit little rural cemeteries. I don't generally have a plan. I usually just open up my mapping app on my phone, see what's nearby, and pick one at random.


On a recent drive through southeast Iowa, one in location on the map jumped out at me: Cholera Hill Cemetery. I knew I had to stop there and learn more about it.


I navigated my way down the gravel road and saw it atop the hill. Atop the hill, past the creek, up a steep embankment, at the end of the cattle path, and over two fences. But I really wanted to get there.


The first rule of rural cemetery traipsing, of course, is to find out whether the burial ground is on private land. This one clearly was. So I stopped at the closest house. Fortunately the farmer was outside, didn't mind if I trekked up there (as long as I didn't disturb his herd), and didn't think I was too much of a lunatic for visiting an abandoned cemetery in 26-degree weather.


After much effort, I made it up to the little cemetery. Most of the stones are too worn to read clearly, but I saw 'June 1851' on several in a row.


It turns out that Cholera Hill Cemetery is exactly what it sounds like. In the summer of 1851, cholera broke out along that same rural road. There's a detailed account transcribed here, on an iagenweb.org page. It notes that "Within two weeks, [a Mr. Crawford] helped to bury thirty-five persons, almost all of whom had been his friends and neighbors."


rural cemetery
Cholera Hill Cemetery

1851 newspaper article
The news of the epidemic also spread.


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