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Blackwell Journal Tribune
Cemetery under new ownership

January 14, 1996



TRANSFER OF OWNERSHIP – With the signing of documents Friday, ownership of the Blackwell IOOF Cemetery changed hands.  Pictured are IOOF Lodge officials (from L) Cleo Schone, incoming noble grand; George Rodebaugh, treasurer; Tom Fisher, trustee; Ray Pontius, secretary, and LeRoy Pulliam, chairman of trustees.  At back are James W. (Jim) and Betty Roberts, new owners through Blackwell Cemetery Corporation.  (J-T Photo by HS)


By Helen Seubert

J-T City Editor


After 102 years of ownership by the Blackwell IOOF Lodge, the local cemetery south of the city is now owned by the Blackwell Cemetery Corporation, a not-for-profit corporation formed by James W. and Betty Roberts and family.

Final papers were signed Friday afternoon in the office of Attorney James R. Rodgers by Jim and Betty Roberts and lodge officials.  Official change of ownership occurred Jan. 1.

The cemetery will be known as Roberts-IOOF Cemetery.

“We desire to continue operating the cemetery in the same fine tradition of the IOOF and do not plan any changes,” Robert said.

Ms. Roberts added, “The cemetery has operated successfully under the IOOF for over 100 years and there is no reason to change.”

Negotiations have been in progress for approximately three months between the lodge and the Robertses.  After learning the cemetery was for sale, Roberts, who owns Roberts Funeral Home, suggested he be given the opportunity to buy it.

“We decided to sell the cemetery because our members were becoming too old to properly take care of it as needed.  We decided it best to turn it over to younger people.  We think Jim and Betty Roberts will continue the 102-year tradition,” said George Rodebaugh, lodge treasurer.

The proposal by Blackwell IOOF Lodge 32, (International Order of Odd Fellows) to sell the cemetery came before the entire membership for approval.

After local approval, the plan was submitted to the Grand Lodge for approval and special dispension was subsequently granted by the Grand Lodge to proceed.

While terms of the sale were not made public, money derived through the sale goes into the lodge treasury, according to Rodebaugh.  Lodge members and their wives have the privilege of free grave opening, use of graveside tent, plus free perpetual care.

Roberts emphasized that any pre-need funds paid to the lodge will continue to be honored by the new owners.

Any lots bought before 1941, whether with perpetual care or not, which have not been paid for reverted to the lodge for resale.

Current employees, Larry Bell, sexton, and Ruthena Yoder, record-keeper, will be retained.

The cemetery will remain open to the public seven days a week during the same hours, 8 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m.

Blackwell Cemetery Corporation consists of James W. Roberts, president; James W. Roberts III, vice president; Betty Roberts, secretary-treasurer, and Jamie Strahorn and Susan Roberts, trustees.

The IOOF Cemetery dates to the winter of 1893-94 when a group of people met in a little schoolhouse on South Main Street in Blackwell to organize an IOOF lodge.  The lodge at Geuda Springs, Kan., conferred degrees on a class of candidates and the Blackwell lodge was organized on March 17, 1894.

Twenty-six acres of land were purchased from George Carson for an Odd Fellows cemetery south of town.  The ground was plotted and lots were sold in 1894.  Rodebaugh recalls the lodge borrowed the money at six percent to buy the land.

On July 1, 1894, Lot 8, Block 290 was sold to Walter Butterfield, whose wife was buried on that date.  According to lodge records, it was the first burial in the cemetery.

The lodge has no records of deaths or burials prior to that date but it is fairly certain there may have been some between Sept. 16, 1893, and July 1, 1894.

On June 6, 1950, an additional 13 acres to the south were purchased to expand the cemetery, according to Rodebaugh and the records.

Along with traditional monuments, the cemetery contains a Memorial Park, with graves designated by flat stones, and three Baby Land areas.

Green Lawn Abbey mausoleum was constructed in 1926 by private individuals, now deceased, and the line of ownership is in question.  The IOOF lodge had no connection with the mausoleum but maintained the grounds and voluntarily assumed responsibility of helping with interments within the structure and paid insurance premiums from a trust fund established by the original builders.

On May 1, 1939, the lodge donated by deed 117 feet by 114 feet of cemetery land in the northwest corner to American Legion Post 7 for a memorial.  The Legion has purchased burial plots for veterans on an as-needed basis since according to its rules.


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