Have you ever stayed at a campground with a cemetery in it?
We just did.
Our shakedown trip landed us at Greenville Recreation Area located near the town of Greenville, Missouri.
Greenville Recreation Area is an Army Corps of Engineers campground. Because Dan has the National Parks Lifetime Senior Pass, we can camp there, with full hook-ups, for $12 a night. Dan and I were on site #1, a pull-through site, not far from the St. Francis River which runs alongside the campground. The campground is clean and spacious and offers a lot of things to do and places to explore.
The campground is built on what once was the Old Greenville City. Some of the city’s old roads, sidewalks, and building foundations are still there and can be explored by walking the “Memory Lane Trail.” This trail has signage describing the buildings at the very spot where they once stood many years ago.
Greenville was incorporated as a village in 1893, but being near the St. Francis River, the town often flooded. Once the Wappapello Lake Dam was built, it was decided the town should move two miles to the north. The move was completed in 1941.
Our campsite was adjacent to where the Wayne County Courthouse once stood.
The town’s cemetery was not moved and stayed right where it was even when the campground was constructed. Dan and I spent some time exploring this old cemetery. I was interested in how old the graves were, trying to find the oldest one. I also read the inscriptions about someone’s dear mother and noticed how the person buried was often described as someone’s wife or daughter. Dan would remark on how long someone had lived. “She was only 35!” “This child was only eight months old.” What would you notice?
The cemetery was quite fascinating to me. Those headstones reveal little bits of history and lives lived for those who take the time to notice. One couldn’t help but also notice some relics from the Civil War.
The date on all five of the Unknown Confederate Soldiers’ graves is the same: July 20, 1862. I could not read the date on the one grave in the Union Cemetery. Later, when walking a trail, we came upon a sign describing the “Surprise at Greenville” – a Civil War battle. The date of the battle was July 20, 1862, the same date on the Confederate graves.
There’s even more history here.
The site is also part of the “Trail of Tears” National Historic Trail. Right here at Bettis Ford, in December of 1838, more than 1100 Cherokees, 60 wagons and 600 horses crossed the St. Francis River on their 770 mile forced journey to the West. This group was the Benge Detachment which included families from northeastern Alabama. They were one of thirteen groups forced to relocate due to the “Indian Removal Act of 1830.”
I’ve only described a small portion of all the history at Greenville Recreation Area. Besides the history aspect, there is plenty to do at this campground. There is river access for boating, fishing, playgrounds for the kiddos and miles of trails to walk or bike. The trail even leads into the modern town of Greenville. I will take you there in my next post.