Ross Cemetery was originally established for members of the extended families of Chief John Ross, his brother Lewis, and his sister Elizabeth. All three families initially lived nearby. The first burial was John McDonald Ross, the son of Lewis and Fanny (Holt) Ross. During an illness and just prior to his death in September of 1842, he asked his Aunt “Eliza” Elizabeth and cousin Jane (Ross) Meigs to bury him on the hill near Arch Campbell’s home. Prior to the Civil War, it is believed that most of the burials in this cemetery were Ross family members and their kindred.
Family letters indicate that Lewis Ross had built the limestone wall surrounding his family’s plot before the war, as it was noted that some of the tombstones and the wall had been damaged during this period. One reference states that some of the decorative work above the wall had been made with lead and was removed by partisan troops. Most of the burials within the wall are members of Lewis Ross’s family, including his wife Frances, a son John, a daughter Minerva Murrell, a granddaughter (Fanny Ross [Vann] Nash), and several infant grandchildren by another daughter Mary Jane and a son Robert D. However, during the early twentieth century, some of John Ross’s descendants began using space in this plot when it became evident that no additional members of Lewis’s family would be buried here.
Chief John Ross died in Washington, DC, in 1866 and was initially buried next to his second wife in Wilmington, Delaware. Several months later, the Cherokee Nation had his remains returned to Ross cemetery for reburial and erected a large granite obelisk at his gravesite. Members of his family including two sons George and John Jr., two daughters Jane and Annie, and their families, are buried nearby. Their graves are immediately east of Lewis Ross’s family plot. Two sandstone markers immediately to the north of John and Annie mark the graves of John Stapler (John Ross’s father-in-law) and a Stapler granddaughter who died while living in the Nation. Another tombstone was erected to Maria Jones, the family nurse to Mary Brian (Stapler) Ross, John Ross’s second wife, and later to their children.
To the north and east of the chief’s family’s graves, are the burial sites of his sister Elizabeth, her husband, and some of their children and grandchildren. Elizabeth had married an unrelated Scotsman, John Golden Ross. Three of their children are buried nearby, Eliza Jane, Lewis A., and Elnora (unmarked except by the base of her gravestone).
There are many unmarked graves in this cemetery. Some family members who died during the Civil War are likely buried here. Among them are Sally Mannion Ross and her two children, James and Henry. They were the wife and children of James Ross, the chief’s oldest son. Another sister of John and Lewis Ross, Margaret (Ross) Hicks, died during the war in Tahlequah, and a reference is made regarding her grave here. A grandson of Eliza Ross, the son of Daniel Hicks Ross (Johnnie), is also mentioned in a family letter as buried in the cemetery. William Coodey Ross, another nephew of John and Lewis, was killed nearby during the war and is probably buried here. Another of the chief’s sons, Silas, lived nearby with his second wife Jennie Sanders, and an infant child. They are probably buried here as well.
Following the Civil War many other families, including some of their Cherokee neighbors and some white families who later married Cherokees, began using the cemetery to bury family members. Some of these people are relatives of people who married into the Ross family.
Today, there are more than 500 marked and unmarked burials known to be located here. The cemetery is legally owned by Cherokee County, which assists with the burials. The mowing and maintenance of the cemetery is the responsibility of the Ross Cemetery Association. Permission for burials of related family members must come from their elected officials. The family Decoration Day by tradition is the third weekend of May. The cemetery was inventoried in 2000 by Lois Albert of the Oklahoma Archeological Survey, assisted by members of the Oklahoma Anthropological Society, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. (Source: Murrell Home, Oklahoma Historical Society, March 2004)
Driving directions to Ross Cemetery
From Hunter’s Home, follow Murrell Home Road 0.5 miles to the east. Turn right at the Ross Cemetery sign and follow the road for 0.3 miles. Turn left at the cemetery driveway after passing a peach-colored one-room schoolhouse.
Located near the site of the Park Hill Mission, Worcester Cemetery contains the remains of missionaries and their families who contributed to the education of the Cherokee. Reverend Samuel Austin Worcester, who established the mission in 1836, chose this spot as a cemetery because the soil was too rocky ever to be farmed. It was so rocky that when Worcester’s daughter Ann Eliza died in 1905, her grave had to be blasted out with dynamite.
One of the first people to be buried here was Elias Boudinot. He was assassinated nearby in 1839 for signing the Treaty of New Echota, which most of the Cherokees opposed since it led to removal from their homeland east of the Mississippi River. He was buried under a slab with no inscription. The Oklahoma Historical Society erected a monument for him here in 1964.
Samuel Worcester supervised the Park Hill Mission and Press. He was buried in this cemetery along with his first wife, Ann Orr, and his second wife, Erminia Nash. Two of his daughters lie here with members of their families. Ann Eliza and her husband, Reverend William S. Robertson, were missionaries to the Creeks at Tullahassee Mission. Sarah married Doctor Daniel Dwight Hitchcock, whose mother Nancy was also buried in the cemetery. She and her husband Jacob Hitchcock were missionary workers at Dwight Mission. Years later, Worcester relatives put a fence around the family plot.
There are other mission workers in Worcester Cemetery. Hamilton Balentine was a missionary among the Creeks, Choctaws and Cherokees as well as superintendent of the Cherokee Female Seminary in 1875 and 1876. Miss Nancy Thompson taught at Park Hill Mission and helped in the Worcester household. Caleb Covel, a friend of the Worcester family, taught at Dwight Mission.
Outside the area where the missionaries are buried, the cemetery is full of graves that are unmarked, or marked only by rough stones. About 1870 a cholera epidemic broke out in the mission community. Many children who died in the epidemic are buried in these graves.
In time, Worcester Cemetery began to suffer from neglect. When Ann Eliza Robertson died in 1905, a bonfire that had been made from dead trees cleared from the graves illuminated her funeral. Livestock wandered through the cemetery and broke headstones. Plowing disturbed some forgotten graves. Finally, interest in the cemetery revived. Around 1950, a group of history students and teachers from Northeastern State College cleared the fenced plot, and in 1952 the cemetery was deeded to the Oklahoma Historical Society and restored. In July, 1995 a storm caused extensive damage to many of the trees and fences, so restoration continues. Worcester Cemetery is no longer active. (Source: Anna Eddings, Oklahoma Historical Society)
Park Hill Cemetery
Park Hill Cemetery was originally named Foreman Cemetery. The first graves here were family members of Rev. Stephen Foreman, who lived nearby. Since the mid-1880s, most interments have been in Park Hill Cemetery instead of Worcester, and it is now an active community cemetery. The Park Hill Cemetery Association now holds a decoration on the second weekend in May. Park Hill Cemetery is located directly across the street from Worcester Cemetery. (Source: Murrell Home, Oklahoma Historical Society, July 2004)
Driving directions to Worcester Cemetery and Park Hill Cemetery
From Hunter’s Home, follow Murrell Home Road 0.4 miles to the west. Turn left on Park Hill Road just before the Elks Lodge. Follow Park Hill Road 0.4 miles south. Worcester Cemetery is on the left side of the road. Park Hill Cemetery is on the right.