Hallowed History: Stillman Cemetery

By Sarah Duggan on October 27, 2022

In the early 2000s, Meadowlark was in phase two of a three-phase growth and evolution as a community. As a part of this expansion, Meadowlark added its first duplexes on Meadowlark Circle. However, there was a hurdle: a small family cemetery dating from the mid-1800s to 1900. The original cemetery had a least four formal headstones, all of which had been removed by early in the twentieth century. Thus, by the early twenty-first century, almost nothing was known about this cemetery other than its location.

In preparation for construction, and with exhumation authority from Riley County District Court, the original cemetery was excavated in the summer of 2004 by professional archeologists under the direction of Dr. Donna C. Roper of Manhattan.

The cemetery lies near the northwest corner of a parcel of land patented to Dr. William Henry Stillman in 1860. Born in Rhode Island, he first came to the Manhattan area in 1855 and took up land in Blue Township in western Pottawatomie County. He soon returned to Rhode Island, but then returned to Manhattan a few years later, only to find someone else had taken over his Blue Township land. At this time, he obtained the land in eastern Riley County that he held until his death. He lived in a house, since demolished, on a small terrace low on the bluff slope, about 120 yards southeast of the original cemetery, which is where Meadowlark Circle duplexes now sit.

Stillman was a farmer and physician. During the 40 years he lived here, he provided indigent care and, in the period from at least 1800 to 1893, ran an unofficial poor farm. The possibility that he also operated an unofficial orphanage has not been confirmed. Stillman actively sold or leased portions of his property throughout his life, but he retained this portion of the property until his death in 1900.

Meadowlark hosted a Dedication the Stillman Cemetery on Friday, Sept. 14, 2007, complete with period dress and a horse-drawn merchant wagon procession. Seventeen graves were re-interred. To visit the cemetery in its current location, enter the Stillman Trail on the south side of Meadowlark Road at the northeast corner of campus, near the Tuttle Creek Entrance.