For more than 100 years, questions have surrounded Daniel Boone’s burial site in Marthasville.
Perhaps the most debated question is whether or not Boone’s body was removed to a Kentucky burial site in 1845, more than 20 years after his burial in what is known as the Bryan Cemetery.
The lack of markers identifying additional grave sites at the cemetery has added to the mystery for both caretakers and visitors. In addition to the large granite boulder marking Boone’s grave, only another handful are marked. Thirty or more people are believed to have been buried at the site.
Another dilemma passed down through history is the lack of actual boundaries for the cemetery. In 1860, according to a title search, the Bryan Cemetery was described as being a one-acre plot. The fencing that currently surrounds the cemetery is only one-third that size.
Finding additional grave sites could help resolve the boundary issue.
An organization appointed by the Warren County Commission in 2009 known as The Friends of Daniel Boone’s Burial Site in Missouri, has made its goal to preserve and enhance the historic cemetery.
They continue the work many have undertaken over the years to maintain the cemetery and ensure it is accessible to the public.
In recent weeks, the group invited students from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, to try to unearth the answers concerning unmarked graves.
On Saturday, Sept. 22, Stanley Chinedu Nwokebuihe, Nigeria, and Eugene Evgeniy Torgashov, Russia, brought a ground penetrating radar (GPR) machine to the site.
“We’re still looking for 80 percent more of the cemetery,” said Marc Houseman, chairman for the group. “We need evidence.”
Houseman said if additional grave sites are found and surrounding property could also be tested, it would be possible to expand the boundaries and make plans for the future. The organization would like to improve access to the property, mark additional graves and provide educational signage for the many thousands of visitors to the site.
Nwokebuihe has a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering and is currently working on a master’s degree in geological engineering. Torgashov, a Ph.D candidate in geological engineering, will guide Nwokebuihe through the process.
“I’m in charge of the geographical data,” said Nwokebuihe, which he expects to complete in three weeks following the readings. The report will include a three-dimensional image of the cemetery ground.
Torgashov said the GPR can penetrate to a depth of 10 feet, but depends on the properties of the soil. Clay does not penetrate well.
“I have had some experience locating potential graves in private cemeteries,” said Torgashov. “Most of the graves prior to the 1950s had wooden coffins. What is left is all organic.”
GPR is a nondestructive technique using electromagnetic (EM) energy. The system, which rides on a three-wheel cart, is comprised of a transmitter, receiver and control unit. As the unit skims the earth, EM is propagated into the ground and reflected back to the surface.
As the pair calibrated, tested and ran the GPR on a grid line crossing the cemetery, anxious members of a variety of historical groups stood by, hoping for good news.
Torgashov and Nwokebuihe stopped several times as they found anomalies in the ground. They said they believed they detected unmarked graves, but would know more after studying the data.
“When the report is finished, we hope to have a map showing every presumed grave site,” said Houseman. “Our group will meet and determine the next step.”
In the future, the Friends of Daniel Boone’s Burial Site hope adjoining acreage will be made available to determine which direction the cemetery might extend. Eventually the group hopes to establish the original one-acre boundaries.
Ideally, the group would like to give Daniel Boone the recognition they believe he deserves by making the cemetery a state or national historic site.
For more information about the Friends of Daniel Boone, visit booneburialsite.org.