Lamoni Chronicle
Lamoni, Iowa
Thursday, October 15, 2020

Where in the World is Margaret Folen
by Jim Jones

Margaret FolenFor at least four decades a gravestone for Margaret Folen who died in 1880 has been sitting near the shed at Lamoni Rose Hill Cemetery. When asked about it in 1983, caretaker Carl Green said it showed up one day and he figured someone took it as a prank but were afraid to return it to its rightful place. He said they probably dropped it off at the closest cemetery in the mistaken belief that cemetery caretakers all talked to each other and so it would find its way home. Someone else recalled that back in the 1970s Graceland’s cleaning staff uncovered it in a dorm after students had checked out. Yet another local resident thought it has been here since the 1960s. No matter how it got here, it has been here so long that has a memorial page for Margaret Folen with Lamoni Rose Hill Cemetery as her place of burial.

So where was she really buried and where does this stone belong? Much research was done by Betty Johnson of Lamoni and Bob Bixby of Leon to answer this question. Margaret shows up in the 1860 and 1870 census as living with her daughter Susan and son-in-law Michael McKone, Irish immigrants who settled in Eagleville, Missouri by 1870. The McKone graveyard, also known as the Catholic Cemetery, is across the road from Eagleville’s Masonic Cemetery. That is where other family members who she lived with are buried so one would think that Margaret’s headstone was taken from that cemetery—but perhaps not.

Based on old plat maps, McKone may not have owned the land where the McKone graveyard is located back when Margaret died in 1880, but rather owned land in the next township. The oldest other burial in the McKone graveyard was not until 1897 and Margaret’s headstone looks nothing like the others. This suggests that she may have been buried elsewhere, perhaps in the neighboring township. Definitive answers are hard to come by. The county clerk does not have land ownership records that go back to 1880. Death and burial records with the state and county only go back to 1885 because of damaged and lost files. Complicating the research is the variety of spellings for McKone and Folen in records connected with this family.

There is a great-great-granddaughter of Margaret who lived in Eagleville a decade ago and has since moved away. Attempts are in the works to contact her. Until then it would be irresponsible to deliver Margaret’s tombstone to the McKone graveyard, which is in pasture that is not owned by the family and could get lost in the high grass when it is not mowed. For now, the best place for Margaret’s headstone may be right where it is. Lamoni seems to have adopted her and flowers show up by her gravestone on Memorial Day.

Contributed and copyright by Jim Jones, 18 Oct 2020. Click photo for larger image.
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