A small cemetery is all that remains of the Black Community that once existed in Jordan Township, Monona County, Iowa. Less than a dozen headstones remain in the cemetery, the rest victims of time and vandalism.

An estimated twenty or so, blacks and whites, are reported to have been buried in the cemetery between 1884-1907. Apparently the reason the black settlement started or ended is buried with these people.

Several stories surround the blacks and why they came to Monona County. Some suggest the blacks were freed slaves while others say they were escaped who came via the Underground Railroad. The most popular story concerns a man by the name of Adam Meirs and his involvement with the blacks.

Adam Meirs was a native of Ohio who settled in section 19 of Jordan Township during the fall of 1856. Well established by several sources is the fact that Meirs was white. Meirs owned several hundred acres of land and built a brick house there. Meirs has been credited for bringing the blacks to Monona County.

Some say that Meirs brought his slaves to work the land while others say he helped slaves escape via the Underground Railroad. Most of the blacks lived in dugouts in the hills on the Meirs land. An interview conducted by the Omaha World Herald in 1966 verified that the blacks did work the Meirs land. Earl Jones of Turin, Iowa stated “I can remember seeing Old Adam when I was a kid. My father had a farm not far from Adam’s place and it was nothing for us to see 10 or 15 Negroes working in the fields or cutting timber. I can remember Old Adam too. He had long white hair that grew down to his shoulders.”

Various stories about Meirs say that he was married to a black women named Mariah, who was also known as “Big Moll.” Many of the early day residents of Monona County recalled “Big Moll” being a wonderful cook, who fixed many banquets of coon, possum and wild game. While most said she was black, some claim that Mariah and several others in the black community were Indian or a mixed race. The headstone of Mariah Meirs is one of the few that remain in the black cemetery. At one time there was a headstone on the grave of Elizabeth Meirs. Some say this was Adam Meirs first wife, while others say this was his mother.

Even though the stories about Meirs and the black community may not be very factual, they are the only ones that give any information about the black community. Most of the blacks stayed close to the Meirs place and didn’t associate outside their community. A few did leave the black community, married with the whites and had families. Undoubtedly, there are some descendants in the area today. This may account for some of the missing headstones and the vandalism that has occurred over the years. In 1964, someone even dug up three graves in the cemetery and apparently removed the bodies.

The federal census for Monona County shows that the black population grew from four in 1860 to 88 in 1880. A century later the blacks are gone, as are most of the older residents who could remember them. The reason that the blacks chose to leave Monona County are as much of a mystery as why they came in the first place. Perhaps somewhere there is a Bible or diary that tells about the black community. Until something is found, the mystery remains.

Sources: Monona County, Iowa History- 1982; Sioux City Journal- 27 Sept. 1964; 6 July 1982; 27 Dec 1986; Omaha World Herald 25 Jan 1966 & 5 June 1969; Onawa Democrat- 5 & 12 May 1951; 18 Apr 1957