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Cole County cemetery appears to vanish with new development

Since last October, ABC 17 News has been looking into what happened to a small family cemetery in Cole County that appears to have vanished.

The Dixon cemetery is named after one of the original families in the Jefferson City area, and now it appears a roundabout sits right on top of it.

ABC 17 News has been literally digging for answers to find out where the forgotten cemetery has gone.

ABC 17 hired a ground-penetrating radar company, talked to county engineers, and sifted through county records to prove there was a small cemetery from the 1800s. Even more shocking, we found it’s nearly in the exact location of a roundabout.

While there are not any living relatives we could find, there are still a few people who believe in doing the right thing on behalf of these settlers who were the first to call Cole County home.

Lloyd Klosterman’s family has lived in Jefferson City for generations, but that isn’t nearly as long as the family he is standing up for.

Klosterman used to own the property just west of Jefferson City. The area, rich in history, Klosterman said it was once part of a 2,000 acre farm owned by the Dixon family more than 150 years ago.

“They settled here, and they had a tobacco farm, and they had a lot of slaves,” said Klosterman.

That was in the early 1800s. Klosterman told ABC 17 the slaves cleared the trees from one tree line to the other. Many of the slaves are buried just north of the roundabout.

Today, the farm is now Pioneer Trail Elementary, and home to a subdivision, but many in the subdivision told ABC 17 the history of the place they now call home has been desecrated; desecrated by the man who built many of their very own homes.

He also built the roundabout where the Dixon family buried their loved ones who no longer have a voice.

“The builder of the roundabout was Central Missouri Construction Company, which was owned by my son, Richard,” said Klosterman.

Klosterman said his son knew the cemetery was there.

He’s talked to his son’s former employees who said the headstones were removed and kept in a nearby barn, then buried beneath the roundabout.

“All I know is that he pointed out to me that he took the old stones from an old barn that was right over here. Somewhere in this roundabout,” said Klosterman.

ABC 17 asked, “So the founding fathers of Jefferson City, some of them, buried right below us?”

Klosterman replied, “Some of them.”

“It was hard thing to imagine that the cemetery was actually destroyed. Now we don’t know where for sure it was, but the county has a recording of the cemetery area,” said Klosterman.

We went to the Cole County courthouse to sift through records.

We found the Dixon burial ground in a book of cemeteries, but it wasn’t listed on any old land plat maps.

The new plat maps were signed by Richard Klosterman and the cemetery was nowhere to be found.

However, we did find the county has aerial images from the past 15 years.

We looked at a GIS progression from the early 2000s, where you can see an old tree in the middle with a fence around it. You can watch as the fence disappears with time, and eventually the tree is gone, and replaced with the present day roundabout.

We checked the cemetery’s latitude and longitude coordinates from the Cole County Historical Society, and surprisingly they didn’t quite match up. The coordinates would have the cemetery about 100 feet north of the roundabout.

Despite that small difference, ABC 17 brought in a ground penetrating radar company from St. Louis to scan the ground for buried headstones.

We had three different hits with the radar, but nothing we pulled out was actually a headstone.

We did, however, scan something that was approximately six feet long and three feet wide. Could it be those seven headstones we’ve been looking for?

“Upon first investigation, I saw a dense cluster that did not fit a utility pattern, but as the scan moved there were other utility anomalies that led back to that cluster which makes me think it’s a utility,” said the ground scanner.

That answer was not good enough. We took our findings to the county engineers who disagree, and told us they do not have any utilities in that location on the roundabout.

Engineers said there wouldn’t be a reason for a utility in that location.

“If there was like a junction box, there would be an access to that, so it would be at ground level or above. Whether it’s an electrical box or transformer or something like that in the area, or head on a telephone line, there would be something visible so you could see where the change of direction was, so there wouldn’t be anything underneath there,” said county engineer Eric Landwehr.

We also asked Landwehr about the possibility of bodies still being here under the roundabout. He said the ground was actually built up during construction, and Central Missouri Construction, the now defunct company of Richard Klosterman had no reason to dig. Lloyd Klosterman agrees.

“I don’t think any of the bodies were disturbed, and the reason I say that is because that was the highest point in that area. When they built the road, there was very little dirt removed,” he said.

The Cole County Sheriff’s Department has turned over an investigation to the prosecutor’s officer, but charges have not yet been filed.

State statutes said anyone found guilty of destroying or disturbing a burial ground could face a class E felony.

ABC 17 reached out to Klosterman and former Central Missouri Construction employees, but calls were never returned.

The law reads, “Any person, corporation, partnership, proprietorship, or organization who knowingly disturbs, destroys, vandalizes, or damages a marked or unmarked human burial site commits a class E felony. Every person who shall knowingly destroy, mutilate, disfigure, deface, injure, or remove any tomb, monument, or gravestone, or other structure placed in such cemetery or burial ground or place of burial of any human being, is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.”

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