The sad, peculiar story of the removal of a grave from the bank of Crooked Creek near Allenville was told on the front page of The Daily Republican newspaper in the winter of 1916.
In January that year, workers using draglines and dredges and other monster machines were digging the canals and straightening the streams that would eventually drain the swamps of Southeast Missouri. As crews worked their way along Crooked Creek, Adam Kidd of Hickory Ridge in Cape Girardeau County knew he must make an effort to find the grave of his brother and remove it, before it was destroyed.
Some 22 to 25 years before that, Kidd's brother, Jim, drowned in the creek and was buried on the stream's edge. He was only 22 at the time of his death.
But, alas, Adam Kidd's memory wasn't up to the task. Try as he might, he and a party of friends couldn't find the grave.
They left disappointed, but returned three weeks later and, with the aid of a local man named Elmer Pittman, found the grave. Here's the full story of Jim Kidd's death, the search for his grave, and its removal to Kenyon Cemetery.
From The Daily Republican, Feb. 24, 1916.
REMAINS FOUND OF KIDD'S BODY
Nothing but bones and boots he wore when buried were intact.
WAS DROWNED 25 YEARS AGO
Elmer Pittman remembered where grave was, only stump of tree cut down remaining to mark place.
ALLENVILLE, Feb. 22. -- Adam Kidd of Hickory Ridge succeeded Sunday in finding the remains of his brother, Jim Kidd, who was drowned in Crooked Creek about 25 years ago and buried on the bank of the stream.
Some weeks ago The Republican told how Kidd went to the creek with friends and searched the bank in the neighborhood of the place where his brother was supposed to have been buried. He and they were unable to find any trace of the grave then. He heard that Elmer Pittman knew where the grave was.
Adam stopped on the way to the creek and got Pittman, who lives near Crooked Creek, to go with him and locate the grave. Pittman had known the location of the lone grave years ago and thought he could find it. The grave was close to a maple tree. The tree had been cut down, but the stump remained and the grave was found without much trouble.
The body was decomposed until nothing but bones remained. The boots that Kidd wore and was buried in were in a good state of preservation, it is reported, and looked almost as natural as when they were buried with Kidd 25 years ago. The remains were conveyed to the Kynion graveyard, an old-time burying place near Frank Withers' farm on the north side of Hickory Ridge, and buried.
About to tear up grave.
It was necessary to remove the remains on account of the dredging operations on Crooked Creek. The stream is being enlarged from its confluence with Whitewater (River) to a point above where Kidd was buried, and the grave was so near the edge of the stream that it would be dug away by the excavating process.
Kidd lived with Allen McLain at the time he was drowned. On this ill-fated day he and a companion went to the old water mill to get some liquor at a blind tiger that was running there, for a dance. There was no bridge at that time and the river had to be crossed in a boat. The old boat was a big flat vessel used by farmers to take over their turns of corn to the old grist mill that was run by a water wheel. Clapboards were used as oars to propel the boat.
When Kidd and his companion reached the mill, two other young men from the same neighborhood, who were going to a sale up in the hills, joined them on the bank opposite the mill. Kidd started to get in the boat, which was tied only a little distance above the dam, to cross the river. One or two suggested that it be drawn up the river some distance from the dam so there would be no danger, as it was considered dangerous to cross so near the dam. Kidd was an industrious young man but very determined. H made no answer to the suggestions to pull the boat upstream, but jumped in and shoved the boat off and asked if any one was going across.
Unable to save him.
J.M. Kynion jumped in and Kidd then started the big clumsy boat towards a post of the mill which set out in the water several feet from the bank, instead of turning away from the dam, and began to row with one of the boards. When perhaps two-thirds or three-fourths of the way across, the boat started to drift towards the dam. Kidd and Kynion both jumped out in water arm-pit in depth. Kynion waded out without difficulty. But Kidd held to the chain that was fastened to one end of the boat and was pulled over the dam when the boat went over. When the boat went over the dam, it turned parallel with the dam and remained in that position a moment.
Kidd went entirely under the boat and came up on the lower side. He seized the boat and tried to climb in, but it was nearly full of water from going over the dam and sand and went out of sight when Kidd tried to climb in. Kidd then made a futile effort to reach the dam and climb out, but in a few minutes sank for the third and last time. Some of the boys on the bank tried to climb out on the dam and reach a plank to the drowning man, but he was on the bottom of the river for the last time before they could do anything.
High place near him.
It was afterwards learned that only 8 or 10 feet below the deep hole below the dam into which Kidd was plunged, there was a roadway of rock across the creek, over which wagons crossed when the river was low, and that if he had swam towards that he could have reached it in a few strokes and waded out.
The bottom of the river was raked with grab hooks by a large force of men for several days in an effort to recover his body, but it could not be found. Dynamite was discharged in the water in the hopes of raising the body in that way, and biscuits were thrown in the water under the old superstition that bread would sink and disappear where the body of a human lay dead, but to no avail.
Three months to the day after Kidd was drowned, which was in February, some one saw the body floating on top of the water about a half mile below the mill. It was taken from the water and buried on the bank near where found.