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The Hardin Cemetery Disaster

Hardin, Missouri in Ray County, Missouri

In 1993, a record breaking flood occurred along the Missouri and Mississippi River that resulted in the destruction of a community cemetery that was on a scale never before experienced.  Before the flooding, the cemetery contained a total of 1576 burials.  Of these, 793 graves were washed out by the flood waters.  For some weeks afterward, remains from the cemetery were recovered and in many cases were at quite a long distance from the cemetery.  Eventually, 645 remains were recovered which means that an additional 148 remains were never located.  Of the recovered remains, only 120 were able to be identified.  Those remains that were recovered but could not be identified were later buried together in a mass grave at the cemetery marked by a large memorial.

Today, the cemetery still shows the incredible damage done by the flooding.  The cemetery now is basically in three sections:  Portions of the original cemetery are present on the east and west sides of the large middle portion that was cut away by the flooding.  The west section contains two memorials to commemorate the disaster.  To the east is a smaller section that was also part of the original cemetery and also includes a section of numerous tombstone placed close together.  These are tombstones that were recovered from the destroyed portion of the cemetery but could not be matched with any of the recovered remains.  Despite the years that have passed, to view the damage that was done is still a sobering sight.  Even now, it is difficult to image the heartache the families have had to deal with.

The Hardin Cemetery is located just east of Hardin, Missouri on the south side of Highway 10.  Hardin is in Ray County, Missouri and is about ten miles east of Richmond, Missouri on Highway 10.  At Richmond traveling west, Highway 10 becomes Highway 210. 

This large memorial is located on the west side of the cemetery.  The text reads as follows:

Hardin Cemetery
1993 Flood

Lest We Forget

Those Who Have Suffered Through This Devastating Tragedy.

As Does The Eternal Flame So Symbolize, Life Must Go On.

This Memorial Is A Tribute To The Courage And Dedication Of The Families And Friends Of The Hardin Community.

"On July 12, 1993, floodwaters from the Missouri River gained entrance to the cemetery. As the water rose, the rampaging river eroded topsoil and quickly cut a channel through the center, dislodging vaults, caskets, and tombstones depositing them some distance down stream. When the waters receded, two thirds of the cemetery was destroyed. It was determined that 793 of the 1576 burials were displaced. With the help of Missouri Funeral Directors Association, under the leadership of
Dean Snow, Ray County Coroner, 645 remains were recovered, 120 were identified, and 525 were reinterred in the Unknown Section. A Memorial Service was held December 5, 1993 in memory of these loved ones.

This has been classified as the worst cemetery disaster in the history of the United States, receiving nationwide and worldwide coverage."

A second memorial records the names of those displaced by the flooding and reads as follows:

Of Those Displaced And Unidentified
In The Flood of 1993

This is a view of the cemetery from the east side looking to the west. At the the far side are tombstones on the west side of the cemetery.  The center portion where water can be seen is the washed away portion of the cemetery.  The cut away area is rather deep and is normally filled with rainwater creating a lake in the center of the cemetery.

This view is of the washed away area of the cemetery and looking to the east.  This gives some idea of the depth of the area removed by the flood waters.  This was the the middle area of the cemetery and is where all of the graves were removed by the destructive action of the flood.

This is the area of relocated tombstones that were recovered but could not be matched with any of the recovered remains.  This view is from the east side of the cemetery looking to the west with the lake area located between.


All photos and text are copyright 2011-2019 by Hearthstone Legacy Publications.

Additional Free Genealogy and Map Resources

Also available: Ray County, Missouri History, Genealogy and Maps


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