Murder, tragedy and triumph: Murray County's cemetery tour includes more than just gravestones

The Murray County Historical Society's Self-Guided Cemetery Tour features a tragic tale of murder, but it also includes the life stories of the immigrants who built their homes in the area.

A marker gives the name of the Skandia Free Cemetery, one of three locations featured in the upcoming Murray County Historical Society's Self-Guided Cemetery Tour. (Submitted Photo)

SLAYTON — Traditionally, autumn is a time to remember the dead, and as Halloween and Día de los Muertos draw near, the Murray County Historical Society invites everyone to learn a bit about them too, with their second annual MCHS Self-Guided Cemetery Tour.

“All of these people lived such extraordinary lives. It’s not just talking about how ‘Oh this is how they died,’” said Rose Moudry, Murray County Historical Museum site coordinator/collections manager. “It’s talking about how they came to this area, and how they made their living, and their family legacy, really.”

From Oct. 1-11, a self-guided tour of gravestones in the northwest corner of Murray County — Sillerud Lutheran Cemetery, Skandia Free Cemetery and Zion Lutheran Cemetery — will be offered. During that time, graveside signs that tell the story of selected people buried there will be marked with pennants for the tour.


The stories vary widely, ranging from a Norwegian immigrant who missed the sound of church bells from home so much that she raised the money herself to buy a bell for Zion Lutheran Church, a Swedish bride who fruitlessly searched the horizon for the home her husband had prepared for her, only to find that it was a dugout and she was standing on it, and the Murray County superintendent of schools who died young, possibly due to “brain fever caused by overwork.”

There’s even a tale of alleged murder involving a power take off, a missing body and, strangely, a clairvoyant from New York who tried to help.

“Most of the people on the tour died of natural causes,” Moudry said. “I’m working on one right now where a man was kicked by a horse.”

Moudry was glad to focus this year’s tour on a more rural area, and plans to locate next year’s tour in the Currie area.

“Last year, we got a lot of really good feedback,” she said, much of it in the form of Facebook comments and emails.

Tour participants need the tour guide publication, which includes a small map, and can either pick up a physical copy at the Murray County Historical Museum or download a digital version from . They will also need transportation to get to the cemetery tour stops.


“I would just encourage everyone and anyone to take a couple of hours of your time and come out and learn,” Moudry said.

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Phone: (507) 376-7319
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