The Haunting and Deserted Tyner Cemetery

Tyner, North Dakota Cemetery

Tyner’s derelict pioneer cemetery is all that remains of a rural settlement in Pembina County once known as Tyner. Cemeteries are not something we usually feature as an entity all their own, primarily because there are plenty of websites out there which focus on cemeteries and family history already. However, Terry visited Tyner Cemetery in August of 2012 to photograph the headstones for some of his wife’s family — the McCurdy’s — and was moved by the solitude of the site.

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

This pioneer cemetery is a relic of an immigrant community which is today scattered amongst rural farmsteads and nearby small towns in Cavalier County. It is in the middle of a farmer’s field and no longer even has a road leading to it. The only access is on foot, there is no fence, and as you can see from the photos, the entire site was quite overgrown at the time Terry visited in 2012. This cemetery tells a tale that was written a very long time ago.

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

I’ve attempted to transcribe the stones wherever they can be read. Update: We found some headstones in our photo archive that had not been previously posted, and those photos are at the bottom.

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Samuel McCurdy, born Aug. 19, 1866, died Nov. 3rd, 1899, aged 33 years.

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Mary McEwen, died Apr. 14, 1894, age 20 Y’s, 2 M’s, 14 D’s
Maggie McEwen, died Oct. 19, 1894, age 16 Y’s, 2 M’s, 20 D’s

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

A.C. McCurdy, Oct. 5th, 1888 to May 17th, 1975
Alice, wife of A.C. McCurdy, July 27th, 1884 to Sept. 14th, 1938

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Eliza Jane, wife of Samuel Hillis, born in Ireland, Aug. 17, 1840, died Mar. 31, 1914

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Frederick W. Mountain, died Feb. 7, 1899, aged 6 mos. 14 days.

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Roy Tuson, died Mar. 26, 1892, aged 7 mos.

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Alvin, son of John J. and Catherine Hughes. died Oct. 28, 1891, aged 14 years, 4 ms. 7 days.

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Baby Symington, born Sept. 28, 1899, died October 15, 1900

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Mary Gladys, Daughter of Peter & Kate Cameron
Died Jan. 19, 1889, Aged 2 yrs. 4 mos. [?] days

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

John Symington
Died May 12, 1890, Aged 29 yrs, 6 mos.

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Peter McLean
Died Oct. 7, 1893, Aged 30 years, 30 days

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Eliza Ann, wife of James Byers
Died Mar. 8, 1894, Aged 74 years

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

John Coughlin, Born May ?, 1812, Died Dec. ?, 1895
Mary A. Coughlin, Born Jan. 12, 1882, Died July 2?, 1895

Tyner, North Dakota pioneer cemetery

Roy Giles, Son of Mr. & Mrs. Thos G. McConnell
Died May 20, 1899

Photos by Terry Hinnenkamp, © Sonic Tremor Media

46 Comments on “The Haunting and Deserted Tyner Cemetery

  1. How sad that no one keeps it up. Where about is it located. I will be visiting N.D. in November and weather permitting I’d like to check it out.

  2. I’m related to some McCurdy’s, so I find this all the more fascinating. But these aren’t the same McCurdys…mine never lined in ND. Perhaps distantly related…

  3. You would think a church in the area could “adopt”” this cemetery and maintain it. I’ve read that this is how many of our nation’s smallest and most rural cemeteries are kept up these days. So sad that those buried here have just been “put out to pasture” so to speak.

  4. Thank you for adding captions to the photos. It makes viewing the photos that more meaningful. Every life has a beginning and an end. Looking at the photos I wonder about the middle.

  5. I thought it was the duty of the county to keep cemeteries maintained. Maybe someone from the area will see your pictures and take on the job.

  6. I grew up in Pembina County. This is the first that I have heard of the Tyner Cemetary. These little township cemetaries are not uncommon in Pembina County.

    • some of them elderly,so many of them young,flu epidemics etc took their toll back then

      • Those are Neche names on the headstones. Neche is on the Canadian border 20 miles east of MN. My mother was born and raised in Neche (nee Glenn). I know many people of this generation with the last names on the gravestones. Imagine what we have because those people left their homes, often alone. One of my great grandmothers was 13 when she came to Dakota Territory with her aunt. Died in her early 30s of “a cold” after giving birth to 5 children, one who died in infancy. My grandmother was the oldest and had just started high school and had to quit and come home to take care of her younger sisters and baby brother. Just think what we have because they did that.

  7. It looks similar to the grave yard I grew up near and my family has helped care for for years. The stones are of a similar style. It too stands alone in a field but is surrounded by a fence and gate.

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  10. I hope someone nearby sees these photos & takes on the maintenance
    Of this special place. What a sacred little cemetary! Such sadness they endured.
    I love the fact that you have pictures of this sweet place. Wish you would
    document more, being it goes so well with everything you’re doing.
    It helps tie families to more info, if they are looking for it? love every story! 🙂

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  12. Thank you for posting these photos. Reminds me of the cometary in Kintyre where many of my family members are buried. My Aunt and cousins took care of the upkeep for many years. Although not as many old graves there, there were the sad ones for babies and mysterious unmarked headstones. Wonder what was happening in the 1890’s that led to the deaths of so many young people.

  13. I”d like to see someone around there turn in a complaint to the county. State law requires that if a cemetery is not maintained by a private group the responsibility it on the county.

    23-06-30. Abandoned cemeteries to be maintained by counties.
    The board of county commissioners of each county may provide for the identification,
    cataloging, recording, and shall provide for the general maintenance and upkeep of each abandoned cemetery located within such county. The board shall, at least once each year, proceed to have the weeds and grass cut, restore gravestones to their original placement, and perform any other general maintenance necessary to maintain the dignity and appearance of the grounds. For the purposes of this section, a cemetery means any tract of land used as a burial plot and which is filed with the recorder of the county as a public burying place. The board of county commissioners of each county shall provide for the registration, with the state department of health, of each abandoned cemetery within such county unless such cemetery has been previously registered. Such registration must take place within one year of notification being made to the board, by any interested party of the existence of such abandoned cemetery.
    Expenditures may not exceed levy limitations as provided in section 57

  14. The Tyner cemetery is documented on the free site Find-A-grave. Any additions would be welcome.
    Check it out.

  15. For this cemetery, I am wondering if there are enough church helpers available. It seems like a shame that a wealthy Red River Valley County would have to resort to county government for this cemetery.

    I notice, also, that Ralph Kingsbury has posted. The Kingsbury family I knew was from Grafton, and the connection was through Park River Bible Camp. (This is “Jocko” writing).

    Thanks to Ralph for his thoughtful post on this.


    • Mr. Xavier, thank you for your kind comments. I believe it was either my dad and step mother, or my brother and sister-in-law whom you knew.
      In any case, to those who have provided comments, especially comments in error, including the web authors, I believe some corrections are in order.
      First, Tyner cemetery is located straight north of Cavalier, and straight west of Bathgate about four miles west of ND 18 as it runs north to Neche and the border with Canada. The interesting thing is that it is in the middle of a section. There is no road to the cemetery. Look it up on Google Earth.
      As I mentioned in my first comments, all those names are “Neche” names. I would guess this the area those families settled in when they came to the area, most from Canada, mostly Ontario and Quebec.
      As for being abandoned, I don’t think it is. If you look at the floral and fauna in Google Earth you see it is not overgrown. Tall, yes, but not overgrown. Then if you read the ND law on “abandoned” cemeteries it reads that they only must be mowed once a year. Again looking at Google Earth you can see tracks in the cemetery where maintenance was done. I believe Pembina county has done a good job of maintaining these cemeteries.
      For those who think a local church should do the job, the reality of all the rural counties in ND is that the only churches left are in the two or three (at most) largest towns in the county, and most of them struggle to pay their church bills. The state is doing it the only way feasible, that is, the responsibility is the counties and they raise the money mostly by property taxes. Property is the only source of wealth, especially in a township. There are many, in fact most townships without any towns to collect local sales or income taxes, and there are many townships without any farmsteads in them. However, all the land is farmed, or at least in some format the land receives income of some type. If not the land taxes are not paid and then title passes to the county. The rest of the county land then makes up the difference.
      Abandoned cemeteries were a real issue, and I am sure there are some counties who haven’t done the job the law requires. To the best of my knowledge that is not the case with Pembina county. If you know your ND history you know that Pembina county is where European history began in ND. Pembina knows it and are proud of their heritage. So does the state. Take the time to visit the state museum in the village of Pembina located right in the NE corner of ND.
      Even though there are occasional mistakes in your website you are doing a great job of adding to the history of our state. Thank you.

      • You know what irks me, Ralph? When I find a website I love and some know-it-all comes along being disrespectful to the people that run it, and that’;s you, right now.

        Did you read this piece before you wrote your comments? Where id the web authors make comments in error? They said there’s not a road. You said there’s not a road. They said it’s in Pembina County, and it is in Pembina County. You may have a different opinion on what words like abandoned or overgrown mean, but that’s a matter of opinion, not “an error” as you claim.

        I’ve seen way too many people being disrespectful to the operators of this website lately, and I’m speaking up on their behalf. Apologize, and correct your accusation.

        • Thank you for saying something. If I had a website like this for my state, I don’t think I’d be as eager to tear down the thing I love. I’ve seen alot of it too, here and on their Facebook page, and it’s ugly. I think there are some North Dakota people who need to be reminded you can comment on something without being negative or critical because you have a different opinion. I also think Ralph should apologize.

          • For what? I concluded my comments and correction with a statement complimenting the writers of the blog, and the value of the site.
            I did say it was wrong to call it abandoned because it is not abandoned and I know my Pembina county neighbors do more for ND history than any other group in the state with the exception of the state historical society and their millions of state appropriated dollars, which by the way they do a great job with.
            I make no apology for defending my neighbors and the great job they have done in preserving our history, and I make no apology for stating facts and doing so in a polite manner-which it was.
            I didn’t criticize the bloggers about the road. All I said is that this is the first cemetery I have seen that is in the middle of a section. There must be a unique and interesting history associated with this cemetery. I wrote the location because some commenters had asked where it was, more specifically than Pembina county. So, to be helpful I told them.
            I have made several comments on this site over the years and in no case have I been critical. It has been sites that I knew something about and I added to what was written and sometimes the facts were different than what was written.
            So, again. It is a great site. I look forward to postings, but if I see an error, especially when it means people I know and respect are treated unfairly I will comment and correct.
            Take Pembina county to court. You will lose. By the definition of state law this cemetery is not “abandoned”. Looking at Google Earth it is obvious this cemetery is not abandoned.
            The End.

        • He’s shown he’s too arrogant to apologize, Daley. He accused Troy and Terry of having incorrect facts in this post and then couldn’t point out a single one. All he has is a different opinion on what “abandoned” means.

          • I like how Mr. Kingsbury is using what he sees on Google Earth to counter the description of a guy who visited the site, looked at it with real eyes, and photographed it. 🙂

          • No apology owed in my opinion. I believe some of my Inglis ancestors are buried there. Am very pleased to hear that some minimum level of maintenance is occurring.

  16. I know I’m in the minority here, but there is something beautiful about the abandoned and natural state of this cematary. Just a little reminder of how fleeting it all is, and how someday we will all return to the land.

  17. There is an old cemetery here at the edge of the town I live in that was abandoned and so overgrown that no one knew it was there. A development of houses with large lots and even a golf course went up next to land covered with heavy vegetation like vines, bushes and some large trees that covered the old headstones dating to pioneer times. But none were visible, and no records of who even owned the property. Once it was discovered, some volunteers cleaned it all up and reclaimed the old resting place of many folks that one lived in the area.

  18. I know this cemetery well. I used to live by it. I see that even the evergreen trees that marked it are gone too. It has never been kept up as far as I know. In the 1970s the brother told animals had gotten into the graves and there were bones laying around so I got scared and never went there. I always thought it was sad that it wasn’t kept up.

  19. Tyner Cemetery was the site of a grave robbery in October of 1892. Mrs. A. D. Gibson (the first Mrs. A. D. Gibson) was buried during the week and when the family came back for church services the following Sunday, the grave was open and the remains were missing. Wagon tracks were followed for awhile before the trail was lost. I have never been able to find any conclusion to this story, as to whether her remains were recovered or not. Tyner Cemetery records do not record her burial but the incident was reported in several newspapers. Theory? One of two possibilities – it could have been the work of grave robbers who were going to hold the body for ransom (a not uncommon occurrence in those days) or — medical schools required students to provide their own cadaver. Did an aspiring young doctor steal her body for that purpose? We may never know…..

  20. Beautifully sad. What a shame that someone doesn’t take care of it. Over the past decade there have been several stories of farmers moving fences and markers of little forgotten yards for more land – not saying that is what is happening – but I do know this one was in the news a few years back because of the road being seeded over.

    • I found it rather disturbing to discover the seeded-over ‘roadway’ (just a pathway wide enough for a vehicle along the edge of the field).

  21. My father is buried in a rural cemetary called Bronco Cemetary south of Golden Valley. It is set midst farmland as well. I note that many of the gravestones in the Tyner cemetery indicate that these people died quite young. I don’t believe the flu epidemic hit until 1915 or later. It was a harsh life. We are the survivors of all of those courageous people.

  22. Terry- incredible. So moving. Thank you! Did you happen to get close-up pictures of the plot map under glass? This may be the only map of plots in the cemetery, which is invaluable. Thanks! -John Gallardo

  23. At the risk of being the unpopular one, I do not find the condition of this cemetery forgotten, abandon, in derelict condition or otherwise in some state of being a mess. To me it looks natural and quite beautiful. In the Jewish tradition, cemeteries are not disturbed, they are allowed to grow back into a natural state. In many Native American communities where green burial is practiced, these cemeteries are not disturbed either. It seems to me that the idea of cemetery maintenance is a matter of cultural and regional sensibilities. Surly we can do honor to those who have walked on in ways besides mowing grass, yes? Again, I find it quite beautiful the way it is; Mother Nature is taking care of and with this cemetery. I wonder, back in the time these people were living, did they practice the business of cemetery upkeep as we now interpret it? Or, did they bury those who walked on and let Nature take her course? Does anyone know? Perhaps, the way this cemetery looks is more in keeping with how they would have done it. Just sayin’.

    What really struck me was how very young these people were when they died. Life must have been very hard, harder than anything we can even begin to imagine.

    I mean no harm or disrespect to anyone by my comments. Again, to my eye, this is beautiful.

    • Regarding old cemeteries in North Dakota, all I can speak of are those in the Grant County area. According to my late mother, who grew up in the Carson area in the 1920’s and 30’s, and my late grandmother, who lived there from 1906 to the mid 1970’s, cemeteries were kept clear. On Decoration Day – now called Memorial Day – families went to where their people were buried and made special efforts to “tidy it up.” Then they had a picnic meal, and visited. -John Gallardo, California

    • I was impressed by the good condition of the tombstones. In this respect, it does look like the cemetery is being cared for.

  24. Many thanks to Troy and Terry for sharing these forgotten places with the rest of us, and as a reminder. It is sad to visit these old graveyards and realize to what degree death was a frequent visitor in those days. ND was the last of the true frontiers.

  25. Lovely photos. My grandmother was born in Tyner in a soddy. She called Tyner “a wide spot in the road.” Times were hard then.

  26. I actually think it is wonderful that these cemeteries are left to themselves. These are some of the last places that virgin prairie might exist. It seems fitting that these places are left to look as wild as they were when the people resting there arrived. With less than 1% of native prairie left in the Great Plains, these cemeteries are important for more than their deceased residents.

  27. Troy and all:
    Thank you for the work you have done on the Tyner Cemetery.
    About four of my Currie families moved to Tyner around the 1890′ from Crysler, Ontario Canada. There were also Byers around Crysler so possibly I have a connection there, as well.
    They did not stay long, but moved west to Washington State, California and Texas around 1905.
    On my first visit to Tyner, I met a Mr. Mountain at the four corners. He asked me if I was looking for ‘mountains’, so i thought he was a real nut case at first. He showed me where the post office, school and other buildings were located, plus the cemetery, which was new information for me.
    On my second visit, Mr. Mountain obtained the burial plot plan from the county building in Cavalier. I obtained a second plot plan from the Cavalier library. The two plans are somewhat different.
    Several of the Curries were brought back (from Washington state) to Tyner for burial. Mary (Currie) Christie was brought back from Texas, and is buried in the Cavalier cemetery on the east side of town.
    We came thru Cavalier on a third trip to the west coast, but Mr. mountain had passed away by then.
    Don Kenny, Ingleside, Ontario

  28. Coordinates for Tyner cemetery. Copy-paste to google maps: 48.884310, -97.655464

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