Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hold on for Holden - Addendum

NOTE: This is an addendum to the blog posting filed 10 minutes earlier. Please be sure to see both. The other one is just below.

Driving back and forth between our RV Park and the town of Holden, we passed by some interesting buildings. We’re always drawn to unusual or special churches, and found this one in the little town of Pittsville.
It’s called Woods Chapel, and it's a Methodist Church. We had to take its picture. Note the open structure of the shingle-sided bell tower. The church was established in 1884; we aren’t certain if this is the original building.

The second structure drawing our attention was this concrete … what? Not a residence, although it had doors and windows. Not a church, although its entrances and windows are arched, and apparently not a business. It’s been unused for some time, as it is overgrown with vines, but someone still mows the grass around the building.
On one of our visits to the Holden City Hall I asked Sharon about it. She had other visitors at the time, and the three ladies told me it was a mausoleum, the Miller Mausoleum. They told me a little more, then gave me a copy of an article from Holden’s sesquicentennial book. The article had originally been published in the Kansas City Times of October 16, 1934, reprinted in the Holden Image on February 27, 2003. Now it was in print once again. Here’s the story, boiled down quite a bit:

Farmer Joseph Miller, being a man who liked read to the Bible and had studied some ancient history, did not want to be buried in the ground when he died. He told a visitor, “I dreaded the lot of lying in the water that settles into practically all graves.” He reminded the visitor that Biblical persons buried their dead in caves, Romans used tombs, and the Egyptians mummified their dead and buried them where they would be dry.

To accomplish his goal, in 1916 he began to build this concrete bunker, which later became known as “Joseph’s Tomb”. By the time the article was written in 1934, the main structure had been completed, but the doors and windows were not yet in place.

The walls of the first story, which are partly below ground, are three feet thick, and those of the second floor are two feet thick. Above the second floor rises a sort of turret. A dome at the top is flattened to form an observation platform. The original article in the Kansas City Times said, “One of the main entrances leads down into the family crypt room. Mr. Miller’s father and mother, brothers and sisters and six children of his and Mrs. Miller’s, who died in infancy, are interred there.”

The second floor of the tomb was devoted to religious pictures and space for a museum. Sharon at the city hall told me that, as a young child, she would play in the park surrounding the building and peek through the windows, where she saw pictures of angels and heaven. Sharon added that after the older family was gone, the younger generation had no interest in the project, and let it run down. There is also speculation in town (probably just idle rumor) that the bodies of the family had been removed and buried elsewhere. Wouldn't that be ironic?

An addendum had been added to the story appearing in the sesquicentennial book. A Mrs. Frances Hancock told of living in the Miller house from 1968 to 1978 and helping to maintain the mausoleum, keeping it clean and secure. She added that she sometimes guided curious visitors through the tomb.

Wouldn’t that have been a wonderful tour to take? It would have made a nice addition to … Our Life on Wheels.


  1. Oh....that would have been a very neat tour to take! Good job on hunting down the ancestors' resting places. That most have been a cool experience.

    Love you both!


  2. Wow, thanks for the info! I have driven by this many times while working and finally stopped just a few days ago to have a closer look. I saw sort of a tombstone that was unreadable on the front of the building, but still didn't know what it was so thought I'd try the internet. Glad you had this on here. I too think that tour would be interesting.

  3. Thank you so much for posting this information! I had to make an abrupt U-Turn headed towards Holden this AM in my rush to to a small business for a meeting.

    I snapped quite a few pictures, but had no idea what it was until a couple of Google searches led me to your blog.

    Happy traveling!!


  4. What a great piece of history. Like the previous poster - my sis and I had to do an abrupt u-turn to find out what that strange concrete building was. Am I to understand that it is not being maintained as an historical landmark? If that is the case, what a shame.

  5. At least someone is mowing the grass around it! With our economy in the shape it's in, I'd not be surprised if even that gets stopped!

  6. If u step through the gates they will call the police if u go through

  7. I passed by this place last year it looks nothing like this its trashy no grass and its falling apart but I didn't know this was historical until now


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