What is a Tombstone Tourist?

I’m a taphophile and a tombstone tourist. It’s a hazard of being a genealogist. 

It’s not as creepy as it sounds. It just means I like to visit graveyards and cemeteries.

As a genealogist, one of my ideas of fun is visiting cemeteries and graveyards. Not in a weird ghost hunting way (although I do enjoy a good ghost story or two), but instead, a way of learning about the history of an area and its citizens.

The only remnant of some old towns or settlements is the cemetery. If we take the time to stop and look, the history of the place is there, set in stone. It’s amazing when I find a graveyard in the middle of nowhere and realize that once there a bustling community nearby. It sparks all kinds of questions, which can prove useful as it can create great leads in genealogy research.  

There is a lot of information in a cemetery if you take the time to “listen” to the residents.

The stones have something to say.

The gravestone of Carney Parsons and his family speak of tragedy. They all died on the same day, October 12, 1906. The family gravesite consists of Carney, his wife Minnie and his children Edward, Jessie, and Franklin. Carney Parsons was my 1st cousin 3x removed. The grave is marked by a more recent type stone, the grave was originally unmarked. Gravestones hint at a tragedy.

The Parsons’ lived in Licking, Missouri and were well liked in the community. Carney previously worked as railroad tie maker in Miller County and decided to move his family back there to live. He sold his farm and crops to Jodie Hamilton and packed up his family and set off on the road that led out of Licking.  Hamilton was unhappy with the agreement they had made and accosted the family on their way out of town. After arguing, Hamilton pulled out his shotgun and discharged both barrels hitting Carney in the leg, then beat him with the gun barrel. Minnie Parsons came to the aid of her husband and Hamilton beat her and her children to death.

The oldest child was 11, the youngest only 1 year old.  Hamilton loaded them into the wagon and hid them in the woods. Unbelievably after the murders, he went to a revival meeting at the local schoolhouse. After the revival, he returned to the wagon, loaded up the bodies and went down to Pine Creek nearby where he dumped the bodies. Men fishing in the creek found two of the bodies. The rest of the bodies were found after a search of the area.

Hamilton was arrested after he was found leading the Parsons’ mule through town with his girlfriend Mae Thompson riding it.

A raving lunatic

After his arrest, the sheriff told reporters that Hamilton was a raving lunatic and had attempted suicide by stabbing himself with a knitting needle and by beating his head against the wall. Rumors of a lynching spurred the sheriff to transfer Hamilton to a jail near the Arkansas line.

Hamilton was tried and found guilty after a short trial and sentenced to death.

Thu, Oct 18, 1906 – Page 1 · The Houston Herald (Houston, Texas, Missouri, United States of America) · Newspapers.com


When it was time for Hamilton’s hanging, a stockade was built around the gallows.  It did not stop onlookers from climbing nearby trees for a better look.

They had to hang him twice!

The local newspaper “The Houston Herald” reported the hanging in the 27 December 1906 issue.

Stories from the stones

“Hamilton added a few more remarks and then stepped upon the trap; he stood perfectly still and immovable while his arms and legs were being tied, seemingly without fear or tremble. The black-cap was adjusted at 11 o’clock, and Sheriff Wood shook hands with him saying “Goodbye, Jodia, may the Lord have mercy on your soul.” Sheriff Wood then sprung the trap at 11:02 and then occurred the feature that caused a groan of horror to arise from the crown. The knot slipped and the man’s body fell to the ground. He was injured but not unconscious. Another knot was tied by Sheriff Bay of Shannon County, and the condemned man was carried back to the scaffold. The noose was again adjusted and two minutes later the trap was sprung the second time by Sheriff Wood. This was 11:04 and in just 11½ minutes the young man was pronounced dead by the attending physicians.

The Cantrell Cemetery in Licking Missouri is the burial place for the Carney family.

For more information click on the following links.

Bittersweet Magazine

Find A Grave – Parsons Family

Find A Grave – Jodie Hamilton


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  1. I’m a taphophile too, but didn’t know there was a word for it until today. Blame it on my mom. She started working on our family history I think before I was born. I vaguely remember going with her to cemeteries, meeting up with a few friends, and hanging out there to do some rubbing. I really think this had a lot to do with my liking of cemeteries. To me, they’re peaceful places.

    1. Lindy B says:

      Hello fellow taphophile. I totally agree with you, so peaceful and nobody to bother you!

  2. Interesting story. From listening to you tube on this incident, the argument was over a saddle that Jody had. Carney supposedly talked Jody in to trading his saddle for a gun. Carney pushed him into it. Later Jody was upset about trade ,and followed the wagon with family, and shot Carney with the Gun and killed the whole family. Since you are a relative, did you hear of that reason for argument over a saddle?

  3. Lindy B says:

    It’s a tragic story over such a trivial (to us) matter. I never heard any family stories about him or his family until researching the Parsons’ cousins and came across the newspaper article mentioned in the post. You never know what you’ll find!
    The Parsons’ from my line lived in the Richland, Mo. area, but were spread throughout Missouri, then later Arkansas and Oklahoma.

  4. mike cantrell sr says:

    We’re the pardons related to the cantrell family. What’s the connection to being buried there

    1. Lindy B says:

      That’s a very good question! I have no idea if there is a family connection. Thanks for replying.

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