Howard I. Morris passed away on April 29, 1957 and was buried at Sage Chapel Cemetery on May 2, 1957. He had been born in the small town of Auburn in Lincoln County, on October 8, 1889, the son of Shadrack “Shad” and Harriet (Boone) Morris. Howard’s father had served in the 64th U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War. After emancipation on January 11, 1865, Shad and Harriet were married on January 3, 1866. They raised a family of 12 children, however only seven were still living in 1910. Howard’s siblings were Browdy, Stella, Minnie, Levia, Golela, and Lena.
Soon came World War I, and 27 year-old Howard Morris enlisted in the 65th Pioneer Infantry of the United State Army on September 26, 1918 where he served in the Headquarters Company. He came home on December 7, 1918. After his discharge from the Army in 1918, Howard married Mary Truelove “Lovie” Luckett Vardeman (seen below), the widow of John Vardemann, who had died in January of 1918. (Lovie’s sister Stella was the grandmother of Phyllis Hayden). Lovie was the daughter of George F. and Phyllis (Abington) Luckett. He was a wonderful stepfather to her two sons, John (Nov 11, 1910-June 17, 1976) and George Vardeman (July 25, 1915-November 10-1984). In their later years Howard and Mary lived with her son George, north of O’Fallon near the town of St. Paul in Cuivre Township. They were members of the Cravens Methodist Church next to the black school at the corner of Elm and Sonderen. Howard was quietly buried in Sage Chapel Cemetery when he died.
On August 20th, in 1881, Mahala (Keithly) and her husband Jasper Costlio had transferred to the Trustees of an African Methodist Episcopal Church for the use by the Conference, one acre of land, which became known as Sage Chapel Cemetery. This was done so that the former slaves of Samuel Keithly could continue to be buried in this cemetery. That same deed conveyed a one-half acre parcel on Sonderen Street to be used for a church known as Sage’s Chapel. The members of Cravens Methodist, and Wishwell Baptist, also located on Sonderen Street, also used this cemetery to bury their families. None of these churches or their records exist anymore. Sage Chapel Cemetery is a former African American community cemetery that is maintained by the City of O’Fallon, Missouri, located at 8500 Veterans Memorial Parkway. It has 117 documented burials of which only 37 have headstones, of these we know that 17 were born enslaved. (2018) May they rest in peace “As long as a name can be spoken, that person shall not be forgotten.”
Howard Morris’ stone was replaced on August 12 of 2017, and the family given full military honors at the ceremony at Sage Chapel Cemetery.
Photos of the Howard Morris Ceremony by Dorris Keeven-Franke and of the Howard Morris tombstones by Jim Frain.