Hardin Cemetery Disaster

The Hardin Cemetery Disaster 

In 1993, a record-breaking flood occurred along the Missouri and Mississippi River that resulted in the destruction of a community cemetery that was on a scale never before experienced.

Before the flooding, the cemetery contained a total of 1,576 burials.  Of these, 793 graves were washed out by the floodwaters.  For some weeks afterward, remains from the cemetery were recovered and in many cases were at quite a long distance from the cemetery.  Eventually, 645 remains were recovered which means that an additional 148 remains were never located.

Under the leadership of Dean Snow, Ray County Coroner, and with the help of the Missouri Funeral Directors Association, 645 remains were recovered, 120 were identified, and 525 were reinterred in the Unknown Section.

Those remains that were recovered but could not be identified were later buried in the Unknown Section of the cemetery. That part of the cemetery is marked by a large memorial.

Today, the cemetery still shows the incredible damage done by the flooding.  Basically, the cemetery is now is in three sections: portions of the original cemetery are on the east and west sides of the large middle portion that was cut away by the flooding.  The west section contains two memorials to commemorate the disaster.  To the east is a smaller section that was also part of the original cemetery and also includes a section of numerous tombstones placed close together.  These are tombstones that were recovered from the destroyed portion of the cemetery but could not be matched with any of the recovered remains.  Despite the years that have passed, to view the damage that was done is still a sobering sight.  Even now, it is difficult to image the heartache the families have had to deal with.

The Hardin Cemetery is located just east of Hardin, on the south side of Highway 10.

A large memorial is located on the west side of the cemetery and the inscription reads as follows:

Hardin Cemetery 1993 Flood

Lest We Forget

Those Who Have Suffered Through This Devastating Tragedy.

As Does The Eternal Flame So Symbolize, Life Must Go On.

This Memorial Is A Tribute To The Courage And Dedication Of The Families And Friends Of The Hardin Community.

“On July 12, 1993, floodwaters from the Missouri River gained entrance to the cemetery. As the water rose, the rampaging river eroded topsoil and quickly cut a channel through the center, dislodging vaults, caskets, and tombstones depositing them some distance downstream. When the waters receded, two-thirds of the cemetery was destroyed. It was determined that 793 of the 1576 burials were displaced. With the help of the Missouri Funeral Directors Association, under the leadership of Dean Snow, Ray County Coroner, 645 remains were recovered, 120 were identified, and 525 were reinterred in the Unknown Section. A Memorial Service was held December 5, 1993, in memory of these loved ones. This has been classified as the worst cemetery disaster in the history of the United States, receiving nationwide and worldwide coverage.”