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Mission Creek Cemetery Dedication

Mission Creek Cemetery

Published in the Pine City Pioneer, Pine City, Minnesota September 8, 2005

Groups help restore what the Great Hinckley Fire destroyed

   On September 1, 1894, much of Pine County was affected by a fire so large and furious that it wiped out everything in its path, including huge stands of trees, six towns and over 400 people.

    Mission Creek, once located between Pine City and Hinckley, was one of those towns destroyed by the blaze that has come to be known as the Great Hinckley Fire.

    Although the area around Mission  Creek was soon resettled and life eventually returned to normal, many buildings, keepsakes, documents, and other historically important artifacts were lost forever.  In a small cemetery on the west side of Mission Creek (between the path of Highway 61 and the solid waste transfer station), the fire destroyed the markers on the graves of all 15 pioneers buried there on the peaceful patch of land under the pines.

    Although a makeshift cross made of boards was later attached to a tree, the markers with names were never restored, perhaps because any family members of those buried in the cemetery were killed in the fire.

    While most traces of the cemetery were destroyed, those who later grew up in the Mission Creek area knew of the graves.  But over time, the area became abandoned and run down.  When Highway 61 was expanded, local residents made sure the crews knew of the cemetery and its location,  but time went on and the site was again forgotten.

    Leonard Pavek heard about the place from his schoolteacher and, after an extensive search, was able to determine the location of the cemetery and the individual graves.  He began efforts to have the land dedicated as a cemetery and restore the grave markers.

    Unfortunately, when Pavek and others checked for records to see if they could identify who was buried in the graves, they were not able to find any information.  It is thought that,  if any records were kept, they were destroyed when the Mission Creek courthouse was also destroyed in the fire.

    Despite the inability to identify the individuals in the cemetery, Pavek and his wife, Donna, continued with their efforts, hoping at least to secure the area and erect a general  marker so the graves would not be forgotten or destroyed.  However, the process to have the cemetery acknowledged as a historical site was daunting, as was the red tape and political wrangling needed to transfer the land to Mission Creek Township.  Local township officials tried to help but ran into difficulites.

    Finally about three years ago, Pavek approached Alan Hancock, the county commissioner who represents the Mission Creek area.  Hancock agreed to help with the transfer of the land from the East Central Solid Waste Commission, if Pavek would pursue donations for the headstone, fence and any other expenses needed to restore the cemetery.

    With the help of several local businesses and organizations, both men held up their end of the bargain.  Commissioner Hancock was finally able to get the plot of land transferred to the township.  Money for the fence came from the Pine City American Legion, Hinckley-Pine City Flames, Pine City Lions, Rock Creek Lions, Pokegema Lake Association and the Paveks.

    Despite the generosity of these groups, the money raised didn't cover the cost of the fence, but Deutschlander Fencing, the local business that provided the fence, donated the remainder of the materials and installed the fence.  The Sentence to serve crew created steps up the steep slope, Hinckley Floral and Gifts contributed flowers.

Dick Toman of Mission Creek Memorials donated a headstone that reads, "Here lie 15 pioneers of the old town of Mission  Creek.  The town was destroyed by the Great Hinckley Fire in 1894.  With this plaque, we honor your memory."

    The backside lists those organizations that contributed to the effort and acknolwedges the work of the Paveks and their family.

    On Sept. 1 of this year, over a century after the Great Hinckley Fire  brought anonymity to those buried in the Mission Creek Cemetery, a group of about a dozen people gathered for a rededication ceremony.  With the U.S. flag waving gently in the breeze and the birds chirping softly overhead in the trees, Commissioner Hancock read a short passage from a book about Pine Coutny and the town of Mission Creek.  He also shared the story of the cemetery and the Paveks' efforts over the past decade.

    Unfortunately, Leonard  Pavek died last year and never had a chance to see the fruits of his labors.  But those at the gathering who knew Pavek felt certain he would be pleased with the beautiful headstone and old-fashioned fence that now identifies and protects the graves of those 15 pioneers who lived and died in Mission Creek and helped open this area for those who came later.

Note: Leonard Pavek passed away May 9, 2004 
          Donna Pavek passed away September 22, 2005

Mission Creek monument

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