September 1, 1894, much of Pine County was affected by a fire
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Leonard Pavek passed away May 9, 2004
Donna Pavek passed away
September 22, 2005
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Pine County Genealogical Society