On each fourth of July the descendants of George Washington Duke (1864-1940) and Virginia Arbelle Godwin (1873-1913) gather for a family reunion.
They meet in what was an old African American school building in Perks, a little rural community, in southern Illinois.
The descendants of (Squire) Duke have scattered to the four winds, so this location is ideal for the meeting of people from the states of MO, IL, KY and TN and as far away as OR. Itís kitchen, dining room and toilet facilities are accessible to everyone.
The property was purchased for the reunion and owned by Cletus Duke, son of Hardy W Duke, of Cypress, IL.
My grandfather, George W Duke was called Squire because he was Justice of the Peace in New Madrid County, Missouri for many years. He was a farmer by nature and loved to raise peanuts. He also was known for raising children. 15 by his first wife, 4 by his second wife and three step childen.
He is well remembered at churchís for his shouting when he got happy, as did some of his sonís.
George Washington Duke was born on May 17th, 1864 to Stephen Polk and Rhoda Bunn Duke in Waverly, Humphreys County,Tennessee. He died May 14th, 1940 at his home at the foot of the sand hill on Spurlin Becks farm.
His parents, Stephen Polk Duke and Rhoda Bunn Duke, were married in 1853 in Humphreys County, Tennessee. Stephen was born in 1828 and died in Humphreys County in 1880. Rhoda was born in 1835 and died in 1866 just two years after George was born.
George and Belle were married in 1886 in Humphreys County.
Belle was born September 30th, 1873 and died September 22, 1913, in child birth with Hazel Thelma, her 15th child. She died just eight days short of her 40th birthday in New Madrid County just a few miles SE of Sikeston.
Belle had lost 4 children before Hazel was born who died as infants or close to a year old and gave her life giving birth to Hazel who lived less than two years.
George and Belle were both laid to rest in Dogwood Cemetery in the community of Dogwood in Mississipi County Missouri. George was laid to rest beside has second wife, Minnie Malinda Sparks Godwin Duke who was a sister-in-law to Belle. Belle is resting beside Lydia Belle who was the first child of Ebert and Stella Duke. Lydia Belle got her name from Grandmaís Belle and Stellaís mother, Lydia Tate. She died when she was 11 months old in 1925.
Most of George and Belles descendants are buried at Dogwood Cemetery. Aunt Flossie is the only remaning child and lives in California and will be 90 on Valentines day of this year, 2000. One daughter of George and Minnie, Orena Dover, is still living in Sikeston, MO and will be 78 in October of this year, 2000.
Dogwood Cemetery is located off highway B between Missouri highway 80 and Interstate 57, Rural East Prairie, MO.
This page is dedicated to the memory of George and Belle Duke who pioneered the way for those of us now living or dead.
MAY THEY REST IN PEACE.