Last April, I returned to Nebraska to visit my best friend, Christi, and we went on another road trip. You’ll remember we went on one the year before that resulted in some great posts for the blog. I’m just now digging into this more recent adventure.
Christi had a concert in Lincoln the night I was flying in, so I arranged to fly there instead of Omaha like I usually do. She picked me up around 10 p.m. and we drove west to York to stay overnight before hitting Greenwood Cemetery the next morning. FYI, this is different than the other Greenwood Cemetery I wrote about last year.
York is about 55 miles west of Lincoln (Nebraska’s capital). Greenwood Cemetery has over 10,000 burials. That’s about 3,000 more than York’s actual population. It is a very well maintained cemetery and even has a small covered area with a directory of names with grave locations, along with maps and brochures.
A non-profit run cemetery, Greenwood is solely funded by plot sales and grave openings. It’s still an active cemetery. Currently, they’re raising money so they can replace the existing caretaker’s house, level some of the markers and remove then replace some dead/dying trees. They’ve almost met their $300,000 goal.
Despite the sunshine, it was an incredibly windy day. Here’s a picture of Christi fighting the gusts.
The first grave marker that got my attention was rather unusual. I don’t often see metal ones like this. It’s certainly different.
As far as I know, Gary is still among the living. There are no dates on the marker. I did Google his name and learned he works at an auto repair place in York. There are other Klundts buried at Greenwood. So it’s my guess Gary made this marker himself for his future burial.
Among the many things I noticed about Greenwood was the prevalence of organizational symbols, ranging from Korean War military service to the Woman’s Relief Corps. These symbols can tell you a little bit about the person buried next to it.
Here’s one I’ve seen a few other places but hadn’t taken the time to research. Back in 1895 when women couldn’t vote, couldn’t own property, and weren’t allowed to own life insurance, nine women founded Royal Neighbors of America (RNA). They were wives of men who were members of Modern Woodmen of the World (a popular fraternal organization).
The name Royal Neighbors of America was chosen because members adhered to the belief, “For better is a neighbor that is near than a brother that is far.” (Proverbs 27:10). They intended to be that helpful neighbor, combining the Biblical “neighbor” with the word “royal”, supporting their belief in the nobility of the work they would do.
Like Woodman of the World, the RNA was a fraternal benefit society that offered life insurance to both women and children. RNA is still going strong today and in 2013, life insurance in force totaled over $2.7 billion. They also continue to help in times of need, such as during Hurricane Katrina, through its fraternal aid fund.
This double marker for a husband and wife looks pretty ordinary and I thought little of it when I photographed it. But the dates caught my eye months later. They both died in 1918 within a day of each other. It had to be the Spanish Flu pandemic.
A native of York, Charles Fay Tharp was an electrician (according to his World War I draft card). At the age of 27, Charles was among a large contingent of young men drafted to be soldiers in World War I. On Sept. 14, 1917, they left for Camp Funston, which was situated within Fort Riley, Kans.
Camp Funston is considered by many to be Ground Zero for the first wave of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. An Army cook is thought to be the first victim, becoming ill on March 11, 1918. Before the end of the month, 1,100 men had been hospitalized, and 20 percent of those men developed pneumonia. This first wave continued through the spring, sweeping through other Army camps. Many took it with them to Europe as they left to fight the war.
The flu subsided briefly that summer but then roared back full force in Boston in September 1918, sweeping both soldiers and civilians alike.
While I could find no death records for either Charles or Nora, I feel it was likely the cause of their deaths. Did Charles ever make it to Europe? Or did he unknowingly bring it home with him from Camp Funston?
I did learn that according to a report, York County had so many Spanish Flu patients in September 1918 (during the second wave) that it overwhelmed the local hospital’s resources. The Red Cross opened a hospital in the buildings of the York County Agricultural Society, which operated from October 13 to Nov. 20. Charles died on October 13. Was he one of this makeshift hospital’s first patients? Nora died the day before.
Charles and Nora didn’t have Find a Grave memorials so I added them some months later. Only this week did I realize what day it was that I posted them: October 13, 2016. That’s 98 years to the day of Charles’ death.
As usual, there were many markers for children’s graves. This one I have seen before but usually it is for only one or two children. This one represented the three children of J.W. and Francis Walker. Eddie, Lulu and James all died before their 10th birthday. The tree stump represents a life cut short while the dove often means resurrection. Their names are written on the other three sides.
I did encounter a marker I did not expect to see in a rural Nebraska cemetery. A Confederate grave marker.
The son of a blacksmith, Robert J. McPherson was born in Talladega, Ala. in 1846. By 1860, the McPhersons were living on a farm. Robert enlisted as a private in the 62nd Alabama Infantry, Company C, on Dec. 19, 1863 and mustered out on August 31, 1864. One website claimed he “swam Mobile Bay rather than surrender at Spanish Fort to fight another day.” Since this battle took place in 1865, I’m not sure this is true.
In 1870, Robert was back at his family’s farm. By 1880, Robert had married Anna Bell (a native of Indiana) and lived in York. His occupation is listed as teamster on the census. An obituary posted on his Find a Grave memorial states that a poorly treated foot sore led to sepsis and the amputation of his leg below the knee. He died a few months later.
At the time of the Civil War, Nebraska was still a territory and not yet a state. But it did not favor slavery. About 400 known Confederate graves are scattered across Nebraska. I don’t know how Robert was treated by his York neighbors because of his Southern ties, but his grave is well taken care of today.
Next time, I’ll share more stories from Greenwood Cemetery.