After leaving Wisner Cemetery, Christi and I decided we’d head back to Omaha. We’d considered going to Sioux City, Iowa, but unlike Georgia, the area’s weather is not nearly as warm in April and the forecast was blustery further north.
I did ask if we could stop in Blair. I hadn’t been to Blair since January 2009 when she and I went on what I now consider my first “hop” at Blair City Cemetery. It was a cold, snowy day and while I’d been able to see the graves of my Claar relatives, conditions weren’t ideal. I wanted to spend some time there when I could truly wander around see the markers without ice on them.
Rufus Claar is my first cousin five times removed. He came to Blair, Neb. from Ohio at some time before 1870. He worked for a gentleman named Milton B. Wild, whose wife was from the same area of Ohio as Rufus. His sister Eliza Jane Claar Weed and her husband, Charles, moved out to Blair and settled down soon after.
Rufus married a local girl, Alma Stewart, and they had several children. The twins, Arthur and Lisle, were born on the same day in 1880 and died on the same day a year and two months later. I don’t know if it was due to illness or an accident but that has always puzzled me.
Mable, Rufus and Stewart, who were born after the twins, all lived well into adulthood. Stewart, the youngest, served in World War I as an aviator.
The folks that take care of Blair Cemetery do a fine job. They have a great directory and a metal box that protects it from the elements. Also, the Washington County Genealogical Society has recorded and indexed the obituaries of many folks buried at the cemetery. I found it to be a wonderful resource.
Blair became a city in 1872 and burials probably began in the 1860s as pioneers began arriving. I found a few markers from the early 1870s. Find a Grave lists about a little less than 10,000 memorials. It is still an active cemetery.
The photo I took of Rufus’ grave in 2009 did not turn out well due to the snow and ice on it. But this time, it was easier. I had forgotten he had a Woodmen of the World seal on his monument, too.
Rufus died in 1902, only 54 at the time. His health had not been good and an auction was held shortly before he died. I was told that his land is actually next to Blair Cemetery and is still farmed today but not by Claars. None of his children stayed in Blair but the Weeds did. Many of them are buried in nearby Kennard Cemetery.
One of the most touching monuments I’ve ever seen is for the McMenemy brothers, Charles and Silas. They died of diphtheria in 1888 within days of each other. Charles was five and Silas was four.
Their father, Charles E. McMenemy, was a native of South Carolina who left the South to fight for the Union in the 20th New York Infantry during the Civil War. He moved to Blair after the war and eventually married the daughter of a local doctor, Mary Fawcett (noted for being the first graduate of Blair High School). Charles became involved in real estate and did quite well.
But no amount of money could protect his sons from the scourge of diphtheria.
The monument Charles had made for the boys contains a number of amazing motifs, from a squirrel nibbling on a nut to the traditional lambs to a child’s sailboat and sailor hats and a small bicycle. Even a small bird perches on one branch of the “tree”. The more I examined it, the more I found.
Charles E. and Mary also had three daughters, they all survived into adulthood. Son Logan was born in 1892 and also lived a long life. The family moved to Omaha in 1905 where Charles E. died in 1908. Mary died in 1941.
The story behind this monument for John Robert Cantlin is one that made me smile. Because while its quite beautiful, there is no body buried beneath it.
A native of Canada, Cantlin came to the U.S. as a child. During the Civil War, he served in the 104th Illinois Volunteers, Co. A., then spent several years as a railroad agent in Illinois. He married Eliza Curran in 1866 and in 1869 they moved to Nebraska. The Cantlins ended up in Dodge County where they farmed.
In 1881, John Cantlin was elected to the state legislature (where he served two terms) and was secretary of the State Grange for many years. He was also a member of the State Board of Agriculture. In 1902, he was appointed by Gov. Ezra Savage as a delegate to the Farmer’s National Congress at Macon, Ga. Macon is about an hour and a half from where I currently live.
After leaving Macon, Cantlin and some other men were going to tour St. Augustine, Fla. when he suffered a stroke while aboard the train. After being taken to the Valdes Hotel in Valdosta, Ga. (two hours south of Macon), he passed away. His body was shipped back to Blair, where it lay in state for two days at Germania Hall. According to his obituary, every place in Blair closed for his funeral, which was held at St. Joseph’s Church.
To honor Cantlin, Woodmen of the World purchased the lot and erected this memorial to him in the Blair City Cemetery. The problem is that its a Protestant cemetery and John R. Cantlin was Catholic. His family wanted him to be buried at nearby St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Scribner, Neb., where his first wife Eliza (who had died in 1888), four of his children who died in infancy and his mother were already buried. So that’s where his actual remains are, under a different monument. But the beautiful monument that WOW had made for him remains at Blair City Cemetery.
Cantlin’s second wife, Luctretia, was a Protestant and is buried in Blair Cemetery.
I did find it curious to find that after his obituary listed his memberships (Grand Army of the Republic, Ancient Order of United Workers and Woodmen of the World) that he “carried about $8,000 insurance.” That seems like personal information the public doesn’t need to know.
I’m always intrigued by unusual words on grave markers so this one caught my eye.
A native of West Virginia, Limnah “Linney” A. Wilcox was born in 1838. He married Eliza Sophia “Sophy” Davis sometime in the 1860s in Amesville, Ohio where they had a son and two daughters. After the Civil War in 1867, the Wilcoxes moved to Nebraska. He was foreman of a bridge crew with a railroad company and became one of the first residents of Blair, owning a home on Grant Street as Rufus Claar did.
According to his obituary, Linney asked railroad officials to set a box car on a side track so Sunday School might be held in it, with Linney leading the singing. He was one of the original members of Blair’s Methodist church. He and Sophy had a few more children.
Sophy “left home” in 1907. Life must have been difficult for Linney without her because by 1910, he had moved to Missoula, Mont. to live with daughter Lizzy and her family. When they moved to Spokane, Wash., he followed. After he died in 1923, his surviving children gathered in Blair to lay him to rest beside Sophy.
Next to Sophy and L.A.’s graves is a much less traditional marker for their son, Ellis Herbert “Bert” Wilcox. It’s a hodgepodge of colorful stones. I’ve seen some similar graves in Nebraska cemeteries. He was born in Ohio in 1861. He married Florence Brown in Iowa in 1884 but it looks like they divorced.
According to his obituary, Bert was a registered pharmacist and served in the hospital corps of the Nebraska National Guard “during the Indian outbreak up at the Pine Ridge agency.” I believe this refers to the Battle of Wounded Knee in South Dakota in 1890.
Bert remarried in 1893 to a woman named Luillia and they had a daughter, Iva. I think this marriage ended in divorce as well since she is not mentioned in his obituary, but Iva is listed and was residing elsewhere.
According to business directories, Bert left Blair and lived in Omaha, working various jobs from clerk to bartender. His obituary notes he was manager of the Dahlman Club rooms (a Democratic organization) at the time of his death in 1912, which was attributed to organic heart disease. He was only 50 years old.
As they would do so for their father years later, the Wilcox siblings gathered in Blair to bury their brother.
I left Blair City Cemetery feeling glad I’d been able to pay a longer visit to my cousin Rufus’ grave. Having visited many Nebraska cemeteries where I knew not a single person, I can happily say that there’s one in which a relative of mine is buried.
This is the end of the Nebraska portion of my April 2016 journey. I took one last stop at Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluff, Iowa (just across the Missouri River) from Omaha. I’ll share that visit next time.
Tom Foster said:
Another very good researched cemetery, Traci. This one you visited is a well kept property. Always love the photos that tell greatly what fact’s you tell. The northern U.S. States sure have a lot of pretty scenery.
Janet Hall said:
Traci: I am a cemetery rambler from way back!
Regarding your comment on the amount of insurance listed in the obituary of John R. Cantlin. This is not at all unusual. The lodges such as the Woodmen were in fact an early form of insurance company. Membership and regular payment of dues gave members a cemetery plot, a monument and often the funeral was paid for as well. The funerals were also “under the auspices” of whatever lodge or fraternal organization was involved, with a lot of ceremony and regalia being used. ,Mentioning the exact sum was a kind of ad for the Lodge. These fraternal organizations were prevalent in the 19th c especially in newly-settled portions of the country, and most have died out by now. I did a lecture on these lodges for my genealogical society
Hi, Janet! I’m very familiar with WOW and its insurance policies. For years, they provided those tree markers for those who bought the additional rider on their policy (the cost escaped me right now), but that ended in the 1920s because so many people were taking advantage of it.
Since I wrote that post, I’ve seen a lot more death notices listing the amount of the insurance policies so it’s not so odd to me now. I do think that if you saw it in an article about someone today, people would consider it to be disclosing information that’s private. But back then, I guess it was also considered a mark of character that you left your family amply provided for by getting insurance.