Last week, I devoted my blog post to the most famous person buried at Nebraska City’s Wyuka Cemetery, J. Sterling Morton and his family. But there are other monuments and people worth talking about at this historic cemetery.
If you were wowed by Morton’s tree monument, there are a few more worth sharing. The “tree” for the Hill family is located in front of the Morton family plot. While they are both trees, the Hill monument feels more rustic to me.
The story on William Edward (W.E.) Hill is a bit sketchy. I’ve seen him listed as a native of Virginia, but U.S. Census records almost always list him as being born in Ohio. I don’t know when he met and married his wife, Mary, nor do I know her maiden name. At some point, they came to Nebraska City where W.E. was a grain merchant and active in local agricultural groups.
W.E. was also a mover and shaker in the Masons. Some articles indicate he may have been a Grand Master. I didn’t take a picture of the other side of the monument with his inscription but someone named “SarahD” on Find a Grave did so I want you to see that as well.
Mary died in Nebraska City in 1890 after an illness of many years. At some point, W.E. moved out to California where he died in 1917. His obituary states that his body was accompanied by his wife back to Nebraska City by train, so he must have remarried. I don’t believe W.E. and Mary had any children together.
There’s one more tree monument I want you to see and I think it’s possible that F.O. Cross (the stone mason who did the Morton tree) may have carved this one as well because the style is very similar.
A native of Missouri, Charles Potts was born in 1848 and arrived in Nebraska City in 1865. In 1873, he married 20-year-old Elfleda “Fleda” Russell. He worked various jobs, from clerk to cashier to finally partnership in a wholesale grocery business called Lorton & Potts. Like W.E. Hill, he was active in the Masons. The couple had one daughter, Mary Ellen, in 1877.
I don’t know the cause of death, but Charles passed away on August 4, 1882. He was only 33. Tragedy struck again a few months later on Dec. 1, 1883 when Mary Ellen died.
Fleda, I learned, led a rather tumultuous early life. Born shortly before her parents moved to Nebraska, her mother passed away in 1857. Fleda was sent back east to New Jersey to live with relatives while her father, James Russell, headed to Colorado. Tragically, he was murdered there in 1863 when Fleda was only 10. She moved back to Nebraska City to live with her grandfather, later meeting and marrying Charles Potts.
In 1889, Fleda married Charles E. Swift in Iowa City. The marriage announcement describes it as a “complete surprise” to her neighbors, but a happy one. By 1900, they were living in Omaha and Charles was working as a salesman in a dry goods store. They had one son, Russell. The 1910 U.S. Census lists the three living near Sioux City, Iowa and that Charles was supported by his “own income”.
Charles Swift died in 1911 and was buried at Wyuka Cemetery. His name is not inscribed on the tree but he has a small stone beside it. In 1914, Russell moved to Vermillion, S.D. with plans for Fleda to join him as soon as he had finished building a home for them. But Fleda died in Sioux City in 1916 and was buried beside her two husbands. I have no idea where the money came from to pay for such a grand monument.
Russell, who served as as an aviator in World War I, was a mechanic who married not long after his return. He died of a heart attack in 1933 and is buried in South Dakota.
This next marker is unlike any you are likely to see anywhere else. Shaped like a desk, the Harding family monument is quite remarkable.
The Harding plot has the same tree-themed border as the Mortons, but doesn’t have the planters. I do like the “stumps” in the back and the “logs” in the front.
Born in Marion, Ohio in 1831, Nehemiah Story Harding operated a mercantile business in Cincinnati. He married Mary Ann “Mamie” King Baldwin in 1852. They moved to Nebraska City in 1855. His obituary notes that he wrote the first insurance policy in the Nebraska Territory in 1857. Harding also served as deputy clerk of the federal court while running a mercantile business. He was active in local politics and probably a Mason.
Nehemiah and Mamie had 10 children over the course of their marriage. Eldest Cora was born in Ohio before the move to Nebraska. Bennett, Frederick, and Alice all died in childhood. Bennett and Frederick actually share a “book” with their names and dates inscribed on it to the left side of the desk. Alice, who died in 1872, has her own book on the right side of the desk.
Because of my height, my photo of the top of the desk is not the best. But you can see the pages for Grace (1863-1937), Mamie (1833-1900), Nehemiah (1831-1915) and Mary Rachel (1872-1955). Cora, Nellie, Edyth and Willard are buried elsewhere in Wyuka with their spouses. Daughter Winona “Winnie” Hill is buried in Nebraska with her husband.
Mamie died in 1900 after a long illness with daughter Winnie at her side. Nehemiah suffered a stroke in 1910 and died of apoplexy at the age of 84 in 1915. His obituary notes he spent the winter in California and had just returned to Nebraska City.
It also notes that Harding was instrumental in getting the home for the blind located in Nebraska City, which opened in 1877. He was an original member of the school’s board of trustees. Now known as the Nebraska Center for the Education of Children who are Blind of Visually Impaired (NCECBVI), it is still in operation today.
When I saw this next marker, I thought it resembled a ripe tomato resting on a stump because of the shape. But I think it’s mean to be a boulder.
The Gerhard marker is for two children, Enolia and Herbert. Enolia was born on Oct. 31, 1865 and Herbert was born Oct. 6, 1867. Enolia died on April 1, 1870 and Herbert died on April 8, 1870. They both died of the measles, according to a mortality schedule. They are the only two Gerhards buried at Wyuka Cemetery.
On the bottom is the Bible verse Matthew 19:14: “Suffer [the] little children to come until me: and forbid them not for of such is the Kingdom of God.”
The back of the monument, with a Masonic symbol and Odd Fellows chain, leads me to believe a space was left for the parents but never used. The only Gerhards I could track down in Nebraska City were Augustus and Mary Gerhard. A native of Pennsylvania, Augustus was a carpenter who operated a furniture store in Nebraska City for many years and was a Mason.
Augustus and Mary had recently moved to Los Angeles, Calif. to be near their married daughter, Harriet Hunter, when he died there in 1911. So it’s possible he and Mary are both buried in California.
It makes me a bit sad to think of Enolia and Herbert alone there. But this happened quite often when families moved further west in later years, leaving the graves of little ones behind.
I’m not quite done at Wyuka Cemetery yet. Come back next time for stories of the ladies of Wyuka.
stephanie j smith said:
Wow! Thank you so much. Those are amazing!
Stacey Haney said:
Story Harding was a book salesman. He was an avid reader. I researched his family.
Bob Knisely said:
So interesting. My parents are buried in Wyuka, but I guess I haven’t looked around it enough. I didn’t know about any of these markers.