After leaving Onawa Cemetery, we got back on Interstate 29 to head north to Sioux City. But we made one stop on the way that I thought was worth the time because it was an important gravesite.
Located the banks of the Missouri River just below Sioux City is the Sergeant Charles Floyd Monument. It’s a towering 100-foot obelisk made of Kettle River sandstone that’s part of a 23-acre park managed by the National Park Service.
Who was Sergeant Charles Floyd?
Born in Kentucky in 1782, Charles Floyd is the first U.S. soldier thought to have died west of the Mississippi. He was a member of Lewis & Clark’s Corps of Discovery that explored the Louisiana Territory. He’s also the only member of the group that died during the journey.
On the night of August 19, 1804, as the explorers reached the area just south of what would later be Sioux City, Floyd became ill with “bilous cholic”. It is now thought that Floyd had appendicitis. Although leaders did everything they could to help him, Floyd became weaker. He died sometime after 2 p.m. in the afternoon on Monday, August 20, 1804, most likely from peritonitis caused by a burst appendix.
Originally, Floyd’s remains were buried on a nearby hillside. Erosion caused by the Missouri River partially exposed Floyd’s grave. Locals recovered and re-interred most of the skeletal remains in a different location on the bluff. The grave was moved again in 1895. The Sergeant Floyd Monument was dedicated in 1901. At that time, Floyd’s remains were moved a third time and reburied at the base of the monument.
It seemed proper that we were now going to visit nearby Floyd Cemetery, which is only three miles from the Floyd Monument.
Here’s what the Sioux City web site had to say. “In 1866, a field on the bluff overlooking the Floyd River was purchased by Sioux City from Israel G. Link and Joseph Plummer. In February of 1868, the first lots were sold in the new Floyd Cemetery. Prominent citizens lined up to purchase the first lots, including Theophile Bruguier, son-in-law of Sioux Chieftain War Eagle.”
It’s my assumption that Floyd Cemetery was named after Sergeant Floyd but nothing I’ve read states that clearly. There are over 13,100 recorded burials on Find a Grave but I noticed only 56 percent are photographed.
In the back corner of Floyd Cemetery is Mount Carmel Cemetery, a traditional Jewish congregation’s burial ground that was purchased from the cemetery managers at a later date. I’ll be writing about that cemetery later.
A Young Life Cut Short
One of the first monuments you notice coming into Floyd Cemetery is this one for young Violetta Barrett.
Born on Sept. 16, 1889 to British immigrant parents John and Martha Kitchen Barrett, Violetta Blanch Barrett was the youngest of 10 children born to the couple (seven of which lived to adulthood). The 1895 Iowa Census notes that both John and his son, Robert, worked as stone cutters. So it’s possible one or both helped create Violetta’s monument.
“From Earth to Heaven”
I located an article in the Sioux City Journal about Violetta’s death, which noted that she was much beloved by the town, and known for her ability to sing and recite at local churches and at home parties.
Not long after Violetta’s death, the Barrett family moved to Fairview, Iowa about 275 miles away. Nearby is what was then known as the Anamosa State Reformatory. This interests me now because Christi and I visited the museum at this prison in 2019, which is still in operation today. By 1910, James was working at the Reformatory. I have to wonder if one of his jobs was making grave markers for the nearby prison cemetery, which we also visited.
James Barrett died in 1914 and Martha in 1922. Both of them are buried beside Violetta.
Short Life of Carl Wold
One of the more eye-catching monuments is this tree-shaped one for Carl Wold. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll notice right away that it’s a Woodmen of the World monument because of the seal and tree shape.
Carl J. Wold (or Wald as newspapers spelled it) died at the age of 26 on July 9, 1898 in Sioux City, Iowa where he lived. Little is known about Carl beyond the fact he was obviously a much-beloved member of Woodmen of the World (WOW). I found an article that described the festivities when his monument was unveiled. I can’t think of another WOW monument I’ve found that merited a lengthy account of its installation.
According to this article in the Sioux City Journal on Sept. 26, 1898, members of WOW camps from Sioux City and neighboring Le Mars and Sergeant Bluffs marched with their band playing for a ceremony at Floyd Cemetery. Carl is described as “a pure Christian, and as such, a practical Woodman.” Nothing in the article explains how Charles died or if he had any family to mourn him.
In the same wooded area that Carl Wold’s tree monument is located, you can find this anchor-shaped marker for Joseph Tibbels.
A native of Carthage, Ohio, Joseph’s family moved to Calliope, Iowa when he was a little boy. As a young man, he became a telegraph operator and later worked as a grain broker in Sioux City. He married a Nebraska girl, Flora Kimball, in 1888. Together, they had at least one child. Joseph had a good reputation around town and he was active in the local lodge of the Knights of Pythias.
Unfortunately, Joseph’s health was not good. Early in 1897, he contracted the measles and just a month or so later, was diagnosed with tuberculosis. One newspaper account I found said a friend reported that Joseph’s weight had dropped to 45 lbs. in his final days and he barely recognized him. Joseph died at the age of 32 on July 3, 1897. His Knights of Pythias lodge brothers handled his funeral.
Joseph’s marker features a handsome anchor leaning against a pile of rocks, a chain wrapping around it. Joseph was never a sea captain or sailor. The anchor is a common symbol found on graves. Its meaning has several origins, the most obvious of which is Hebrews 6: 19: “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.” In other words, an anchor is often a symbol of hope and strength.
The last story I’m going to share with you involves one of the largest monuments in the cemetery. But it stands for the life of a man whose background doesn’t represent the typical accolades and list of fraternal organizations to which he belonged that you might expect.
A Gambler at Heart
Born in Pennsylvania around 1849, Edward J. Courtright married New York native Fannie Arthur sometime before 1880. They settled in Sioux City. Gambling was Edward’s love and he was good at it. Partnering with a friend named Edward Owens, he ran a successful saloon on Fourth Street for several years. He made sound investments with his saloon profits and bought property around town. Edward Owens, on the other hand, was dependent on Courtright for his living. He even resided with the couple at their Pearl Street home.
Edward Courtright’s health began to fail and patrons were having scrapes with the law in their saloon. Pressure from the town fathers forced the partners to cross the Platte River to do business in Nebraska. He and Edward O.’s name appeared in the local papers frequently in March 1891 as their woes mounted.
Edward Courtright died on July 14, 1891. I couldn’t find an obituary for him anywhere. Soon after that, Fannie became embroiled in a legal battle with her husband’s siblings over his estate, worth around $160,00. The siblings claimed Edward’s will was written when he was in an “insane” state and that they deserved a more equal share. This went on in court for a number of years.
A Stormy Union
In October of the same year, Edward Owens and the widow Cartright eloped to Colorado where they were married. Eventually, they returned to Sioux City and Edward enjoyed freely spending his former partner’s wealth.
However, there was trouble in paradise and the couple fought often. The couple filed for divorce in September 1894, with Fannie alleging Owens had beaten her and unwisely spent her money. The divorce became final a week or two after the couple had a physical fight in which Fannie’s father assaulted Edward with an ice pick, landing him in the local hospital with serious injuries.
To the surprise of many, the couple wed again in Sioux City just three weeks after their much-publicized divorce. On the marriage register, Edward lists his occupation as “gentleman of leisure.” Fannie and Edward Owens remained a couple until Fannie’s death in 1907 from “the grippe” at age 45. I don’t know where she is buried and the whereabouts of Edward Owens after that are unknown.
Next time, I’ll wander to the back of Floyd Cemetery to explore Mount Carmel Cemetery.