We’re still at Le Mars Cemetery, admiring more of its white bronze beauty and the stories behind the lives that the markers represent.

Today I’m going to make more of an effort to show you what people saw in the Monumental Bronze catalog compared to the real thing. We’ll also look a little more at cost, another great feature of the catalog.

Let’s start with Heinrich “Henry” Koehler. Born in 1809 in Hanover, Germany, Heinrich arrived in America sometime after 1845. He married another German immigrant, Margaretha “Margaret” Strott, around 1847 in Pittsburgh, PA. His profession was that of carpenter and at times, shoemarker.

Photo of Heinrich “Henry” Koehler and Margaretha “Margaret” Strott Koehler. (Photo source: Ancestry.com)

The Koehlers moved to Ohio before settling for many years in Adams County, Illinois. Heinrich and Margaretha had several children, five living to adulthood. They didn’t come to Plymouth County, Iowa until around the 1870s when the couple were in their 60s. I suspect one or more of their children had already moved there and they wanted to be near them.

Henry died at age 77 on Jan. 25, 1887. A newspaper item noted that “No substantial reason is given for his demise excepting old age.” I did notice in another newspaper item that their son, also named Henry, moved to Le Mars with his family later that year. He may have done so to be a support to his mother. A railroad man, Henry was hit and killed by a railroad car in Illinois in 1901.

Grave marker for Henry and Margaret Koehler. Her information is most likely on the other side but I didn’t get a photo of it.

By 1900, Margaret was living with her eldest daughter, Caroline Koehler Helm, and her large family of 12 children. She died in 1903 at the age of 85. I did not get a picture of the other side of Henry’s monument (above) but I suspect her information is on the other side. I do know she is buried at Le Mars Cemetery in the same plot with him.

Here’s what Henry and Margaret’s children may have seen in the 1882 Monumental Bronze catalog. Note that the cost would have been around $49 in 1887 if they purchased it when Henry died. Adjusting for inflation, that would have cost about $1,411.57 today.

Margaret’s funeral was handled by Beely & Fissell’s, which was where John Bogen sold monuments like this around 1891. Their main function was selling furniture. It’s likely they handled Henry’s funeral arrangements as well.

While there’s more inscribed on the Koehler marker than what you see in the catalog, the basic design is the same. (Photo source: Smithsonian Libraries)

The Adams Family

I could not find a photo in the Monumental Bronze catalog for the Adams family monument, but their story captivated me enough to include it. As opposed to a number of people buried at Le Mars Cemetery, John Adams (the father) was a prominent member of the community and thus received a long write up in the local newspaper.

Born in York, Ontario, Canada in 1861, John moved with his parents J. Frank and Ada Hoggan Adams to Le Mars. After high school, he studied law and passed the bar. Setting out his shingle in town, he also dabbled in real estate. In 1887, he married a local young lady named Ida Dier.

John’s star rose higher when he was elected city attorney in 1891 and was re-elected in 1893. In 1894, he ran for county attorney and won, keeping his seat in the 1898 election as well.

John and Ida had four children altogether. Roscoe Adams was born on March 7, 1889. Frank Adams was born on Jan. 6, 1892. Sybil Mae Adams was born on May 13, 1893 and died on Dec. 11, 1893 for reasons unknown. Arthur Everett Adams was born May 31, 1896 and died on Oct. 25, 1896. According to the newspaper, Arthur died of dropsy (a type of edema).

John and Ida Adams lost two children before they reached the age of one.

The Story Behind “The Last Voyage”

The plate with Sybil and Arthur’s names/dates features a motif known as “The Last Voyage” that was a favorite of Monumental Bronze. I’ve always wanted to know the story behind it after I saw it for the first time in a cemetery in Council Bluffs.

Thanks to another web site, I learned that this motif was taken from A Gentle Wafting to Immortal Life, a bas-relief marble sculpture by Felix M. Miller and a later engraving by William Roffe. You can find examples of Miller’s work in London’s British Museum.

“The Last Voyage” could also be made into a stand-alone plaster cast to hang on a wall. This illustration of Archibald McKellar’s model is from the 1882 Monumental Bronze catalog. (Photo source: Smithsonian Libraries)

As described in The Art Journal (1879), Miller portrayed the elder of two deceased brothers, Herbert Mellor, on the angelic mission of guiding his younger brother, Theodore, on his last voyage over the “sea of bliss.” They were the deceased children of J.J. Mellor.

The work’s title comes is from John Milton’s Paradise Lost: “A death, like sleep, A gentle wafting to immortal life.”

Sculptor Archibald McKellar modeled the image and finished it at Monumental Bronze’s art foundry (which I suspect was in Connecticut) in February 1881. They renamed it “The Last Voyage” and it was offered for the first time in the 1882 Monumental Bronze catalog.

Here’s what “The Last Voyage” looks like on the Adams monument. Perhaps the idea was that Sybil, who died first, was guiding her little brother Arthur to her Heavenly home?

Unfortunately, Ida was hit with tragedy yet again a few years later. While she was away in Colorado for health reasons, John went out for a long drive on December 1, 1899 and fell ill with pneumonia soon after. Shortly after Ida returned home, John died on December 7. He was only 38 years old.

Attorney John Adams died at the age of 38 in 1899, cut down in his prime by pneumonia.

I was curious to know the fate of Ida, Frank, and Roscoe because none of them are buried at Le Mars Cemetery. According to the 1900 U.S. Census, Ada and the children moved 50 miles east to Nokomis, Iowa to live with her sister. Ida remarried in October 1901 to a widowed carpenter and Civil War veteran from Ohio named John Pickering who was much older than she.

By 1910, Ida and her sons were living in Cedar Falls, Iowa (about 150 miles east of Nokomis). John Pickering was living his last days at the Iowa Soldiers Home in Linn, Iowa about 65 miles away. John died at the age of 72 in 1911 and is buried with a previous wife in Woodlawn Cemetery in Alta, Iowa.

Ida filed for a pension in light of John Pickering’s service in 1916 and received it. She continued to live in the Waterloo area until her death in 1924 after suffering from “pernicious anemia” for two years. I don’t know where she is buried. Both of her sons lived well into adulthood and had families of their own.

Note: Soon after I published this post, kind reader Karen Cowles Kester posted on Facebook another obit for Ida that I missed that mentioned Ida’s body was moved from Waterloo to Le Mars for burial. I looked up the information on Iowa Gen Web’s site for Le Mars Cemetery, which has each burial and location listed. Sure enough. Ida Dier Adams Pickering is listed as being buried in Block 2, Lot 2 along with first husband, John, and Sybil and Arthur. I suspect she has no marker because it’s not in the pictures I took that day.

The Bixby Family

There are 19 Bixbys buried at Le Mars Cemetery. Three of them share a white bronze marker, complete with some additions that I’ll talk about a little later.

Born in New York in 1836, Emerson Bixby married Lydia Seals in Illinois. They moved to the Waterloo, Iowa area in the 1860s and later to Le Mars in 1869 as their family grew. Eventually, they would have six children together (Charles, Elmer, Emory, Levi, Harry, and Elizabeth).

Emerson died at age 55 from influenza in April 1891. Brothers Emory and Levi were very close and stayed with their mother on the family farm in Stanton, never marrying. Lydia died in 1904.

Emerson and Lydia Bixby share this monument with their son, Levi.

Emory and Levi continued to live at the family farm and looked after the tenants who rented from them. They later moved into a home together in Le Mars. Unfortunately, it was from helping one of their tenants that Levi met his untimely death in 1912.

Levi Bixby was 46 when he died from a tragic accident in a barn.

The brothers had recently completed building a new barn on the property the Walsh family was renting from them. Levi was struck by a load of toppling hay in the loft and fell 18 feet to the ground. His back was broken and he was instantly paralyzed from the waist down.

A newspaper article explained that Levi knew his end was near and summoned an attorney to have his will written. His brothers sped to see him in his last hours and he died two days after his fall on Oct. 26, 1912. He left his estate to his siblings, naming brother Emory as his executor.

Emory decided to leave Le Mars and moved to Watertown, S.D. to be near his younger married sister, Elizabeth Bixby Bruns, who was married to foundry operator James Bruns. Emory died in 1937 and is buried at Le Mars Cemetery in the Bixby plot.

It’s possible this monument was not made until after Lydia’s death in 1904.

Head and Foot Markers

If you’re standing in front of the Bixby monument, you’ll notice some white bronze markers on the ground in front of it. The 1882 Monumental Bronze catalog refers to them as “head markers” and “foot markers” to denote the position of the grave. They came in different sizes and could feature the deceased’s initials or full name. Last week, I featured one for Annie McCurdy.

Here’s what the Bixby siblings might have seen in the catalog as options.

Page of headers and footers from the 1882 Monumental Bronze catalog. (Photo source: Smithsonian Libraries)

Here’s the foot marker for Levi Bixby. It probably cost about $4 at the time, depending on the year of purchase.

Foot marker for Levi Bixby.

Head markers were also purchased for Emerson, Lydia, and Levi. Those are not in the 1882 catalog.

Head marker for Levi Bixby’s grave.

I suspect that the Bixby monument was possibly done after the death of Lydia in 1904 but I’m not certain. One reason is because the plate for Levi on the side doesn’t seem to fit well and is missing three screws. By then, the Western White Bronze factory in Des Moines was on the verge of closing.

One final note to the Bixby family story. On the other side of the monument for Emerson, Lydia, and Levi is this one for a Baby Bruns. I believe this is for a child of Elizabeth Bixby Bruns and her husband James. But there is no burial date for this child in the cemetery records so perhaps it is a cenotaph.

Is a child buried here or is it a cenotaph?

I’m not quite done at Le Mars Cemetery. Part IV is soon to come.