Abrams Cast Iron Grave Covers: Exploring Greenville, Ala.’s Pioneer Cemetery, Part II

Last week, I introduced you to Pioneer Cemetery in Greenville, Ala., where you can see a number of patented Joseph R. Abrams cast iron grave covers. In my experience, it’s rare to see this many in one small cemetery.

More Cast Iron Grave Covers

This cast iron grave cover for Elizabeth Routon Gafford Bragg (1802-1870) is an example of one that’s held up fairly well and still has its nameplate intact (although it has broken off). The main flaw is that the finial on top is missing.

The name plate for Elizabeth Routon Gafford Bragg’s cast iron grave cover has broken off but ihankfully, it hasn’t been lost.

Born in 1801 in Georgia to Pleasant Routon and Catherine Lee Routon, Elizabeth Routon married Jeremiah Gafford at age 16 in 1818. They settled in Butler County soon after and started a family. Jeremiah died on July 6, 1844 at the age of 48.

Jeremiah Gafford’s box grave is next to Elizabeth’s grave.

It’s not surprising that Elizabeth, a young widow at 41, remarried in 1846 to widower Dr. Thomas Miles Bragg, Sr. His first wife, Catherine, died in 1838. They had three children (two surviving).

Elizabeth Routon Gafford Bragg was buried next to her first husband, Jeremiah, in Pioneer Cemetery.

When Elizabeth died on Oct. 11, 1870, she was buried beside first husband Jeremiah Gafford. When second husband Thomas died on Nov. 28, 1882, he was buried beside his first wife, Catherine, in the family cemetery in Greenville.

Attorney, Editor, Pastor

I found two cast iron grave covers connected to the Porter family, who I talked about last week. Joseph Abrams’ wife, Laura, was the daughter of Judge Benjamin F. and Eliza Taylor Kidd Porter. Laura was one of 10 children and her younger brother, James Dellet Porter was born in 1839. He married Vermont native Ellen Tammy Ferguson in Lexington, Miss. in 1861. They would have three daughters and one son together.

During the Civil War, James served as adjutant of Blount’s Brigade (Fifth Battalion, Alabama Infantry Volunteers). While helping to bury the dead following the Battle of Shiloh, Porter contracted pneumonia. He was made a government telegrapher until the end of the war, after which he returned to Greenville. He then practiced law, edited a newspaper, and studied theology.

James D. Porter had gone from being a newspaper editor and lawyer to a pastor.

By 1880, James had become the Rev. James Porter, although I’m not sure he attended a seminary of any kind, and became rector at Greenville’s St. Thomas Episcopal Church. I found a newspaper notice from the May 20, 1880 Greenville Advocate that listed him among the other pastors.

Rev. Porter had not been at his post long when he died on Nov. 20, 1880 from pneumonia, leaving Ellen a young widow at age 40. Their youngest daughter, also named Ellen, had been born only eight months before her father died. Ellen did not remarry and died on Nov. 30, 1896 after a year of feeble health at age 58.

These two cast iron grave covers are located in front of Rev. Joseph Porter and his wife, Ellen Ferguson Porter. Who do they belong to?

Since Rev. Porter died in 1880 and Ellen Porter died in 1896, I’m not sure that the two cast iron grave covers pictured above belong to their graves. Their footplates are on the other side of the monument they share. But because the name plates that belong to these two covers are gone, we don’t know to whom they belong. Perhaps they were children who died in infancy.

I have another theory, however. Judge B.F. Porter died in 1868 and wife Eliza in 1883. There are no known grave markers for them in Pioneer Cemetery but evidence suggests they are buried here. Could these grave covers be for them?

Shell Graves

Pioneer Cemetery has several shell graves. Whenever I show pictures of shell graves to people not familiar with them, they are fascinated yet puzzled. But to those of us who live in the South, they are fairly common. They can be found in many cemeteries here, especially in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Scallop, oyster, clam, and mussel shells were often used. They could be from the ocean or a river. I’m told some can be found further north but I think it’s mostly a Southern thing.

This is a typical shell grave from Pioneer Cemetery with no identifying stone to accompany it.

So what do shell graves mean? I could go into all the different theories out there, but that would take up most of this post. If you want one of the best roundups of the proposed meanings that are out there, this article does a wonderful job. But one of the best explanations I’ve seen is that shells were not only a decorative and effective grave protection, they were cheap and available.

Unfortunately, many shell graves lack an accompanying stone to explain whom the grave is for. At Pioneer, there is a shell grave identified as that of Anna Catherine Reid. When I was there, her broken marker had been repaired but it was so faded you could barely read it.

Compared to her sister Abigail Reid Dunklin’s grand monument, the shell grave of Anna Catherine Reid is quite humble.

The Reid Sisters

The daughter of prosperous farmer Archibald and Elizabeth Herbert Reid, Anna Catherine Reid was born in 1843. She was one of 13 children born to the couple. We don’t know what brought about her death, but Anna passed away at the age of 21 on Sept. 24, 1864. Her shell grave is the bottom right of the trio in this picture.

Anna Catherine Reid passed away on Sept. 24, 1864.

You may notice that the two shell graves to the left and behind Anna’s have no identifying stone. The one to her left was probably that of a child. It could be one of Anna’s siblings who died in infancy. Because Anna died in the throes of the Civil War, it may not have been possible to obtain a better grave marker than the one they were able to provide. Anna’s parents, Archibald and Elizabeth, are buried at nearby Magnolia Cemetery.

“Her Death Was Calmly Triumphant”

By contrast, the monument to Anna’s older sister Abigail “Abbie” Susan Reid is markedly grander. Born on March 12, 1838, Abbie married druggist James Hilliard Dunklin on Aug. 5, 1856. She was 18 and he was 21. On April 9, 1859, Abbie gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth, who lived well into adulthood. She is also buried in Pioneer Cemetery.

According to Abbie’s obituary, she suffered an illness of 12 days before passing away on June 25, 1860. She was only 22 when she died.

I was not expecting to find an ornate monument by Charleston, S.C. carver William T. White.

Abbie’s monument is admittedly one of the grandest I’ve seen. The classical female figure on the pedestal is holding a Bible in one hand and a cross (now broken) in the other. One the front is a beautiful wreath and a winged hourglass (meaning time and life are fleeting). I’m not sure when it was installed at Pioneer Cemetery because it would have taken time to obtain. It was likely shipped to Greenville by train.

The winged hourglass often signifies that time (and life) are fleeting in nature.

As I walked around Abbie’s monument, I marveled at the skill with which it had been carved. This was work I had seen somewhere before. Then I saw the side and found out exactly who had done it.

“She is Now Sleeping in Jesus”

As part of a Charleston, S.C. stone carving dynasty, William T. White was the son of John White, Jr. and the grandson of John T. White. His work can be found in many South Carolina cemeteries. His work was done mostly between 1850 and 1870. I can tell you I was not expecting to see his work so far away from his usual “territory”. Nevertheless, it is a fine example of what he could accomplish.

A Widower Remarries

Abbie’s husband, James, remarried a little over a year after she died on Sept. 17, 1861. It may surprise you to learn that he married Abbie’s younger sister, Mary Jane, who was 19. This was not unusual at the time. Several years ago, I featured the story of the Rev. William H. Clarke, who married three different sisters over the course of his life. It was often a case of proximity and practicality, not romance.

We don’t know what the case was for James and Mary Jane but they did have several children together. Two lived to adulthood, three died in infancy, and one died in her 20s. When James died in 1877, his obituary said he left eight children behind. I will feature some of their grave markers next week.

During the Civil War, James rose to the rank of colonel in the 33rd Alabama Volunteer Infantry, Company C, serving with many men from Greenville. After the war, he entered into a partnership operating a large cotton commission business that made him quite wealthy. In 1876, he was elected to the Alabama Senate. However, he became ill in 1877 and died on May 20, 1877.

James Hilliard Dunklin died on May 20, 1877 while serving in the Alabama Senate.

I didn’t get a photo of the sides of James Dunklin’s monument to see for sure if William T. White carved his monument as well. The crossed swords in the middle signify his military service. A draped urn tops his monument with a Masonic seal below it.

Mary Jane remarried in 1886 to someone whose name you might remember from last week. Elam M. Padgett’s first wife, Marjorie, died in 1868 soon after giving birth to a daughter who died four months later. Mary Jane became Elam’s second wife and the couple moved to Florida, living there until Elam’s death in 1906. He is buried in Lone Oak Cemetery in Leesburg, Fla. Mary Jane moved back to Greenville soon after and died on April 7, 1909. She was buried in Pioneer Cemetery.

Mystery Grave

There’s a sad footnote to Mary Jane’s death. Her memorial on Find a Grave says “Cemetery records indicate there may no longer be a marker for her grave.” If there is one, I didn’t see it when I was there. While her sisters Anna and Abbie, and her two husbands all have markers, Mary Jane’s final resting place is a mystery. Not even marked with a single shell.

More to come next time from Pioneer Cemetery in Part III.

Abrams Cast Iron Grave Covers: Exploring Greenville, Ala.’s Pioneer Cemetery, Part I

After dropping Christi off at the airport in Panama City to fly back to frozen Nebraska, I headed for Greenville, Ala. I’d long wanted to visit Greenville because it was the home of Joseph R. Abrams, inventor of the cast iron grave cover. I must note that there are others who made attempts at earlier versions but Abrams was one of the first to patent it. In 1875, Egbert Sipes of Pennsylvania filed a patent for an improved design.

I originally wrote about Joseph Abrams back in 2015 after I’d found one of his cast iron grave covers in Fairburn City Cemetery in Fulton County, Ga. I had never seen anything quite like it and I still find them fascinating.

Abrams moved from South Carolina to Greenville (in Butler County) sometime after he married Laura Porter in 1856. When he wasn’t working as a railroad contractor (1860s) or an insurance salesman (1870s), he loved inventing things and one of them was the cast iron grave cover, originally targeted to protect the graves of children. I had seen photos online of several cast iron grave covers in Pioneer Cemetery and nearby Magnolia Cemetery, where Joseph and Laura Abrams are buried. I’ll be writing about Magnolia Cemetery later. But for now, let’s focus on Pioneer Cemetery.

Pioneer Cemetery is Greenville’s oldest cemetery and one of the oldest in the state.

Established in 1819

Greenville became Butler County’s seat of government in 1822. Residents set aside a two-acre plot for a church and graveyard, marked on three sides by what are now South Park Street (originally named Cemetery Street), Walnut, and Dunklin Streets. The western side of the churchyard and cemetery, where the First United Methodist Church stands today, was then the town’s western boundary.

Pioneer Cemetery is one of the oldest I’ve ever visited in Alabama. Established in 1819, it’s Greenville’s oldest cemetery. The oldest known grave is that of James Dunklin (1779-1827), but there are many unmarked and “lost” graves that may be older than that.

Captain William Butler, for whom the county is named, is buried there along with many Greenville/Butler County pioneers. The last burial took place in 1961 when Lily Black Stanley (1876-1961) was buried there. There are almost 300 recorded memorials for Pioneer Cemetery on Find a Grave.

Entrance gate to Pioneer Cemetery.

When I visited Pioneer Cemetery, it was undergoing restoration work. These efforts are often expensive and take a lot of time. In 2008, Greenville began working hand in hand with The Pioneer Cemetery Preservation Association  (PCPA) to accomplish this. The PCPA has been fortunate to receive grants from the Alabama Historical Commission to help with expenses. So when you see piles of bricks and mounds of dirt in some of my photos, it’s not from neglect but a snapshot of a moment in time amid this restoration in February 2019.

I didn’t photograph James Dunklin’s grave but I did see the large memorial boulder placed next to the grave of Capt. William Butler. His grave has a connection to Joseph Abrams in a roundabout way.

The boulder was placed in 1926 by the Father Ryan Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

A Bloody Death

A Virginia native born in 1759, Capt. William Butler fought in the War of 1812. He lived in Georgia for a few years before coming to Alabama. On March 18, 1818, Capt. Butler (accompanied by Daniel Shaw and William Gardner) was delivering a message to nearby Fort Dale when he and the two men were violently attacked by Native Americans led by warrior Savannah Jack. The account I read describes how they were killed in such horrific detail that I won’t share it here. It’s graphic by even today’s standards. It was later referred to as “Butler’s Massacre” by some.

The men’s remains were buried in the nearby forest and left there for many years until the 1850s when a group of locals had them moved to Greenville Cemetery. One of them was Eliza Taylor Kidd Porter, the wife of Judge Benjamin F. Porter and mother of Laura Porter, who married Joseph Abrams. The remains of Capt. Butler, Shaw, and Gardner were exhumed and re-interred with much ceremony at Greenville Cemetery in 1858.

Butler County was named after Capt. William Butler, who was killed

Eliza Porter paid for the small marker to be placed on Capt. Butler’s grave in 1861. The large boulder was not placed until 1926 by the Father Ryan Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). I’m not sure why Capt. Butler’s death date is inscribed as 1820 instead of 1818 on it.

The Caldwells

I’d like to share the Caldwells graves with you because not only do they have cast iron grave covers marking their burial site, they also have a handsome marble gravestone in front of it.

John and Elizabeth Black Caldwell were long-time residents of Greenville.

Born in 1801, North Carolina native John Carruthers Caldwell helped establish Greenville’s Presbyterian Church. In 1819, he married local Butler County miss Elizabeth Black. John became a prominent merchant, jeweler, and goldsmith. He also served as justice of the peace.

The fact that John Caldwell was a jeweler leads me to believe he knew and appreciated beautiful, artistic items. It’s my belief he probably knew Joseph Abrams and was aware of the fascinating new invention he’d come up with. It doesn’t surprise me at all that he had two planned for his and Elizabeth’s graves to accompany their grave marker.

Both John and Elizabeth Caldwell’s graves feature cast iron grave covers patented by local Greenville resident Joseph R. Abrams.

The cast iron covers that top the Caldwell graves feature shell finials on top. Sometimes these are stolen or vandalized, but it thrilled me to see these both intact. You can also see the acorns surrounding the finials, symbolizing wisdom. To get a better look at home these pieces come together, you can see Abrams’ original 1873 patent here.

Abrams patented his invention in 1873, shortly after the Caldewells died in 1871 and 1872. So there may have been a delay in their placement. The name plates originally attached to the back broke off and were lost. This is a common occurrence since the cast iron lattice work sometimes became brittle and broke. But the pair are still a great example of this invention.

Mother and Daughter

There are two pairs of cast iron grave covers at the rear of Pioneer Cemetery and both were in the process of being restored. I’m featuring the graves of Lucinda Brazzell Taylor and her daughter, Sarah Taylor, because the both still have their nameplates.

The graves of Lucinda Taylor and her daughter, Sarah, are topped by cast iron grave covers.

The story behind this mother/daughter duo is intriguing because there are some holes in their history. We do know that the mother was Lucinda Brazzell Taylor. I’m using the spelling Brazzell for her maiden name although it has been written as Brassell and Braswell in other places. Born around 1812, she married Ludwell Taylor in Montgomery, Ala. in 1832. Of their four children, daughter Sarah was born on June 23, 1836.

Ludwell Taylor passed away in 1842 and Lucinda remarried to a William Turner in 1849. They had a son, Richard, but he only lived a year. Interestingly, in the 1850 U.S. Census, William Turner is not listed but baby Richard is. I can only surmise that William Turner died soon after they married. In the 1860 U.S. Census, Lucinda and Sarah were living with the family of Marcus Lane, a successful Greenville attorney. Marcus was the husband of Lucinda’s daughter (and Sarah’s sister), Frances Taylor Lane.

Lucinda died on March 25, 1868 at age 56 after a “protracted illness.”

Lucinda Brazzell Taylor Turner died in 1868 after a “protracted illness.”

Although Lucinda had remarried, the last name on her grave cover is Taylor. You’ll note that the finial on her grave cover is not a shell like the Caldwells but a cup or urn, which is rare. The cover is also decorated with carved flowers instead of acorns like the Caldwells’ grave covers.

Patented Proof

I found a record for Sarah’s marriage to a John Kelly in Butler County in 1864. But when she appears in the 1870 U.S. Census, she is listed as Sarah Taylor and living next door to the Lanes. She died at age 36 on Feb. 20, 1872.

Sarah Taylor’s nameplate is still attached to her grave cover, which is a rarity.

So how do we know for certain that this is a Joseph R. Abrams cast iron grave cover? As I wrote in 2015, Joseph was a true patent enthusiast and he applied for many of them over the years. You can see the notation for it at the end of Sarah’s grave cover if you look closely. Although Abrams’ grave cover was not patented in 1868 when Lucinda died, I suspect they did not install it until after Sarah’s death.

You might also notice that these covers are flush with the ground. Others I have seen have a concrete, brick, or stone base underneath them.

If you look to the right at the bottom of Sarah Taylor’s grave cover, you can see the patent inscription.

At the time, I didn’t know the connection but beside the Taylor graves is an obelisk for Frances Taylor Lane and her husband, Marcus. Frances died on April 18, 1868 at age 34, the day after giving birth to a baby girl who lived less than four months. This happened less than a month after her mother, Lucinda, died. Marcus, who was by then a judge, died on July 28, 1870 at age 45. The couple left behind five children.

Florence Taylor Lane died at age 34 after giving birth to a daughter in 1868 only a month after her mother, Lucinda, died.

Anonymous Graves

I pointed out earlier that many cast iron grave covers have missing nameplates that have snapped off at some point. As a result, unless they are next to a stone grave marker or someone has other proof, the identity of the deceased is often unknown. This can often pose problems if a cemetery does not have good burial records.

Just down the way from the Taylor graves is the grave of Marjorie Dunklin Padgett. Born in 1845, she married Elam Padgett in 1868. She died on Jan. 10, 1872 after giving birth to an infant son. Like the daughter of Marcus and Frances Taylor Lane, the child died four months later.

I suspect the two cast iron grave covers (one topped by a shell finial) beside Marjorie’s grave are for two of their children, whose graves Abrams originally intended for his invention to protect. One may be for the baby born in 1872 but nobody knows for sure. Both graves have a brick base beneath them.

I’m just getting started with stories about Pioneer Cemetery. More to come in Part II.

Pioneer Cemetery is located in downtown Greenville, Ala.

Florida Panhandle Adventure 2019: Visiting Destin’s Marler Memorial Cemetery, Part II

Last week, I dove into some of the history behind Destin’s evolution from a humble fishing village to a sunny tourist destination. Now let’s take a look at some of the other stones at Marler Memorial Cemetery.

Thomas M. Knapp’s obelisk is under the tree on the right.

One tall marker stands out. It’s not for a Marler or a Destin but a Knapp, the only one buried here. Thanks to again to H.C. “Hank” Klein, I was able to uncover some of the story of how he ended up in the cemetery.

Born in 1871 in Illinois, Thomas Morse Knapp married Cecily Flynn in Clayton, Mo. in 1897. According to the U.S. 1900 federal census, Edward and Cecily, were living in Havana, Cuba, at the headquarters of the Department of Matanzas and Santa Clara Hospital Corps. Edward had served in the Spanish-American War in 1898 and stayed on to work as a clerk.

Plans of a Homecoming

Edward continued working as a civil servant for the U.S. Army in Cuba until Nov. 30, 1910, when he resigned. He and his family planned to join Edward’s parents in Northwest Florida, near Destin, when they returned to America. Edward’s parents had staked a claim under the Homestead Act of 1862 on land in Shoals, Fla., (now Miramar Beach) in 1909. One of their lots could have been where Edward and Cecily hoped to build their new home.

Edward Knapp was only 39 when he drowned in the Choctawhatchee Bay.

On Dec. 26, 1910, four weeks after Edward retired, he was moving his family to Shoals when he drowned in the Choctawhatchee Bay between Santa Rosa and Shoals. According to Hank, an affidavit from Capt. Billy Marler (who you read about last week) said Edward fell off a motorboat while moving furniture to his home in Shoals and died. He was pulled from the water, but no one knew how to resuscitate him.

However, Edward’s Find a Grave memorial includes a January 15, 1911 article from the Pensacola Morning Journal that has a different account of his death:

The body was not found until Thursday, Jan. 5, 1911. It had come to the surface and floated near his home, where it was first seen and brought ashore by the loving hands of his wife, who was keeping a constant vigil for it along the beach. All other means had been exhausted and it became apparent that they must wait until the body should rise and float. The great privilege was given his wife of being the first to rescue the last earthly remains of him whom she so fondly loved from the maw of the hungry sea.

I’m not sure which of these two stories is true but sadly, Edward was gone. Cecily remarried in 1920 to Rufus McChesey and moved back to Missouri where they lived until her death in 1954. They are buried together in Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, Mo.

“Gone to a Fairer Land”

Last week, I told you how Carrie and Capt. Billy Marler lost eight children in infancy, all buried at Marler Memorial Cemetery. The Destins were also no stranger to tragedy. Leonard Destin’s son-in-law, Frederick, would know it all too well.

Born in 1869 in what was then called East Pass, Leonard’s daughter Fannie grew up with her siblings as her father fished. Excerpts of her childhood journal exist on Ancestry.com. Here’s one entry from July 1881:

Sun shining brightly.  Wind from the north.  Read my lesson to Uncle Elias then helped Priss.  My sister Jane is with us yet.  Mr. Woodward, her husband is at Pensacola.  Brother George came in last night.  Very glad to see him.  Wind from the north yet.  Green corn is all gone I am sorry to say.  Read lesson to Uncle Elias.  Wind is blowing from the west quite strong.

“Gone to a Fairer Land” Fannie Destin Studebaker died a day after giving birth to a daughter. They share a marker against the back fence.

Fannie grew up and married fisherman (and later a lighthouse keeper) Robert Studebaker in 1898. Their daughter, Martha, was born in 1900. On March 2, 1902, she gave birth to another daughter, who died the same day. Martha died the next day. Mother and daughter share a marker located back against the fence.

Robert Studebaker moved to Cromanton Bay, Fla. and remarried to Hattie Pratt in 1903. In a sad twist of fate, Hattie would die on Nov. 15, 1903 after giving birth to a daughter, Lillian. The baby also died. Robert married a final time to Nina Ecker in 1909. He died in 1947 at age 73 and Nina died in 1949 at age 70. They are buried together in Panama City’s Greenwood Cemetery, as is Robert and Fannie’s daughter Martha Studebaker Brown.

Death in New Mexico

Earlier, I shared an excerpt from Fannie Destin Studebaker’s childhood journal where she mentions her sister, Jane Destin Woodward. Jane married Frederick Harlow Woodward in 1875 and together they had several children, including a son name named George born in 1892. This is a photo of her with her oldest son, Edward, sitting on her lap.

Jane Destin Woodward was only 45 when she died in 1901. Her oldest son, Edward, sits on her lap. (Photo source: Find a Grave, Hank Klein)

Jane died on July 31, 1901 at age 45. Her marker is broken and in sad condition. Frederick died on Nov. 2, 1908 and is buried beside her.

Jane Woodward’s epitaph reads, “She died as she lived, a Christian.”

Son George Woodward grew up to be a fisherman. He married Minnie Marler, I’m not sure where she fits into the Marler family tree. But George’s health began to suffer in the late 1910s. Like many people at that time, he went to New Mexico in hopes that a dryer climate might help. He may have had tuberculosis.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. George died on Feb. 8, 1922 at age 29. Minnie accompanied his body back to Destin and he was buried in Marler Memorial Cemetery beside his parents. I’m not sure if Minnie remarried after his death or what happened to her.

George Woodward traveled to faraway Albuquerque, N.M. in early 1922, hoping to improve his health. It was not to be.

A Mysterious Fire

One small homemade grave marker caught my attention but I didn’t have time to look up the person until I was writing my blog post this week. A sad story unfolded that is still shrouded in questions.

Born to Milton Shirah and Elgin Inez Sprinkle Shirah in 1938, Shirley Annette Shirah grew up in Alabama. She was a graduate of Central High School in Phenix City, Ala. She married a few years later and the family moved to the Destin area.

On the night of May 21, 1963, while her husband was working out of state, Shirley went with some friends to the dog races in Erbo. She returned late that night and told the babysitter she was going over to the vacant house she and her husband owned nearby “to get something”. In the wee hours of the next morning, Shirley was found badly burned across the street from the vacant house, which was now on fire.

Young wife and mother Shirley Destin died in a mysterious fire in the early hours of May 22, 1963.

Shirley was whisked to the hospital but never recovered. She died on June 7, having been unable to tell the police what happened. A Pensacola News Journal article detailed how one of the group she attended the races with was suspected of being involved in a bank robbery and had left town soon after the fire. I could find nothing more. I’m sure Shirley’s family was devastated by her death.

Next time, I’ll be at nearby Brooks Memorial Cemetery in Fort Walton.

Florida Panhandle Adventure 2019: Stopping By Fort Walton Beach’s Brooks Memorial Cemetery

I’ve traveled down Highway 98 from Marler Memorial Cemetery to Brooks Memorial Cemetery in Fort Walton Beach, which is about a seven-mile trip. This is where my 2019 Panhandle adventure ends. But it won’t be the last.

I found much less information about Brooks Memorial Cemetery than I did about Marler. The oldest recorded burials on Find a Grave for Brooks are from 1906 (two children), with a total of 251. There’s a short YouTube video that says there are over 500 burials here. I have a hard time believing there are 250 unmarked burials here but maybe the person who made it has a source I don’t have access to.

Located in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Brooks Memorial Cemetery has about 250 burials recorded on Find a Grave.

“Sonny, Don’t Be Shot in the Back.”

During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers from the First Florida Regiment set up an encampment they named Camp Walton. One soldier who served and later became the first permanent settler in the area was John Thomas Brooks (1838-1917).

In his book, A Miracle Strip – Through the Lens of Arturo and the Hearts of Many, Antonio Mennillo wrote that Brooks’ experiences prepared him for that role.

When he was 12 years of age his widowed mother packed her family and family belongings into a covered wagon and left their native North Carolina to take up a land grant in the vicinity of Geneva, Ala. Tom was 18 when the Civil War broke out and he was one of the first volunteers from Alabama. Going to war with this parting injunction from his mother, ‘Sonny, don’t be shot in the back. My prayers will follow you.’

This is the only photo of John Thomas Brooks I could find. (Photo sources: Ancestry.com)

After the war, Brooks discovered that the Alabama home of his mother (who had remarried) was burned down by organized war deserters. Brooks became a sawyer at Reddick’s Sawmill in Walton County and married Harriett Catherine Thomas in 1866. They settled on 111 acres of waterfront land, a tract that now is part of Fort Walton Beach, and began to raise a family.

Camp Walton was eventually renamed Brooks Landing after Tom. It was changed to Fort Walton in 1932 (after Camp Walton). In the 1950s, the name was changed again to Fort Walton Beach in an effort to attract more tourists to the area.

A plaque details the role of Tom Brooks in the founding of Fort Walton Beach after the Civil War.

Do you remember Capt. Billy Marler from the last two blog posts? I wasn’t surprised to find that there was a connection with his family and the Brooks family. Tom Brooks’ daughter, Camella, was Capt. Billy’s second wife. The two married around 1904 after his first wife, Carrie, died.

I couldn’t find a picture of it, but Tom opened the first hotel in Fort Walton Beach and called it (naturally) Brooks Hotel. Over the years, Fort Walton Beach (like Destin) would become a tourist mecca for sunshine-seeking folks.

Tom died in 1917 at age 78 and Harriett died in 1920 at age 71. Together, they had eight children who lived to adulthood.

John and Harriett Brooks had eight children that lived to adulthood.

In His Father’s Footsteps

The eldest of Tom’s children, Thomas Clairmon “Clem” Brooks was born in 1873. He loved being near the ocean like his father. By the time he was 18, he was operating his own fishing schooner out of Pensacola. In 1896, he married Emma Lenera Pryor. They would have several children together.

Thomas C. Brooks Jr., born on May 15, 1909 died 16 months later on Nov. 16, 1910. According to the local newspaper, little Thomas “had not been well for several days but it had not been considered dangerous until a short time before his death.”

Little Thomas C. Brooks Jr. died at the age of 16 months in 1910.

Clem entered the government lighthouse service and would operate the Capt St. George Lighthouse from 1921-1925.

I’m not sure if Clem and Emma divorced or if she died. I could find no record of her after 1921. But in 1924, he married Ona “Onie” Stewart. Clem died on June 5, 1940 at age 66. Onie died in 1957 at age 73.

Thomas “Clem” Brooks died in 1940 at age 66.

A Tale of Two Brothers

I noticed two military graves for two brothers, both served in World War II. As I would soon learn, one survived the war. The other did not.

Born on May 9, 1918, Averette “Avery” Aaron Hinson was the son of Don Green Hinson and Hettie Elizabeth Hinson. A graduate of Fort Walton High School, Avery attended Pasadena Junior College in California, then the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech). On Nov. 5, 1941, Avery entered Army Air Corps pilot training at the school in Columbus, Miss. and was commissioned.

Averette “Avery” Hinson was a Fort Walton Beach boy who did his hometown proud. (Photo Source: Pensacola News Journal, April 28, 1943)

Avery joined his squadron in Greensboro, S.C. shortly before they were sent overseas. He was killed in action in North Africa on Feb. 14, 1943. He would be posthumously awarded a Purple Heart in April 1943. His squadron commander Capt. R.J. Clize said of him, “

Averette applied himself so thoroughly to all duties, and proved to be so trustworthy that on the move to Africa, I gave him command of an appreciable portion of the squadron en route. He did a magnificent job, many times under difficult circumstances, and joined the remainder of the squadron with all men under his command safe and in perfect condition.

Second Lt. Averette “Avery” Hinson was killed in action in North Africa on Feb. 14, 1943.

Avery’s remains were brought home for burial in Brooks Memorial Cemetery. His father, Don, had already passed away in 1938.

Avery’s brother, Don Gene Hinson, was born in 1926. So he had to wait until November 1944 to enlist in the U.S. Army. He served for about two years. I don’t know if he served overseas. He died in 1988 in Sandy Springs, Md. at the age of 61. He is buried beside his brother Avery.

End of the Road

This marks the end of my 2019 Florida Panhandle adventure. I returned in 2020 to visit a few cemeteries in Pensacola, so be on the lookout for those posts. But first, I’ve got to get through the rest of 2019 and my next stop is in Greenville, Ala. on the way home.

I hope you’ll join me for more cemetery adventures and stories behind the stones.

Florida Panhandle Adventure 2019: Visiting Destin’s Marler Memorial Cemetery, Part I

Marler Memorial Cemetery is located in Destin, Fla., a playground for pale-faced sun-seeking vacationers since the 1970s. According to the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, over 80 percent of the Emerald Coast’s 4.5 million visitors each year visit Destin. The first time I ever visited was in the 1980s with Christi when we were in college. When you ask most people what comes to mind when they think of Destin, they’ll tell you go-carts, mini golf, beaches, and seafood. Not necessarily in that order, of course.

But once upon a time, Destin was a sleepy fishing village. Most of its pioneers are buried at Marler Memorial Cemetery, whose earliest marked burial is 1868 and 241 memorials recorded on Find a Grave.

Marler Memorial Cemetery is located across the street from the First Presbyterian Church of Destin. You can park there and walk over.

How Destin Got Its Name

Thanks to Destin historian H.C. “Hank” Klein’s articles in local newspapers, I found some great information on the cemetery and the folks buried in it. I’m just sharing what he wrote here so thank you to Hank! It all starts with a fisherman named Leonard Destin, who was born in New London, Conn. in 1813 but left it for warmer climes in Florida.

Around the time Leonard married local miss Martha McCullom in 1851, he started a fishing village in Moreno Point. When their son Willie died at age 10 on Aug. 1, 1868, they needed a place to lay him to rest. Leonard put aside some land east of their home and that’s how Marler Memorial Cemetery came to be, although it wasn’t called that at the time.

According to Leonard Destin’s memorial on Find a Grave, he and his descendants fished and navigated the only channel passage to the Gulf of Mexico between Panama City and Pensacola, known as Destin’s East Pass.

Willie Destin, who died in 1868 at age 10, was the first burial at Marler Memorial Cemetery.

Leonard and Martha’s son, Gaines, would die on April 6, 1873 at the age of 7. He was the second burial at the cemetery.

Gaines Destin, Willie’s brother, died in 1873 at age 7.

Over the years, Leonard and Martha would have nine children together. Leonard died on July 24, 1884 at age 70. He has a handsome monument beside Martha (who died in 1896 at age 61) and some of their children.

Martha McCullom Destin died 12 years after her husband at age 61.

So how do the Marlers figure into all this? As a teenager, William “Billy” Thomas Marler came to the area from Boggy (known now as Niceville) in the early 1880s to work for Leonard Destin. Billy talked his brothers, sisters, and mother into leaving Boggy for Moreno Point, too. Eventually, the village was named Destin after Leonard and his family sometime around the turn of the century.

According to Hank Klein, Moreno Point had no undertaker at the time. So it fell to Billy Marler to shoulder the task of of building coffins and burying of the dead in the cemetery from 1884 until his died in 1960. I would say that’s more than a good enough reason to name the cemetery Marler Memorial Cemetery. Plus the fact that there are more than 60 Marlers now buried there.

The Heartbreak of Carrie Marler

Back in 2019 when I was wandering around Marler Memorial Cemetery, one of the first graves I saw was for Carrie Marler. That got my attention because back in the 1980s, thanks to Christi’s influence, I watched the CBS soap Guiding Light. One of the more colorful characters was named Carrie Todd, who fell into a romance with local attorney Ross Marler. They got married and she became Carrie Marler. Unfortunately, poor Carrie had multiple personalities and to make a long story short, much drama ensued and the two eventually split up.

Sadly, the Carrie Marler buried at the cemetery also endured a great deal of tragedy but it was all too real.

Billy Marler and Carrie Bowers wed in 1891. This may have been a wedding photo. (Photo source: “Destin History and the Roots Run Deep“)

Born in 1873, Carrie Bowers was the first wife of Billy Marler. They wed around 1891. Over the next years, Billy and Carrie would have several children together. And one by one, eight of them would die.

Over the course of their marriage, Carrie and Billy Marler would lose eight children.

Next to Carrie’s marker is one for the eight babies she lost. Since Billy made the caskets and performed all the burials, I feel almost certain it was he who laid his little ones to rest. I cannot imagine the heartbreak this couple felt. Why they all died is unknown.

Billy Marler with sons Ernest (left) and David (right) around the time of Carrie’s death in 1903. (Photo source: “Destin History and the Roots Run Deep“)

Fortunately, Billy and Carrie did have two sons who survived infancy, Ernest (born 1899) and David (born 1901, died in 1978). But while Ernest did make it to his 30s, his life would also come to a tragic end in 1938. Perhaps it’s fortunate that Carrie, who died in 1903 at age 29, was not alive to suffer yet another death of a child.

Ernest, by then married with four children, was living in Cape San Blas (about 125 miles east of Destin) and working as an assistant lighthouse keeper. On March 17, 1938, one of Ernest’s daughters went to call him for lunch and found him dead. He was lying in a pool of blood, with several wounds in his neck and chest.

Ernest Marler’s murder was never solved. (Photo source: Pensacola News Journal, March 18, 1938)

Ernest’s murder was never solved, and rumors flew about who the killer might have been and the motive. According to his Find a Grave memorial, some thought he was murdered by moonshiners. Others felt it was a revenge killing for his testimony a few days earlier against some thieves.

The Patriarch of Destin

Billy soon remarried to Camela Catherine Brooks, who was 20 years his junior. Having endured so many losses, Billy felt blessed to father nine children, most of whom lived well into adulthood, with his new bride.

By this time, Billy Marler had taken on the moniker of “Captain Billy” because not only was he a superlative sailor after having worked for Leonard Destin, he learned how to build a sloop of his own. I read that he’s credited with building more than 100 boats during his lifetime.

In addition to being the village undertaker/coffin maker, Capt. Billy was Destin’s first postmaster and set up a post office in his own home. He handled the mail for 46 years. His daughter, Nellie, would later serve as clerk and postmaster for 27 years. Church services were also held in the Marler home during the early years. You might say Capt. Billy’s home was the center of Destin’s action because he also ran a store out of it for a time.

Capt. Billy Marler, the Patriarch of Destin, rests beside his second wife, Camella, at Marler Memorial Cemetery.

Capt. Billy’s role in making Destin a tight-knit fishing community could fill up several blog posts but I’m sure the locals could tell you that story much better than I could. Even if you don’t know his name, you can see it on the William T. Marler Bridge (Destin Bridge) where US 98 crosses East Pass connecting Destin to Okaloosa Island.

When Capt. Billy died in 1960 at the age of 94, it was very fitting that “Patriarch of Destin” was inscribed on his grave marker. I can think of few people who deserved that title more than he did. Camella, the “Matriarch of Destin” died in 1979 at age 92.

To Light the Way

One Marler grave that caught my eye was for Capt. Billy’s grand-nephew, Glen Marler. He was the son of Billy’s nephew, Clarence Marler (1901-1991).

Glen Marler was a life-long resident of Destin, Fla., and much loved by his friends and neighbors.

Born in 1924, Glen was the oldest surviving Marler at the time of his death in 2012. From what I could tell, he loved fishing and being out on the water as much as Capt. Billy. He remembered the early days of Destin as a humble fishing village before it became a haven for pale-faced tourists (like me) who descended every summer like a swarm of locusts.

One article I found from 1986 mentioned a local ordinance up for consideration concerning fishing practices. What Glen said at the meeting echoed what Capt. Billy might have remarked if he was still alive.

“Let’s remember what Destin was founded on…fishing,” he said. “Let’s not make this a yacht territory and do away with the charter boat fleet.”

I think Capt. Billy was smiling in Heaven when he heard that.

These words are inscribed on the slab above Glen Marler’s grave.

I’ll be back next week for more stories from Marler Memorial Cemetery.

Florida Panhandle Adventure 2019: Pausing at Santa Rosa Beach’s Thompson Cemetery

This is going to be one of my shorter blog posts simply because this cemetery is small and I didn’t take many pictures. That may surprise you since my posts usually go over 1,000 words, and often much longer than that.

Several of the graves at Thompson Cemetery are marked by wooden crosses. Their identities are unknown.

Thompson Cemetery is located a mere two miles away from Gulf Cemetery, which I wrote about a few weeks ago. Find a Grave lists a total of 34 memorials with the earliest marked burial happening in 1914. Seven of them have the last name of Thompson. It’s interesting to note that the earliest Thompson burial in the cemetery is for Lucy Berard Thompson, who died in 1932. It makes me wonder what it was called before that. There are several graves simply marked with crosses, their identities unknown.

This looks to be a fairly new sign for Thompson Cemetery.

There isn’t much online about Thompson Cemetery. I did find a website called “Walton Past to Present” that focuses on Walton County, Fla. history. A May 2021 post includes a 1984 newspaper article concerning a new Eagle Scout named John Fleury, then 16 years old. The article notes that Fleury’s Eagle Scout Project was to clean and upgrade the cemetery.

Part of that entailed marking 24 unmarked graves and using a 60-year-old map of the cemetery. That would date that map to 1924. I suspect it was John Fleury who put up those white crosses I mentioned.

This appears to be the older Thompson Cemetery sign, year of origin unknown.

Where John Fleury is today and what happened to the map he used at the time is unknown. But the Florida Bureau of Historic Preservation is hoping to find John and see if he knows where that map is.

Who was Mrs. M.J. Potter?

The oldest marked grave in Thompson Cemetery also raises the most questions. Since it’s uncertain if Mrs. M.J. Potter went by the name of her spouse or if her initials “M.J.” are her first and middle names, researching her background is difficult. I could find nothing about her beyond her marker. She is the only Potter in this small cemetery.

Mrs. M.J. Potter “fell asleep in Jesus” on Jan. 23, 1914 at the age of 51.

It’s frustrating not to know. But as I am finding out through my research of these early Florida graves, sometimes people arrived in this promising paradise near the end of their lives without leaving much evidence (if any) of how they got there.

Father and Son

Thankfully, someone has done the research on the next oldest grave at Thompson Cemetery and that is Andrew Nicholls. He has two markers, one of which I photographed. I did not see the other one that is on Find a Grave, photographed in 2011. This one is flat on the ground and looks like it was carved by the same person who did Mrs. M.J. Potter’s marker.

I did not see Andrew Nicholls’ other marker that is visible on his Find a Grave memorial.

Here’s the information from Andrew’s Find a Grave memorial:

Andrew was the son of Henry and Elizabeth (Richards) Nicholls/Nichols. The family moved from England to the U.S. where Henry worked as a miner. It is not known where Henry or Elizabeth are buried. Elizabeth lived with Andrew and his family for many years, so she may be buried in Minnesota.

Andrew had a sister, Alice Broad, who is buried at Evergreen Cemetery, Eagle River, Keweenaw County, Mich., and a sister Sarah/Sara Elliott/Elliot, who is buried at Lake View Cemetery, Houghton County, Mich. The burial locations for his brother Henry, and his sister Susan, are unknown.

Besides his daughter Bessie, Andrew also had a son, Thomas.

According to the 1900 U.S. Census, Andrew and his wife, Mary Jane, were farming in Kittson, Minn. with two of their children, Bessie and Thomas. The record indicates they had two other older living children but I don’t know where they ended up.

Bessie, who married Herman Miller in 1902, died a week after giving birth to a son in June 1905 at age 22. She is buried in Stephen, Minn. Sometime between 1910 and Andrew’s death in 1917, Andrew and Mary Jane moved to Santa Rosa Beach.

I located Andrew’s will, which was written only seven days before he died. After his debts/expenses were paid for, he left his estate to Mary Jane. Mary Jane remarried in 1921 to a Thomas Crookshank.

We do know that son Thomas Nicholls made it to Santa Rosa Beach with his parents because he is also buried in Thompson Cemetery, although his marker is barely readable. There’s one very much like it over at Gulf Cemetery.

You can barely read Thomas Nicholls’ grave marker.

According to the 1930 U.S. Census, Mary Jane was again a widow and living with Thomas, who was divorced and working as a carpenter. Mary Jane died in 1933 in Santa Rosa Beach but I could not find a burial site for her. I believe she is likely buried at Thompson Cemetery under one of the white crosses. Thomas died on Sept. 20, 1969 at the age of 85.

A Story-Telling Sea Captain

Born on August 5, 1918 in Millville, Fla., Ichabod Mitchel Raybon was something of a rarity in that he was a Florida native. Mitchel shows up at two different residences in the 1930 U.S. Census, so I suspect he split time at both the home of his widowed mother, Mary, and his older married brother, Pasco. Mary died in 1934 when Mitchel was 16. He would go on to spend much of his life as a sea captain, as the anchors on his grave marker testify.

Mitchel Raybon never stayed in one place very long.

Mitchel has a World War II draft card but I could not find a record of him serving in the military. He married and divorced twice over the years. He died on May 31, 1976 at age 57.

One family story that I found on Ancestry.com noted that Mitchell had a talent for drawing. It also included this quote: “He never lived in one place too long and was known for telling stories.” I can imagine with his occupation being that of a sea captain, it was quite fitting for his personality.

Next time, I’ll be further down the road at Marler Cemetery in Destin.

Florida Panhandle Adventure 2019: A Stroll Through Santa Rosa Beach’s Gulf Cemetery, Part II

Happy 2022!

Yes, I’m still at Gulf Cemetery in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. In my last post, I shared some of the history behind this burial ground and some of its oldest markers. Today, I’m going to branch out into some more recent ones since this is an active cemetery.

There are a number of military graves at Gulf Cemetery. One of my favorites is this one for Rick Pfieffer. His military marker is underneath the wreath and I wasn’t inclined to disturb it when I photographed his grave.

Richard “Rick” Pfeiffer had lived in St. Charles, Ill. before moving to Florida in 2002.

A native of Milwaukee, Wisc., Richard “Rick” Pfeiffer (1942-2004) was a Vietnam veteran who spent his final years in Florida. His grave is covered in many different kinds of shells. There’s also a bench positioned across from the grave which tells me there are folks who come to sit a spell with Rick and share a cup of coffee from time to time.

Solving The Mystery of George H. Brown

There are a few Civil War veterans buried at Gulf Cemetery and one presented a bit of a mystery. The only information on his government issued marker is his name and the unit he served in. No birth or death dates. So I got to work trying to find out.

George Hosea Brown was born around 1838 in Rutland County, Vt. He was living in Modena, Ill. and working as a teacher when he enlisted in the 65th Illinois Infantry, Company I, in February 1862. His enlistment rank was that of sergeant so I’m guessing he had some previous military experience.

Rev. George H. Brown’s marker gives little away about his past.

During the Civil War, the 65th Infantry took part in several skirmishes including the Battle of Resaca, the Siege of Atlanta, and the Battle of Nashville. George served for three years, mustering out with the 65th around July 1865. His final rank with either that of First Lieutenant or Second Lieutenant as some records conflict on what rank he mustered out at.

George returned to Illinois after the Civil War. Records indicate he married during the war to an Anna Lena Raycroft in 1864. Census records show he was a clergyman by 1880, living with his family in the Chicago area. There were a few years spent in Cherokee, Iowa where two sons were born. Anna died in 1901 and Rev. Brown remarried in September 1903 in Michigan to widow Laura Pine, who was nearly 40 years his junior. The couple moved to St. Louis where they had three children together.

Sometime after 1910, the family moved to Pensacola, Fla. and George died on Oct. 6, 1912. His son, George Dewitt Brown, is buried at Gulf Cemetery as well.

“A True Craftsman”

I feature many grand, intricate monuments in this blog and that’s always fun. But there are also times when a more humble marker can get my attention. This small one for James “Jim” Bradford is one of them.

Jim Bradford enjoyed going on adventures in his VW bus, according to his obituary.

Born in 1977 in Tallahassee, Fla., Jim spent much of his life there. According to his obituary, Jim had many hobbies including playing the drums and guitar, attending music festivals, traveling the country in his Volkswagon bus (which you can see on his marker), and riding ATVs with his father and brother.

His obituary also notes, “When not away on one of his many journeys, Jim was always willing to lend a hand to friends and family. Jim was a true craftsman, he could fix anything and customized practically everything he owned to his liking with meticulous detail. Jim graced the world with a unique flair.”

I think Jim is somebody I would have liked to have known, if I had been blessed with the opportunity.

Jim was a good friend and enjoyed helping others. (Photo source: Ammen Family Cremation and Funeral Care)

I noticed on Find a Grave that Jim’s father, Charles Bradford, died in 2020 and is also buried at Gulf Cemetery.

The Unknown Dead

Gulf Cemetery also has a number of crosses marking graves that have no names on them at all. They are scattered throughout the cemetery.

A number of white crosses with no names can be found throughout the cemetery.

These are close to the road.

Who are they?

In the back corner, I found a plot with these brick markers with no names. I can only guess that the family couldn’t afford markers but wanted to marker the graves in some way.

An anonymous family plot with bricks as markers.

But I think one of the saddest markers I’ve ever seen was this one for “Unidentified Hispanic Male” who died on February 2, 2008. I have seen temporary funeral home markers like this many times before, which are placed to mark a grave until a stone can be placed. But I have never seen one like this that had no name of any kind, just a date.

The identity of his man is unknown.

Perhaps this poor fellow died and the country provided a space for his burial. I don’t know. But he had a mother, a father…he meant something to someone out there. And they may have no idea what happened to him. Rest in peace, my friend…

The Watchmaker’s Daughter

This last grave is for a child, Lynnette K. Nealley. She was the daughter of watchmaker Lynn Leroy Nealley and Evalina Woodland Nealley. She was the youngest of their four children. The family moved from Kansas to Florida before Lynnette was born. Lynette was only three when she died on Nov. 3, 1922.

Lynnette Nealley was only three when she died in 1922.

Her father, Lynn Nealley, died many years later at age 81 in March 1959. I did not see his marker when I was there, but according to Find a Grave he is also buried at Gulf Cemetery and there’s a picture of his half of what appears to be a shared marker. Oddly, there’s no memorial for Evalina, who died in August 1959. I will be returning to the area next month, so I’ll stop by the cemetery to see if I can solve that mystery.

Gulf Cemetery is a sweet gem of a cemetery that I enjoyed visiting during my vacation. Next time, I’ll be about a mile from this burial ground at a much smaller one with more Florida history.

Florida Panhandle Adventure 2019: A Stroll Through Santa Rosa Beach’s Gulf Cemetery, Part I

In late January 2019, I went to Florida with my best friend, Christi, who lives in Omaha. She was ready to escape the freezing cold Nebraska winter for the much LESS cold Florida winter. This time we rented a place in Blue Mountain Beach on the Florida panhandle, east of Destin. I’ve been vacationing in that area of 30A since the 1990s.

I had never explored any of the cemeteries nearby so I decided to remedy that. Not far from our condo was Gulf Cemetery, which I had passed many times over the years.

Gulf Cemetery came from a patent granted by
President Woodrow Wilson in 1914.

Established by Patent by President Woodrow Wilson

Gulf Cemetery has a sign that explains some of its history. Burials unofficially began around 1910 when the city of Santa Rosa was established on Hogtown Bayou. What’s unusual is that the cemetery was officially established in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed patent 414345, which authorized the sale of 40 acres of land to the Gulf Cemetery Association.

I’d never heard of a cemetery established by a patent before. According to the sign, Gulf Cemetery and the Alango Cemetery in St. Louis County, Minn., are the only two U.S. patented cemeteries still in operation east of the Mississippi River. I’m still not exactly sure what that means.

This historic sign was placed in 2013.

The sign also notes that Gulf Cemetery has faced numerous obstacles since it opened. It was sold in error three times for delinquent property taxes and, more recently, was threatened by private development in 2006 when efforts to build an access road through it were thwarted. That one I can believe considering how rapidly the area has grown as a tourist destination. Originally, the cemetery was subdivided by various religious denominations but now the grounds are interdenominational.

The Gulf Cemetery Association was organized as a non-profit organization governed by five directors with the authority to establish the governing rules/regulations of the cemetery. The first directors were: M.L. Butler, W.H. Butler, George Gibbons, H.T. Lavermour, and John “Johan” Erickson.

According to Find a Grave, there are about 635 memorials listed but I know there are several more folks buried there than that. Several wooden cross with no names are scattered in the back.

I am intrigued with the words “still watched” on this sign.

On the day I visited, a number of cars came and went. Some folks appeared to be visiting graves but others I’m not so sure about. Maybe they were eating lunch. That may be why the sign on the tree is there. Still, I kept to myself while wandering around.

The Butler Family

The earliest burial recorded on Find a Grave at Gulf Cemetery is for Elizabeth Iola Notestein Butler, who died on June 22, 1913. She was the wife of Gulf Cemetery Association director Marquis de Lafayette (M.L. or Marcus) Butler, who I listed earlier. It appears that they spent most of their lives in Missouri and Minnesota (with a few years in Tennessee) before coming to Florida near the end of Elizabeth’s life. Even back then, retirees were heading south to enjoy their golden years in sunny Florida.

Elizabeth and Marcus married in Missouri in 1867. Marcus had served in the Missouri 69th Infantry, Company F, and later applied for his pension in 1922. The pair had several children together. One of their sons, William Henry Butler (the W.H. who was also a Gulf Cemetery director) moved his family down to the nearby Grayton Beach area before 1910. This must have enticed Elizabeth and Marcus to move south, along with a more agreeable climate.

Elizabeth’s inscription says “Mrs. M.L. Butler” and does not include her full name, which saddens me.

Elizabeth died on June 22, 1912. Her part of the monument she shares with her husband lists her as “Mrs. M.L. Butler”, which was not an uncommon thing to see back in the day. But it always make me a bit sad to see a woman’s name submerged into her husband’s on a grave marker. Yes, she was married. But she had her own identity apart from him that’s worth remembering.

Over the next years, W.H. was working to build a resort in the Grayton Beach area with the help of his son, Van. I’m not sure where Marcus played a role in all this but when he died in 1933, his marker states what he felt he’d done. “I founded this city and climbed the hill and laid me down to rest.”

Did M.L. Butler found Santa Rosa Beach? I can find nothing to support his claim in my research.

The name I find most in terms of who founded Santa Rosa Beach is Dr. Charles Cessna, who has a park named after him and a boat landing. One paragraph I found reads: “Dr. Charles Cessna and his newly formed company out of Chicago used the press all over the north to entice the rush of immigrants to America’s shores. Here was where a new life of prosperity awaited, not to mention the perfect climate.”

I do believe that Marcus’ son William and grandson Van were key players in the establishment of Grayton Beach and Santa Rosa Beach in the coming years. Van and his wife were schoolteachers for many years and one of Santa Rosa’s schools is named after him.

The Mysterious Marie Joubert

One old marker I found posed a true mystery for me. I was not expecting to see a grave stone with a French inscription in a coastal Florida cemetery. But the articles I read about the early years of Grayton Beach/Santa Rosa indicated many immigrants settled in the area. So perhaps it wasn’t unexpected.

Fortunately, Marie’s marker has gotten a good cleaning (from what I saw on Find a Grave) since I photographed it in 2019.

A native of France, Marie died at the age of 73 on Feb. 3, 1917 from a kidney ailment. Her death certificate states she was a housewife and a widow but does not list her husband’s name. I don’t know how she came to live in Florida. Her father’s name was T. Mollet. I noticed that her death certificate was signed by a W. Cessna, perhaps someone related to Dr. Charles Cessna.

Fine to the Finnish

There are nine Ericksons buried in Gulf Cemetery, a number of them children who died young. I was curious to know who they were. Born in 1883, John or Johan Erickson was a ship’s carpenter who emigrated from Finland sometime around 1901 or 1906. He and his wife, Anna, lived in Hibbing, Minnesota before moving to a homestead in Santa Rosa Beach by 1915. You might remember his name as one of those Gulf Cemetery directors I listed earlier.

Together, they would have six children. Son Onne (1909-1998), Alvar (1911-1915), Astrid (1913-1983), Otto (1915-1916), Elis (1917-1919), Elva Viola (1920-1921), and Alfred (1922-2019). As you can see, four of the six died in childhood.

According to Find a Grave, Elva Viola Erickson was bitten by a rabid dog and died soon after from lockjaw at the age of exactly 17 months.

I am thankful to Find a Grave.com for many reasons. Sometimes it is thanks to a bio that someone wrote that I glean my only information. According to the memorial made for Elva Viola Erickson, she was bitten by a dog and contracted lockjaw. She died soon after on Aug. 11, 1921.

John’s brother, Erick, is another sad story. Like his brother, he emigrated from Finland to America as a young man. But it appears he remained a bachelor and worked as a coal miner in the North for many years. According to his Find a Grave memorial, he contracted Black Lung and went to spend his last days in Santa Rosa Beach with John and his family. He knew his days were numbered.

Erick Erickson died of Black Lung from his years as a coal miner on April 20, 1916 at the age of 39.

Erick Died on April 20, 1916 at age 39. He was buried among John and Anna’s children. John eventually died at age 77 in 1960 and Anna died at age 82 in 1962. It appears that the Ericksons actually lived in Pensacola from the 1920s until they died. But John and Anna are both buried at Gulf Cemetery, along with some of their children.

Cause of Death: Acute Indigestion

Death certificates can be eye-opening documents. This was the case when I looked up Emma Draper Harris.

The daughter of British parents, Emma Draper was born on March 6, 1883 in Canada. She married Edwin Harris in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada in 1903. They had a daughter, Gertrude, a year later.

I don’t know when the Harris family moved to Santa Rosa Beach but Emma died on April 23, 1918. Her death certificate states the cause of death was “acute indigestion”. It notes this was her fourth attack and that she died during the last episode while eating dinner. I’m wondering if she had a heart attack.

Emma Draper Harris was 35 when she died of “acute indigestion”. Did she perhaps have a heart attack?

Another interesting tidbit on the death certificate is the undertaker is listed as none other than W.H. Butler, whom I mentioned earlier. Amid his many talents, was he also a funeral director? That’s curious indeed.

Three-War Veteran

Lastly, sometimes I come across a grave that just tugs at my heartstrings. That’s the case for Master-Sergeant Ermel Howard, whose grave marker has a toy Army jeep at the base.

Born in 1925, Ermel Howard served in the U.S. Army Air Corps before it became the U.S. Air Force during World War II. Then he went on to serve in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. After retiring from the military, Ermel worked as a government worker at Eglin Air Force Base Hospital. He died at age 92 on Dec. 10, 2017.

I think Ermel was pretty amazing to have served in three consecutive wars, a feat not many have accomplished. It’s folks like him who are the backbone of our armed forces and I appreciate all he did.

Next time, I’ll be back at Gulf Cemetery with more stories from Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.

A homemade sign in the corner of a family plot.

Sweet Home Alabama: Having the Last Word at Eufaula’s Fairview Cemetery, Part III

Today I’m finishing up my series on Fairview Cemetery in Eufaula, Ala. This burial ground is just different, I’ll be up front about it. The stories, the grave markers, the bricks…so many things. I could probably spend a few months looking into the lives of these people and not get bored. It truly grabbed my attention.

Fairview Cemetery in April 2017.

In this last installment, I’m going to talk about epitaphs. The inscriptions written on grave markers and monuments. Much of the time, people stick to names and dates to keep it simple. Not to mention it’s less expensive. But in previous decades, people put much more thought into what was going on a loved one’s marker. Some of what I read at Fairview definitely lingers in my mind.

Down With the Ship

Sometimes an epitaph doesn’t have to be lengthy to catch your eye. In the case of William Stratton Jones Rivers, it was one word. Drowned. I apologize for the poor quality of the photograph of his grave but it is well worn and the sun was bright that day.

William Stratton Jones Rivers was the son of a minister.

The son of Dr. Richard Henderson Rivers (a reverend) and Martha Bolling Cox Jones Rivers, William was born in Alabama in 1847. He married Sarah “Sallie” Dandridge Nickels in September 1866 in Montgomery, Ala. Together, they had several children.

Rivers was serving as a clerk on the steamship “George W. Wyly” (I’ve also seen it spelled Wylly) when it struck the Fort Gaines bridge across the Chattahoochee River in Clay County, Ga. on April 11, 1883. According to his Find a Grave memorial, his body was never found. But he has a marker at Fairview and there is a brick outline where his grave would be. So I’m not totally sure that’s true.

From the April 20, 1883 edition of the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser.

William’s wife Sallie was left to raise their six children on her own. I found a newspaper article that said the citizens of Columbus, Ga. took up a collection of $608.30 to help her. Captain S.J. Whitesides, managing owner of the Central Line of Steamers that the George W. Wyly was part of agreed to match that amount. She also received $2,000 from a life insurance policy William had through the Knights of Honor, a popular fraternal order of that era.

Sallie and her children, who were living in Florida at the time of William’s death, did the best they could without him. She never remarried. When she died in 1897, she was buried in Jehu Cemetery in Wewahitchka, Fla.

A Son’s Fateful Death

There’s a sad postscript. William and Sallie’s son, Thomas, followed in his father’s footsteps and became a steamship engineer. He died on March 14, 1901 when he was shot twice by deckhand Theo Jackson aboard the steamship “J.W. Hires” who then threw his body overboard. Thomas was only 22 when he died. His remains were discovered weeks later, identified by the clothes he was wearing and contents of his pockets.

An article reported:

Rivers’ body was found a month later near Pitts Landing, 30 miles below the place where he went overboard and seven miles below Eufaula. The body was brought to Columbus and placed in a casket, purchased by the Federation of Marine Officers Association to which he belonged, and later interred at his home in Wewahitchka, Florida.

Photo of the Steamship J.W. Hires, from which Thomas Rivers’ body was tossed after he was killed by a deckhand. (Photo source: Florida Memory, State Library and Archives of Florida.)

Theo Jackson was tried before Thomas’ body was located in early April and convicted of voluntary manslaughter, receiving a sentence of 10 years. I couldn’t find anything more regarding where he ended up after that. Thomas was buried beside his mother in Jehu Cemetery.

A Family of Substance

The Shorter family made its mark on Alabama history over the years. They have their own cemetery in Eufaula and I hope to visit the next time I’m passing through. John Gill Shorter (1818-1872), who served as governor of Alabama from 1861 to 1863, is buried there.

Eli Sims Shorter (1823-1879) was an Alabama Congressman from 1855 to 1859.

His brother, Eli Sims Shorter (1823-1979), was no slouch. He was elected to represent Alabama’s Second District in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving from 1855 to 1859. He also served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. An attorney, he served in the Confederate Army as colonel of the 18th Regiment Alabama Infantry.

Eli shares a monument with his wife, Marietta Fanin Shorter, and two of his sons, Clement Clay Shorter and William Augustus Shorter. Each has an interesting epitaph that I’d like to share.

Born in 1851, William Augustus Shorter was the second child of Eli and Marietta. He studied law at Lebanon Law School in Tennessee before working as a lawyer in Brooklyn, N.Y. He later practiced law in Atlanta before becoming president of the Georgia Dept. of the Grangers Life and Health Insurance Co. based in Rome, Ga. A bachelor, the role William relished most was as associate editor of the Rome Courier.

I am Free from Pain and Wish to Go to Sleep”

William was only 27 when in late September 1877 he became ill with “congestion of the bowels”. He suffered for five days, gradually weakening. I suspect he might have had an intestinal blockage but in those days there were few ways to diagnose it. One of his last words to a friend were, “I am free from pain and wish to go to sleep.” He died soon after on Sept. 28, 1877.

William Augustus Shorter was only 27 when he died in 1877.

William’s epitaph is a testament to his maturity despite his young age:

Although called to his reward
While yet so young, he had won
And merited a reputation for
Integrity of character, oratory
And scholarship seldom equaled
By one of his years.

William’s father, Eli, died only two years later after an illness of several weeks on April 29, 1879 at age 56.

Eli Sims Shorter had a more illustrious career than his son but his epitaph is decidedly different.

His epitaph is actually briefer than his son’s:

Scholar. Lawyer. Friend. Soldier. Patriot. Statesman. Christian.

William’s younger brother, Clement Clay Shorter (born in 1856) followed in in his father’s footsteps by pursuing a law career before jumping into the political ring. He served in the Alabama House of Representatives fro 1882 to 1888 when he finally reached his goal of becoming Speaker of the House at the age of 33. He was the youngest person to attain that rank in Alabama.

A “Trumpet Like” Voice

According to his obituary, however, Clement differed from his father and brother in that he was short of stature and struggled with health limitations they did not. But his speaking voice was noted as being “trumpet like” and easily captured the attention of listeners, making him a good fit for his new role.

Clement died of typhoid fever on June 16, 1890. I did not get a good photograph of his panel on the Shorter monument but I saw a better one on his Find a Grave memorial. His epitaph, focusing on his spiritual and leadership strength, reads:

He loved his God and trusted Him.
He loved his people and was signally honored by them.
His life completes a bright chapter in Alabama’s history.

William and Clement’s mother, Marietta, survived their father for several years after his death. She died while visiting friends in Atlantic City, N.J. on April 18, 1898. Her remains were sent back to Eufaula for burial at Fairview in the family plot.

Marietta Fannin Shorter was 67 when she died in Atlantic City, N.J. in 1898.

Marietta’s epitaph is somewhat typical for a woman of that time, emphasizing traditional feminine traits:


Her warmth of heart, sweet gentle nature, and brilliancy of mind made her easily adorn every position.
While her holy consecrated life, so pure and faultless, makes Heaven her eternal home.

Eli and Marietta did have two other children. Son Eli Sims Shorter, Jr., who is buried nearby with his wife, Wileyna Lamar Shorter, died in 1908. The Shorters’ eldest child, daughter Annie Shorter Leftwich, died in 1900 of pneumonia at age 51. She is buried with her husband, Col. Alexander Leftwich, in Presbyterian Cemetery in Lynchburg, Va.

“Not Slothful in Business”

Other epitaphs are interesting for what they focus on about a person. The epitaph for Eufaula banker Edward Brown Young (1802-1879) grabbed my attention for its mention of the word “slothful”. That’s not a word I often see on a grave marker. Edward was president of the Eufaula National Bank so being remarkably focused on his task and lacking in sloth-like qualities would be expected.

“Slothful” is not a word I often see on a grave marker.

Edward is described as:

Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.

Death of a Young Wife

The epitaphs for wives who die young are often heartbreaking. Born in North Carolina in 1823, Mary Ann Rebecca White married a man 16 years her senior. A veteran of the Indian Wars, Major Jefferson Buford was from South Carolina. They married in 1839 and had four children together, one dying in infancy.

Mary died on July 16, 1852 in Eufaula at age 29. She shares a monument with Major Buford, although he married a second time in 1858 to widow Lizzie Juett McNeil. They had a daughter, Caro, in 1861 but she died in 1867. She is buried in the Buford plot at Fairview. After Major Buford died in 1862 from heart disease, Lizzie remarried. I’m not sure where she is buried.

Mary’s portion of the Buford monument is on top and features an epitaph I have not seen anywhere else. The picture was taken in full sunlight so I had to play with the editing a little to make the words readable.

Mary Ann Rebecca White Buford was the first of Major Jefferson Buford’s two wives.

Her epitaph reads:

None but he loser knows the worth of a true heart.

In That Home of Love

I’ll close out this post with three little words I saw on the back of the shared monument of Col. John Wallace Comer (1845-1919) and his wife Caroline “Carrie” Gertrude Seay Comer (1847-1888). It’s quite a grand monument, which isn’t surprising because of Col. Comer’s prominence as a Confederate veteran and businessman. He was also the brother of Alabama Gov. Braxton Bragg Comer, who served from 1906 to 1911.

Col. John W. Comer and his wife, Carrie, had no children together.

Carrie died at age 44 in 1888 and Col. Comer never remarried. They had no children. I have to wonder how he handled the next decades without her. He died in 1919 at age 74. On the back of their monuments you can see this.

Col. Comer lived another 31 years after Carrie died.

There are a number of hymns that include the words “some sweet day” in them. One is called “Some Sweet Day” and was written by S.H. Chord in 1892. Some speculate that S.H. Chord was the min­is­ter Spen­cer How­ard Chord (1857–1929), who is bur­ied in Cof­fey Ce­me­te­ry, El­letts­ville, In­d. Perhaps this is the hymn this epitaph refers to. The first verse goes like this:

Some sweet day when life is o’er,
We shall meet above;
We shall greet those gone before,
In that home of love.

Next time, I’ll be posting about my January 2019 adventures in Florida.

Sweet Home Alabama: Hitting the Bricks at Eufaula’s Fairview Cemetery, Part II

Last week, I introduced you to Eufaula, Ala.’s Fairview Cemetery. One thing I learned this week was that former NBCToday show host Katie Couric’s parents and sister are buried there. I did not get a picture of their graves, unfortunately. They’re buried in the newer part of the cemetery.

Fairview Cemetery in April 2017.

Fairview Cemetery features a number of brick-based graves in varying states of condition. I was unable to determine if Eufaula had a brick factory at one time. However, it’s not unusual for me to find brick-based graves in Southern cemeteries. They simply used what they had. Some graves at Fairview are clearly in poor condition and have not stood the test of time.

The brick frame of this grave site is falling apart. I don’t know if this was simply
from poor condition or vandalism.

Then you have those that are in decent shape but have no identifying plate to show whom the deceased was.

It’s my guess that these three graves are for a child and its parents.

Here’s an actual brick tomb with no identifying plate for the deceased. I’ve seen a good number of these over the years but usually in better condition.

The identify of whomever is interred within this brick tomb is unknown.

But there are a number of brick-based graves that are in good shape and have plates to identify the person buried there. Such is the case of young Samuel McLeod Garrett. Born in 1874 to carpenter James and Sarah McLeod Garrett, Samuel lost his mother when he was only a baby. His older sister, Ann Garett Cobb, helped raise him. A Civil War veteran, James died when Samuel was 14. He’s also buried at Fairview.

“Death Came as a Blessed Deliverer”

In 1898, Samuel married Alice Helms and they had a child. He had a good job as a compositor at Eufaula’s Daily Times newspaper. According to his obituary, he suffered poor health the last year of his life. He died at age 25 on April 26, 1900. The newspaper’s office announced it would be closed on the day of his funeral to honor his memory.

Samuel Garrett lost his mother in infancy. He was just starting a family of his own when he died.

Then you have a brick grave for high-ranking Confederate Civil War Col. Hiram Hawkins. Born in Bath County, Ky. on Sept. 9, 1826, Hawkins was one of the seven sons of Thomas and Mary “Polly” Deen Hawkins. He also had five sisters. He took over running the family farm and store after his father died of cholera.

Life of a Confederate Colonel

Hawkins was commander of the 5th Kentucky (CSA) Volunteer Infantry, which was part of the famous Kentucky “Orphan Brigade“. Hawkins helped raise the regiment in Eastern Kentucky in 1861, and commanded it as its Lieutenant Colonel before being promoted its Colonel. He led the regiment in such battles as Chickamauga, Resaca, Dallas, Atlanta, and Jonesboro, commanding it up its the surrender on May 6, 1865. After the war, he and his wife settled permanently in Eufaula.

Hawkins was first married to Mary Workman of Bath, Ky. on Sept. 8, 1853. She died on August 1, 1860 and is buried in Old Bethel Cemetery in Kentucky. His second marriage was to widow Louisiana Nuckolls Boykin on Sept. 22, 1864. He had met her that same year while recovering on “wounded leave” in Alabama. Col. Hawkins’ mother, Polly, lived with the couple after they married.

Photo of Col. Hiram Hawkins in his later years.

Col. Hawkins was president of Eufaula’s Union Female College during the early 1870s. Later he was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 1882 and 1884. He was also involved with many agricultural organizations around the state and pushed for more modern farming methods to be used.

Col. Hiram Hawkins served as president of Union Female College while his wife served as “Lady Principal”.

Mary “Polly” Deen Hawkins died on April 20, 1881 at age 76. Col. Hawkins’ wife, Louisiana, died on Aug. 10, 1895 at age 63. The two women share a beautiful monument.

Col. Hiram Hawkins’ mother died in 1881 at the age of 76.
Louisiana Nuckolls Boykin Hawkins died in 1895 at age 63.

Why Such a Simple Marker?

Col. Hawkins lived on for several years, dying on July 27, 1913 at age 87. I found it interesting that his own marker is a simple government-issued military marker that has his death date incorrect as 1914. For such a prominent citizen, this surprised me. However, I have a theory that his name/dates were meant to be carved onto the larger marker that his mother and wife shared.

Col. Hawkins’ grave is quite simple compared to those of his wife and mother. Was that his plan?
Were these symbols meant to refer to Col. Hawkins’ Masonic affiliation?

What leads me to that conclusion? I noticed that on one of the blank sides there is the Masonic compass symbol below a wheat sheaf. Being that women could not be Masons (only members of the Order of the Eastern Star, the Masonic auxiliary for women), this must have been carved in advance for Col. Hawkins.

So why were his name and dates never added to the marker? I can only surmise that there were no local family members left to pay for it. I noticed a newspaper item that said his will included 13 heirs, with one living in Oregon.

“Our Darling Vada”

There is a lasting mystery to the Hawkins family plot that I was unable to solve. On the end of the row of graves beside the one for Mary “Polly” Deen Hawkins is a marker for “Our Darling Vada”. It is topped with lily of the valley, which is meant to signify innocence and purity. Was this a child of Col. Hawkins and Louisiana that died in childhood? Any biography I read on the Colonel or his wife said they had no children. So the identity of Vada remains a mystery.

Was this a child of Col. Hiram and Louisiana Hawkins?

Two Little Boys

Then there are these two graves for the children of alderman/postmaster Eugene L. Brown and his wife, Mary Serena Hoole Brown. Mary was actually the brother of James Lingard Hoole, whom I featured in last week’s blog post. The couple had married in Eufaula in 1871. J. Lingard Brown was born on July 4, 1873 and died on Oct. 24, 1873. His brother, Eugene, was born on June 25, 1880 and died at the age of three on March 20, 1883. His death was reported in the local newspaper.

Newspaper article from the March 22, 1883 edition of the Eufaula Daily Times.
The graves of brothers J. Lingard Brown and Eugene L. Brown are made of bricks.

Eugene and Serena Brown did have several children who lived to adulthood. Eugene died in 1908 at age 62 and Serena died in 1915 at age 70. They are both buried at Fairview but unlike their children, the couple’s graves are not marked.

“He Bears Our Best-Loved Things Away”

I think the two saddest brick graves that I found while wandering through Fairview were for brothers Levi and Alonzo Thweatt. They were the sons of John and Elizabeth Sharp Thweatt. Alonzo was born in 1845 and Levi in 1846. Both brothers fought together for the Confederacy in the Civil War as part of Georgia’s Columbus Light Artillery.

The brothers survived the war and returned home. They worked in a grocery store. But Levi’s health was devastated by tuberculosis and he died on May 14, 1870. His marker on top the brick foundation is broken but the pieces are together.

Levi Thweatt’s brief epitaph reads, “Not lost but gone before.”
Levi Thweatt died 10 years before his brother Alonzo.

Alonzo never married, living with his mother, Elizabeth, his brother, John, and his family. He died on June 15, 1880 at the age of 35. His grave marker has been broken into pieces and scattered across the brick foundation. Among the pieces are large seashells, not unusual on a Southern grave.

It pains me to see this young man’s grave shattered into pieces.
Alonzo Thweatt fought alongside his brother, Levi, during the Civil War.
Alonzo Thweatt was only 25 when he died in 1880.

One of the pieces of Alonzo’s marker includes an inscription of part of a poem written by John Luckey McCreery called “There is No Death”

There is no death! An angel form
Walks o’er the earth with silent tread;
He bears our best-loved things away,
And then we call them “dead.”

Hopefully, Alonzo’s grave marker will be repaired or replaced with a new one some day.

There are more stories still to share from Fairview Cemetery. Part III is coming soon.

Sophia Link, wife of carpenter/upholsterer William Link, died at age 50 in 1872.