Deep in the Heart of Dallas, Texas: Exploring Silent City of the Dead Greenwood Cemetery, Part II

Last week, I introduced you to Dallas, Texas’ Greenwood Cemetery and its history. Today, let’s find out more about some of the people buried there. The first grave I’m going to feature uncovered a story I didn’t go looking for. Thanks to my husband, Chris, it came to me.

I was going through the photos he took there a few weeks after our trip and found this one of a crow perched beside the marker for a J.M. Thurmond. It wasn’t very fancy so I probably wouldn’t have noticed it. But that crow got Chris’ attention so he took a picture.

Something made me look into J.M. Thurmond’s past. It turned out to be quite a story.

Born in 1836, James Madison Thurmond served as a private in Company E, Fourth Kentucky Cavalry during the Civil War. My research indicated he fought for the Confederacy but some sources point to a Union affiliation. There were units from both sides of the war with Kentucky soldiers. After the war, Thurmond moved to Texas and was appointed mayor of Bryan, Texas, by Gov. E. J. Davis in November 1869, an office he held for only two months before leaving in January 1870. Thurmond later moved to Dallas and opened a law practice.

A two-term mayor of Dallas, Judge J.M. Thurmond wasn’t fast enough when enemy Robert Cowart drew his pistol.

Thurmond was elected mayor of Dallas on a reform ticket in April 1879 and re-elected in April 1880. In September 1880, the city council voted to remove him based on not making those promised reforms, and appointed John J. Good to fill the vacancy. Thurmond married Amanda J. Bentley on February 14, 1880, in Dallas. They had one son, James M. Thurmond Jr.

A Simmering Feud Explodes

One of the attorneys that worked hard to get Thurmond removed as mayor (who was now a judge) was Atlanta native and Confederate veteran Robert E. Cowart. Thus began a feud between the two that simmered for two years until it exploded on March 14, 1882 in a Dallas courthouse.

On that day, angry words were exchanged by Cowart and Thurmond that were witnessed by others. Thurmond drew his pistol but Cowart was faster, shooting Thurmond in the head and killing him instantly. He was only 46. Cowart was charged with murder and convicted later that year but a second trial acquitted him. Public opinion was with Cowart that he had shot Thurmond in self defense.

An account of the funeral of Judge J.M. Thurmond from the March 17, 1882 edition of the Dallas Daily Herald.

After his acquittal, Cowart spent many years in Washington, D.C. representing Texas interests in Congress. But he never quite escaped the reverberations of the shooting. One article I found said, “Privately, he expressed himself as regretting he had not let Thurmond kill him, and he was inclined to regard the early death of his wife and the long invalidism of a son as somehow a judgment.”

When Cowart died at the age of 80 in 1924, he was buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

Cattle King of Texas

One of the few mausoleums at Greenwood is for Col. Christopher Columbus (“C.C.”) Slaughter. His colorful life could fill a book easily but I’ll try to keep it brief.

Col. Christopher Columbus (C.C.) Slaughter lived large but had a giving spirit, donating large sums of his fortune to Dallas institutions.

As a boy, C.C. worked cattle with his father and at age 12, he helped drive the family’s 92-head herd to a ranch on the Trinity River in Freestone County, Texas, where the family moved in 1852. At 17, C.C. was hauling timber and processing Collin County wheat into flour for sale. With the money he earned, he bought his uncle’s interest in the Slaughter cattle herd. His family did not neglect his education, tutoring him at home before he graduated from the now-defunct Larissa College in Cherokee County, Texas.

In 1857, Slaughter became a rancher with his father in Palo Pinto County, Texas, where they owned 15,000 cattle. They sold beef to Fort Belknap and local Native American reservations. In 1861, he married Cynthia Anna Jowell and together, they had five children.

During the Civil War, he served as a colonel in Terry’s Texas Rangers of the Confederate Army. Together with Charles Goodnight, he helped rescue Cynthia Ann Parker, an American kidnapped by Comanches at the age of 10 in 1836. I photographed her grave last year while at Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla.

Col. Christopher Columbus (C.C.) Slaughter is interred in one of the few mausoleums at Greenwood Cemetery.

After the war, he founded the C. C. Slaughter Cattle Company, plus co-founded the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association in 1873. Cynthia passed away in 1876 and he married Carrie Averill 1877. He established the American National Bank in 1884, which is now part of the First National Bank chain.

Col. Slaughter, his two wives, sons Walter and Eugene who died in infancy, and daughter Della, with her husband Judge Gilbert Wright, are all interred within the Slaughter mausoleum.

Owned Over a Million Acres

By 1905, Col. Slaughter owned over 40,000 head of cattle and oversaw over a million acres of land in West Texas. As a result, he was for some years the largest taxpayer in Texas. He also added to his family, having four children with second wife, Carrie.

In his later years, Col. Slaughter gave generously. He helped establish Baylor Hospital of Dallas, serving on its board of trustees and was president of the United Confederate Veterans. He also served as vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a member of the executive board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Close up view of the stained glass inside the Slaughter mausoleum.

Slaughter maintained strict control over his operations until 1910, when he suffered a broken hip that crippled him for the remainder of his life. After his death at age 81 in 1919, his heirs divided his ranch and land holdings, and sold them. His mausoleum at Greenwood contains Col. Slaughter, his two wives, two children who died in infancy, his daughter, Delia Slaughter Wright, and Delia’s husband, Judge Gilbert Wright.

Death of a Young Wife

The monument to young Jennie Thomas Scollard is beautiful. But I chose it for more than that reason alone.

Jennie Thomas Scollard died at the age of 26 from “dropsy of the heart.”

Born in 1860, Jennie Thomas was a native of Texas. But her future husband Thomas W. Scollard was British born in 1849. He likely arrived in Dallas in the 1870s. He and Jennie married were married in 1880 and spent their first years in Galveston, Texas.

Unlike many businessmen in Dallas, Scollard was more interested in sheep than cattle. He became a wool buyer/dealer. He also was involved in real estate, constructing the Jennie and Juanita buildings in downtown Dallas. I even managed to find a picture of the one named after Jennie on Ancestry.

Wool dealer and real estate developer Thomas W. Scollard named this building after his first wife, Jennie. (Photo source:

Thomas’ fortunes prospered. He and Jennie had three children together, two living to adulthood. But Jennie’s health began to falter in 1887. According to her funeral notice, she went to stay at a place known as Wootan Wells, which promoted itself as a pleasure resort and health spa. They claimed that the waters had restorative powers.

The first well at what became Wootan Wells was dug in 1878. This postcard is from 1912.

Located in Bremond, Texas, Wootan Wells was just one of many resorts that socialites flocked to in the late 1800s/early 1900s. You could even purchase their water and take it home with you. At one point, it boasted hotels, a bottling works, dance pavilion, and school. A fire that swept through Bremond in 1915 did considerable damage and Wootan Wells’ remaining buildings were torn down in the early 1920s.

Sadly, Jennie died at Wootan Wells at the age of 26 on June 12, 1887. Her funeral notice attributed it to “dropsy of the heart”, meaning she suffered from edema and heart failure. I found it interesting that the notice also made a particular observation about her “life-like appearance” at her visitation.

Jennie Scollard’s funeral notice observed that she had a most “life-like appearance” at her visitation. (Photo Source: The Dallas Daily Herald, June 17 1887)

While at least four people are buried in the Scollard plot, only Jennie Scollard’s has a marker of any kind.

Thomas Scollard remarried in 1889 to Fannie Bossart, who was 21 years his junior. They had five children who lived to adulthood. One infant born in 1889 named Jennie is buried in the Scollard plot. She has no marker.

When Thomas Scollard died suddenly on his veranda at the age of 55 in 1905, he was buried at Greenwood in the family plot without a marker. Records indicate that after Fannie Scollard died in 1959, she was initially interred at Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park (which I visited as well). But she was later moved to Greenwood to be buried with Thomas and the two Jennies in June 1960. Her grave is not marked either.

We’re not finished at Greenwood Cemetery. Come back for Part III.

Mary Todd Lindsley was the daughter of Judge Philip Lindsley and Louise Gundry Lindsley. Born on Dec. 18, 1882, she died on July 3, 1883. The Lindsleys’ son and Mary’s older brother, Henry Lindsley, served as mayor of Dallas, Texas from 1915 to 1917.


Deep in the Heart of Dallas, Texas: Exploring Silent City of the Dead Greenwood Cemetery, Part I

Who visits Dallas, Texas in the middle of July, one of the hottest months of the year?


Every five years, my husband and I take a trip out of state to celebrate our wedding anniversary. For 2018, our 15th, we chose Texas. We knew it would be boiling-lava hot but summer is always the best time for us to travel because our son can stay with his grandparents while we’re gone.

We arrived in Dallas with plans to visit at least one cemetery during our visit and ended up seeing many more. The first one was Greenwood Cemetery in the Uptown neighborhood. But it wasn’t always called that.

Greenwood Cemetery was originally called Trinity Cemetery when it opened around 1875.

Birth of Trinity Cemetery

The establishment of Trinity Cemetery began with a man who played a key role in the prominence Dallas would eventually have. But one of Alabama native William H. Gaston’s first glimpses of Dallas would be as a 20-year-old young man on the day after the fire that nearly destroyed the city in 1860.

William joined the Confederacy with three of his brothers after the outbreak of the Civil War, rising quickly among his peers to become known as the “boy captain”. After the war, Capt. Gaston did quite well with his cotton crop, making enough money to leave the farm and enter into business in Dallas. His focus was on banking and real estate.

Capt. William H. Gaston served with distinction in the Confederacy during the Civil War but had his heart set on becoming a successful businessman some day. When he died in 1927, he was buried in the cemetery he established.

A sign at the cemetery explains that the land upon which Trinity Cemetery is located on was once “part of a Republic of Texas grant called the John Grigsby League, given for service in the Battle of San Jacinto.” After some legal wrangling, Capt. Gaston acquired the land and established the cemetery along with his banking partner, Capt. W.H. Thomas. Some sources say that the first recorded burial at Trinity was a Mrs. Susan Bradford in March 1875. I found no memorial for her on Find a Grave.

Silent City of the Dead

An article in the Dallas Weekly Herald on November 13, 1884 describes the cemetery  this way:

Our reporter took an excursion over the Belt street railroad yesterday and, leaving the cars where the road turns out of the McKinney road, walked out to Trinity cemetery. This silent city of the dead is truly a beautiful location and, although it is small for so large a city as Dallas, it can be made as beautiful a cemetery as can be found in all the land. Young forest trees and cedars abound, which, if trimmed up properly and with nice shelled walks and drives winding among them, would make it a lovely spot for the repose of the dead.

Unfortunately, by 1896, the cemetery had fallen into a state of disrepair. One article even mentioned cattle grazing in it. Capt. Gaston had plunged into the business world, developing much of East Dallas and starting the State Fair, so his attention was elsewhere. The cemetery was renamed Greenwood and an association was formed to oversee its operation and upkeep.

In 1896, Trinity Cemetery became Greenwood Cemetery.

According to Find a Grave, Greenwood has close to 8,000 recorded burials but an article I found indicates there are hundreds of unmarked graves on the grounds. Originally, it consisted of 30 acres but I’m not sure what it currently is. The Uptown neighborhood that surrounds it was once farmland but is now prime real estate that’s almost completely developed.

Both Sides Buried Here

Both Union and Confederate soldiers are buried at Greenwood. There’s a special section dedicated to Union Soldiers that is cared for by a local chapter of the Sons of Union Veterans. After the Civil War, many Union veterans headed to the South for a new life. Cheap land was plentiful and business opportunities were abundant. According to one plaque I saw, about 110 Union veterans are buried at Greenwood.

One of those men was John Comley Bigger, an Ohioan who fought with the 92nd Illinois Infantry at the Battle of Chickamauga. Bigger would go on to practice law in Dallas in 1875 and was appointed the U.S. Attorney for Texas in 1882. He led two Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) chapters in Dallas. A Prohibitionist, Bigger was admired by his colleagues for his “probity and kindness of heart”. When he died in 1900, he was buried at Greenwood Cemetery.

Several Union veterans are buried at Greenwood Cemetery.

According to a plaque, there are about 250 Confederate veterans buried at Greenwood. There is no Confederate monument at Greenwood, but there is one that I mistook for one when I first saw it. The monument to Captain Samuel P. Emerson certainly looks like one but it was carved just for him.

In 1861, at age 29, Kentucky native Samuel Emerson enlisted in the Confederate Army. Under the command of General Simon Buckner, he saw action at Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland River in Tennessee. When the fort fell to federal forces under General Ulysses S. Grant in February 1862, General Buckner surrendered some 15,000 troops.

Capt. Emerson, however, escaped by swimming and wading the river. He subsequently had a number of adventures as captain of a company of Confederate scouts. He moved to Dallas after the Civil War.

Capt. Samuel Emerson had very specific ideas about what kind of monument he wanted and how his funeral should be conducted.

From reading his Find a Grave memorial, I learned that Capt. Emerson was close friends with Confederate Brigadier General William Lewis Cabell and his daughter, Mrs. Katie Cabell Currie Muse. She was not only president of the Dallas chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy but was an avid listener to Capt. Emerson’s wishes for his monument and funeral plans.

After he died on October 21, 1900, she did what she could to carry out those wishes. In his will, Emerson left $5,000 for Katie to use for his monument, which was unveiled a year after his death. Sharing the plot with Emerson are 36 other former Confederates whose graves all face south, marked by two rows of identical white stones.

At the base of Capt. Emerson’s monument are the words “Here Lies One That Was True To The Teachings Of The Old South”.

Garlington Monument

Located close to Capt. Emerson’s monument is the large monument to Moses D. Garlington and his wife, Annie Moore Garlington. I could find very little information about it. It’s my guess that it was made after Annie’s death but I’m not sure. I did not take a very good photo of it and the construction going on in the background didn’t help.

Moses Garlington came from humble means but managed to amass a fortune after coming to Dallas in 1872.

Born in Mississippi in 1835, Moses Garlington became a clerk/book-keeper in Trenton, La., where he spent 18 years. He entered the Confederate Army as second lieutenant of Company A of the 17th Louisiana Infantry, and came out as a regimental quartermaster. In 1868, he married Arkansas native Annie Moore. Over the years, they would have five children together that lived to adulthood, one having died in infancy.

The Garlingtons moved to Dallas around 1872 and Moses got involved in a business partnership with the Central Railroad. His fortunes prospered over the years through his wholesale produce business and he amassed quite a fortune, known for dealing in cash and eschewing credit of any kind. He died of malarial fever on Sept. 22, 1894.

My husband managed to get a good photo of the top of the Garlington monument. I’m not entirely sure whom these figures are meant to represent.

Eldest son William took over the business for his father. Annie would have a home with his family for the rest of her life. She died at the age of 70 of apoplexy and heart disease on April 20, 1918. I am not certain what the three figures at the top of the monument are meant to represent. Perhaps someone reading this will know.

This is just the tip of the iceberg so join me next time for more stories from Dallas’ Greenwood Cemetery.



Yellowstone National Park Adventures: Visiting Wyoming’s Fort Yellowstone Cemetery, Part II

Last week, I introduced you to Fort Yellowstone Cemetery, located in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wy. within Yellowstone National Park. I focused mainly on the children’s graves I found. Today, we’re going to look into the lives (and deaths) of some of the adults buried there.

In many cases, as with the children, there isn’t much known about some of the people buried at this cemetery. That’s definitely the case for Nellie Auditto, if that is indeed her true last name.

Who was Nellie Auditto?

There’s a simple white government-issued grave marker for Nellie. We know from cemetery records that Nellie died on Aug. 11, 1905 from diphtheria at the Norris Hotel. There’s no mention for her age. But records do list her as working for the Yellowstone Park Association (YPA) at the time of her death.

Was Nellie’s name really Auditto?

The YPA was created in 1886 by the Northern Pacific Railroad to take over the properties and operation of the bankrupt Yellowstone Park Improvement Co. (YPIC). The YPA built and managed the various hotels in Yellowstone. Nellie died at “Norris Hotel”, which would have been at the Norris Geyser Basin about 20 miles south of Fort Yellowstone.

There were a number of hotels constructed at Norris over the late 1880s through to 1901, when the last one was built. It also had a lunch station to feed hungry travelers passing through. It’s my guess that Nellie worked at the hotel or lunch station. It closed in 1916 and was razed in 1928.

Nellie’s last name puzzled me. She was the only Auditto even recorded in Find a Grave’s records. On, I couldn’t find any Audittos either.

Nellie appears in U.S., Burial Registers, Military Posts and National Cemeteries, 1862-1960.

It was when I looked a bit harder on that it became clear to me that Nellie’s name had been misspelled on her marker. If you look at the cemetery record for her, her last name is “Arditto”. Not “Auditto”. There are several Ardittos that lived in California, even another Nellie Arditto (not the same one). Unfortunately, I still couldn’t track her with this correction. It’s possible that Nellie was a nickname.

Death of William Eaton

Civilian William Eaton is listed on the same page as Nellie. But his death was decidedly more violent. According to records, he died on May 30, 1904 when he was “killed by runaway team at Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park.” That’s all we know. His age is not listed.

We don’t know how old William was when he died but it was a violent end.

There’s also little known about William M. Johnson but he is the only African-American buried at Fort Yellowstone Cemetery that I’m aware of. He died on June 21, 1907 and was employed as a civilian to a Major Pitcher. He died of double “catarrh/pneumonia” at the post hospital. As with the others buried here, we don’t know William’s age.

William M. Johnson is the only person of color buried at Fort Yellowstone Cemetery.

The Army Surgeon’s Wife

The most ornate grave marker in the cemetery is for Margaret Caroline McRee Stevens. She was the wife of Army Surgeon Joel King Stevens. Her marker explains that her husband was served in the Mexican War of 1846 with the Fourth Louisiana Volunteers.

Margaret married Mississippi native Joel Stevens on Jan. 27, 1848 in Louisiana at the age of 24. They moved to Texas where they had three children. During the Civil War, Joel died on May 18, 1864 at the Battle of Yellow Bayou in Louisiana. He was serving as Captain in the 36th Regiment of the Texas Cavalry of the Confederate Army.

Margaret Stevens was likely living with her son and his wife when she passed away in 1895.

Capt. Stevens’ death left Margaret a widow at age 40, with her youngest child being only six years old. The family moved to Mississippi to live with her sister, Melissa McRee Jayne, who was married to banker Joseph Jayne.

It’s my guess that with the help of his uncle, Margaret’s son Robert Ratcliff Stevens (born in 1855) was able to follow in his father’s military footsteps. Robert graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1877. He then served at several posts in the western U.S. before being assigned to the Quartermaster Office at the Army and Navy General Hospital in Hot Springs, Ark. in 1889. After leaving Hot Springs, he was in charge of construction of Fort Logan H. Roots in North Little Rock.

Margaret’s son Col. Robert Ratcliff Stevens followed in his father’s military footsteps and had a distinguished career. (Photo Source: National Park Service)

It was in the 1890s that Robert was tasked with overseeing improvements at Yellowstone and Yosemite National Park, as well as the expansion of Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. I can’t prove it, but by this time Margaret was likely living with her son and his new wife, Katie, whom Robert had just married the year before. Margaret died on Nov. 17, 1895 at the age of 71.

Sadly, Katie Stevens died just four years later Jan. 12, 1899 at the age of 29. She is buried in Oakland and Fraternal Historic Cemetery Park in Little Rock, Ark. Robert served as Quartermaster at the Presidio in San Francisco, Calif. and fought in the Philippine-American War, advancing to the rank of colonel. He died on Jan. 28, 1931 and is buried at San Francisco National Cemetery.

Killed by “Old Two Toes”

The last marker I’m going to share with you is actually new. It replaced the original wooden one that was deteriorating rapidly. You can see a photo of that marker on Find a Grave here. I’m glad to see it was replaced by something more permanent.

Frank Welch has the distinction of being Yellowstone National Park’s first documented human fatality from a bear attack. I don’t know how old Frank was, but he did own a ranch, was married and was old enough to have a daughter who was married.

Frank worked as a teamster in Yellowstone National Park. The attack took place near Ten Mile Spring at Turbid Lake while he was hauling a load of hay and oats to a camp near Sylvan Pass. Welch and two co-workers were camping, one of the men sleeping in the wagon while Welch and another slept under it. As they slept, a bear approached their camp.

Frank Welch died a terrible death on September 11, 1916.

The bear in question, nicknamed “Old Two Toes”, had already injured others in the park. It got the moniker in 1912 after losing some toes when the man he attacked fought back. The bear entered Welch’s camp around 1 a.m. and attacked him. The other two men tried to divert the bear with no success. After the bear left, the two men flagged down a car and took Welch to Fort Yellowstone’s hospital in Mammoth Hot Springs where he died on Sept. 11, 1916.

Article about Frank Welch’s death as it appeared in the Sept. 12, 1916 edition of the Great Falls Tribune, Great Falls, Mont.

“Death In Yellowstone” notes that the possible cause for the attack may have been because Welch slept with his bacon under his pillow, which certainly would have enticed a hungry bear. After Welch’s death, the bear was was killed. You can read the account of it in the above newspaper article but I’m not entirely sure all its details are true, having read some varying stories.


I left Fort Yellowstone Cemetery with a sense of accomplishment that I’d found this  elusive burial site. But even two years later, I feel there’s so much more to the people buried there that I will never know. For different reasons, they were working or even just passing through this untamed part of the country few had ever seen. And it was where they died.

It’s also where their remains rest, buried at this peaceful hidden burial ground where few feet ever tread.

I’m the purple figure following my son down the trail to Fort Yellowstone Cemetery.





Yellowstone National Park Adventures: Visiting Wyoming’s Fort Yellowstone Cemetery, Part I

It’s rare that I have a difficult time locating a cemetery but sometimes it happens.

Before I get into that, I’d like to share a little bit about the history of Yellowstone National Park. It’s the first U.S. National Park, established in 1872 and covers parts of three states (Wyoming, Montana and Idaho). It’s vast, covering 2,219,791 acres. But it did not start out as the family-friendly tourist destination it is today.

First U.S. National Park

While Yellowstone was a haven of unspoiled wilderness that attracted adventure seekers, it also beckoned to those who weren’t above breaking the law. Ongoing poaching and destruction of natural resources within the park went on unstopped until the U.S. Army arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs in 1886 and built Camp Sheridan. It was located near the northeast border of the park, close to the Wyoming/Montana border.

View of Mammoth Hot Springs from the Lower Terraces in 2018.

Over the next 22 years, as the Army built permanent structures, Camp Sheridan was renamed Fort Yellowstone. Soldiers were needed to maintain law and order in this newly developing part of the country.

When the National Park Service (NPS) was created in 1916, many of the management principles developed by the Army were adopted by the new agency. The Army turned control over to the NPS on October 31, 1918.

Aldridge Visitor Center, part of the Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District and Fort Yellowstone Historic Landmark District, first served as the bachelor officers’ quarters. (Photo Source: National Park Service.)

Many of the old buildings (35 to be exact) from those Army days still exist in Mammoth Hot Springs and it was fun to walk around them. The Aldridge Visitor Center is a historic structure originally built by the Army in 1909 as bachelor officers’ quarters for the cavalry troops who protected the park before the creation of the NPS.

The Aldridge Visitor Center as it looks today.

Before we arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs (which was no easy undertaking due to extensive road construction), I knew that Fort Yellowstone Cemetery was located somewhere in the area. I just wasn’t sure exactly where because there’s little information online about where it is. Looking on Google Maps now, I am thankful someone has since added it.

An elk grazes at Mammoth Hot Springs. (Photo Source: Chris Rylands)

History of Fort Yellowstone Cemetery

Fortunately, the book “Death in Yellowstone” does provide some history about the cemetery. The original 58 interments took place between 1888 and 1957. U.S. Army soldiers, members of their families, and civilian employees of the Army along with members of their families were buried there. However, 20 of the graves were moved to the Little Bighorn Battlefield near Crow Agency, Mont. in 1917.

In 1947, historian Aubrey L. Haines surveyed the cemetery and produced a list of the 37 graves that remain present today. Of those, 16 appear to be for children.

Our first attempt to find the Fort Yellowstone Cemetery did not go well. Someone had created a page for it on Find a Grave that included GPS coordinates that were incorrect. We ended up at the entrance of a campground outside of Mammoth Hot Springs and they had no idea what we were talking about.

Searching for a Cemetery

Unwilling to be deterred, we returned a few days later and this time I went to the Aldridge Visitor Center to ask a park ranger. The first person I asked, a young employee, had never heard about it.

Fortunately, a ranger who had been there some years overheard my inquiry and knew exactly where it was. He gave us directions to where the old horse stables were located. It’s where a park concessionaire used to provide horses for tourists to ride on the trails. Fort Yellowstone Cemetery is in the woods right next to it, hidden from sight.

My husband and son are usually up for an adventure so they led the way as we hunted for the cemetery.

Frankly, I still wasn’t sure we’d find it. The skies were overcast and it was spitting rain. But there was no way I was giving up. We parked where the ranger told us and began walking down a rough trail going toward some trees. When I spotted the green fence, I knew we’d found it.

Small But Powerful

The first thing I noticed was the stillness of the place. The grass was a bit high in places but navigating the cemetery wasn’t hard. The grave markers were scattered about. Some were the white government issued ones, others grander. You can tell few tourists ever set foot in this place, much less actual park employees.

Fort Yellowstone Cemetery doesn’t get much attention from the outside world.

But as I walked around, I began to feel as if I’d stepped back in time about a hundred years. When Fort Yellowstone was home to soldiers and the people who did the hard work of keeping the place running, civilians and families attached to the buzz of activity. Some were older, but quite a few were young. Of the 37 graves there, 16 appear to be for children. Some of their stories are unknown but one sadly is written about in detail.

Murder in Yellowstone

The story of the murder of five-year-old Joseph Trieschman jolted me as few others have. I knew nothing about it when I photographed his grave, which is surrounded by a metal fence. I had no idea what horror had happened to this precious boy.

German immigrant George Treischman arrived in America at age 19 in 1866 and enlisted in the U.S. Army a few months later. He served three years, working as a wheelwright while stationed in Montana. After being discharged, he continued living in the West. George was married to Margaret “Margie” Gleason on an unknown date and they were at Fort Custer, Montana, (built in 1877) by 1886.

George and Margie had five children. Daughter Anna, was born in 1885 and Elizabeth in 1886, with son Harry born not long after. Another son, Arthur, died in infancy in 1892 and is buried at Fort Custer. Son Joseph was born in 1893. By then, George was a wheelwright at Fort Yellowstone.

Little Joseph Trieschman was only five when his mother killed him with a knife in 1899.

I don’t know what was taking place in the mind of Margie Treishman but there were signs she was becoming unstable. On March 21, 1899, an item in the Billings Gazette reported she attempted to kill herself with a butcher knife. But 11-year-old Harry had found her in time and she survived. Another newspaper item reported on April 15, 1899 that she was “adjudged insane” and committed to the insane asylum in Warm Springs.

Her stay at Warm Springs was obviously brief and in June, Margie was back with her family. At least that’s what I can tell from newspaper accounts. On June 3, 1899, Margie grabbed little Joseph and cut his throat, killing him almost instantly. She attempted to do the same to Anna, Elizabeth, and Harry but they managed to escape.

A Fatal Leap

Over the next days, plans were made to take Margie to a facility in Washington to treat her mental illness and she was kept in the guard house at Fort Yellowstone. But the troubled mother had other plans. While in the custody of her husband and a Deputy U.S. Marshall, she slipped away and jumped off the train that was taking her to Washington. Her body was never found.

A pair of little shoes and socks are atop the grave of Joseph Trieschman.

Joseph’s stone is styled in a way I have seen before, little shoes and socks on top. The motif always hurts my heart. The inscription on the bottom of Joseph’s stone reads:

Tis’ a little grace, but Oh Take care
For the hopes are buried there.

George Trieschman tried to pick up the pieces of his life after the tragedy, raising his children as best he could. He never remarried. He continued to live at Yellowstone until May 1928 when he was admitted to the U.S. National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers at Sawtelle, Calif. where he died on May 12, 1929. He is buried at Los Angeles National Cemetery.

Anna married and had children but Elizabeth remained single her entire life. Both lived to ripe old age. Harry became a Yellowstone park ranger, where Trieschman’s Knob was named after him. He died in 1950, all of his pallbearers fellow park rangers. He is buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Livingston, Mont.

Causes of Death Unknown

I know far less about other children’s graves I photographed that day. Harry Wilson was the son of Henry and Lizzie Wilson. I only know that Henry served as a commissary sergeant at Fort Yellowstone.

Harry Wilson’s iron fencing looks just like the one for Myrtie Scott at Gardiner Cemetery.

One reason Harry’s plot caught my eyes was because I noticed it was exactly like the one for Myrtie Scott at Gardiner Cemetery.

For reasons unknow, Harry died at the age of 14 months on May 3, 1893. That was only three years after Myrtie died. I suspect the same person supplied the fence.

Humble White Stones

Standing by itself was the simple white government issued gravestone for Baby Elliott. No first name, no dates. But according to “Death in Yellowstone”, the infant was the son of William J. Elliott, electrical engineer. The child died on Sept. 29, 1912.

Baby Elliott did not have a first name.

What I did not known that in another part of the cemetery, Chris had photographed the grave of another Elliott child. This one was for Katherine Elliott, who died on Oct. 4, 1909. Again, we don’t known how old she was or how she died.

It is unknown how old Katherine Elliott was when she died. (Photo Source: Chris Rylands)

Located by Joseph Trieschman’s plot is the gravestone of little Emily Sievert. She died just short of her second birthday on Aug. 13, 1903. She was the daughter of Capt. Herman Sievert, who was an officer of Company F of the Ninth U.S. Cavalry Regiment.

Emily Sievert was just short of her second birthday when she died in 1903.

From what I can piece together, Capt. Sievert was on leave while visiting Fort Yellowstone with his wife and Emily when the child died. He was stationed at Fort Walla Walla in Washington with the Ninth Calvary at the time.

So many little lives, ended far too soon.

Next week, I’ll be focusing more on the adults buried at Fort Yellowstone Cemetery.  I hope you join me.

Yellowstone National Park Adventures: Exploring Montana’s Gardiner Cemetery, Part II

I’m still at Gardiner Cemetery, after a two-week break. As I said, it’s a smallish cemetery but still has plenty of stories to offer. I was saddened to learn that just this week, a fire that began in a business on Main Street in Gardiner swept through a number of stores. Fortunately, nobody was injured but it will take time for those businesses to recover.

The mountains are a beautiful backdrop behind Gardiner Cemetery.

Montana was definitely the wild frontier for many years, even up through the early 1900s. Unfamiliar landscapes and drastic weather changes could catch many unawares, leading to an untimely demise.

Death of “Mormon” Brown

Alexander “Mormon” Brown probably got his nickname from having lived in Ogden, Utah much of his life. But by 1886, the 35-year-old was living in the Gardiner area. According to Lee Whittlesey’s book, Death in Yellowstone, the winter of 1886-1887 was brutally cold. Brown left Gardiner with a friend, Thomas Garfield, to stay in Thomas’ cabin some five miles away for a few days.

An article in the Billings Gazette (Wyo.) describes Brown’s last days.

Unfortunately, because Brown struggled with alcoholism, he suffered from DTs (delirium tremors) while at the cabin. While Thomas slept, Brown left the cabin on the night of January 4, 1887 and disappeared. Brown was found the next day by a search party, his body nearly frozen halfway in the water of the Yellowstone River.

Alexander “Mormon” Brown froze to death in January 1887, one of the coldest winters on record.

You can barely make out Brown’s name and dates on what looks to me to be a wooden marker. I suppose it could be petrified rock. Regardless, it’s rather amazing that it still exists at all.

Struck by Lighting

Mormon Brown’s demise was certainly an agonizing death but in the case of Robert Wright, he had no warning whatsoever of what was coming.

Although a native of Montana, Robert S. Wright was the son of Scottish immigrants. His father, Edward, arrived in America around 1895 and married Sibel Somerville around 1897. Robert was born in 1908.

According to Whittlesey, Robert was working for the Yellowstone Park Transportation Company. On July 18, 1929, he was driving a company truck on the Mammoth-Tower Road. The truck broke down near Oxbow Creek. It began to rain, so he sat down under a large tree. Lighting struck the tree, killing him instantly. According to a newspaper report, his body was found leaning against the split tree. He was only 21.

Robert S. Wright is buried with his parents and an uncle in the Wright plot at Gardiner Cemetery. His marker is the one directly behind the gate.

Another article I read said that Robert’s funeral reunited the extended Wright family for the first time since they had left Scotland, a group of about 35 of them attending. Robert is buried between his parents in the Wright family plot. Sibel died in 1937 and Edward died in 1938.

Two Markers, Two Cemeteries?

There’s a marker that looks fairly new for a child named Marie L. Douglass. It states that she was traveling with her parents, Nebraskans Volney and Florence Douglass, through Yellowstone Park in a covered wagon (along with grandparents and a sister named Ruth) when she died of a sudden illness on Aug. 13, 1906.

Why does Marie Douglass have two different markers in two different cemeteries?

From what I could discover, the Douglass family lived in Bloomington, Neb. most of their lives. Volney was a native of New York but had lived in Nebraska from the time he was a boy. Sadly, Florence Douglass died the following year in 1907. Volney remarried and died in Bloomington in 1946.

The puzzling thing about all this is that there is also a marker for Marie in Maple Grove Cemetery in Bloomington, Neb. beside those of her parents. Is Marie buried in Gardiner Cemetery or in Maple Grove Cemetery? Which one is a cenotaph? I can understand why the family would choose to bury Marie in Montana while remembering her with a marker at home. But I still wonder exactly where Marie is buried.

“Little Gus” Smitzer and “Morphine Charley” Reeb

I photographed one grave marker for its unusual name than the look of it, since it appeared to be fairly new. “Little Gus” Smitzer, as it turns out, had a colorful past his stone did not hint at in any way.

Born in 1849, “Little Gus” Smitzer got his nickname for his short stature. I don’t know what his family background was but he was born in New York. By the 1890s, he was living in the Yellowstone area and had become friends with German immigrant George “Charley” Reeb. Like Gus, Charley was a bit of a drifter. Charley, who had an addiction to drugs, went by the moniker “Morphine Charley”. Together, the pair hatched a plan to rob a stagecoach to finance their itinerant lifestyle.

Lying in Wait

On August 14, 1897, Gus and Charley stationed themselves on Solfatara Plateau about four miles from the Canyon Hotel in Yellowstone Park. Each had a pistol and rifle, and wore a mask. They awaited the line of stagecoaches traveling from the Canyon Hotel to Norris Geyser Basin. Six stages filled with tourists and an army ambulance carrying two officers, their wives, and a doctor, rounded a bend to face the two armed bandits.

One by one, the robbers halted the coaches at gunpoint and relieved the passengers of their cash and coin. Nobody was injured and when it was all said and done, Gus and Charley netted about $650. But they were careless and left evidence of their misdeed on the trail of their escape, so arrests soon followed.

Charley and Gus were later sent to Cheyenne, Wy., where in May 1898 they were tried in U.S. Federal court, convicted of highway robbery, and sentenced to 2.5 years in the federal penitentiary by Judge Riner.

“Little Gus” Smitzer and “Morphine Charley” Reeb’s career as stagecoach robbers was brief.

A Fresh Start

When the ex-thieves emerged from their incarceration, both were determined to stick to the straight and narrow. Charley was actually released four months early on good behavior. Upon his return home, Reeb personally stopped at Fort Yellowstone to thank Judge Meldrum for helping him to break his morphine habit. He went on to marry (and divorce) twice, fathering several children. But he never broke the law again.

Judge Meldrum assisted Gus as well, helping the former drifter get hired on at the buffalo ranch in Lamar Valley as an irrigation worker. Gus proved to be a good employee for a number of years. He died in 1931 at the age of 81.

The Short Life of a Young Wife

The last story I’m going to share is that of a young wife who died at the age of 19. She is alone in her plot but it is surrounded by a handsome wrought-iron fence that still retains decorative chains on each side. I find it somewhat amazing that they are still there.

Myrtie Johnson Scott was a bride only a short time before her death in 1893.

Myrtle “Myrtie” Johnson was born on March 10, 1873 in Enterprise, Mo. to Noah Johnson (a Canadian) and Catherine Bechtel Johnson. She was one of several Johnson children who moved with her parents to North Dakota in her childhood.

On Nov. 17, 1890, at the age of 17, Myrtie married F.M. Scott in Pembina, N.D., just a few miles from the Canadian border. Her new husband was 33. I don’t know if they had any children. Myrtie Scott died on Feb. 27, 1893 for reasons unknown. It may have been childbirth or diphtheria or typhoid.

I could not definitively trace F.M. Scott after Myrtie’s death but there was a Frank Scott living in Gardiner in 1900 who was married in 1895 and had two young children. That may have been him.

I like to think that F.M. must have loved his young wife a great deal by providing such a pretty fence and marker for her. A single finger points to Heaven where surely she must now reside after her brief life.

A single finger points up into the gray, threatening clouds on the marker for Myrtie Scott.

Next time, I’ll be within the borders of Yellowstone National Park as I share stories from Fort Yellowstone Army Cemetery.


Yellowstone National Park Adventures: Exploring Montana’s Gardiner Cemetery, Part I

About 10 days after returning to Atlanta from my Iowa/South Dakota 2018 adventure, I got on a plane with my family to Jackson Hole, Wy. for a much-awaited vacation to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Tetons National Park.

We only visited two cemeteries for a number of reasons. In fact, we didn’t stop at any cemeteries in Grand Tetons. I couldn’t find one that was close to our route. Yellowstone does have a few cemeteries. One of them, Kite Hill Cemetery, involves a hike and only has one marker so we skipped it. We did visit Fort Yellowstone Cemetery in Mammoth Hot Springs, but I’ll get to that one in a few weeks.

The other cemetery we visited was Gardiner Cemetery in Gardiner, Montana, which is just outside the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Truth be told, the food (in my opinion) offered in the Xanterra-operated facilities inside the park leaves a lot to be desired. So we ate a number of meals in the town of Gardiner. The cemetery is very close to “downtown” so it was an easy trip to make. The day we stopped at the cemetery was drizzly and overcast, as the pictures show.

One great resource I had for research is “Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park” by Lee H. Whittlesey. With a title like that, I was easily persuaded to purchase it.

The Roosevelt Arch is located at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The cornerstone was laid by President Theodore Roosevelt on April 24, 1903 and covered a time capsule.

Gateway to Yellowstone National Park

Before we exited Yellowstone at the North Entrance, we stopped to take photos of the towering Roosevelt Arch. It has a connection with Gardiner Cemetery that I’ll get to later.

The idea of the arch is attributed to Hiram Chittenden, who thought the area around Gardiner was not sufficiently grand. Before 1903, trains brought visitors to Cinnabar, Mt. Cinnabar was a few miles northwest of Gardiner and travelers would transfer to horse-drawn coaches to enter the park. In 1903, the railroad finally came to Gardiner. With development of the Gardiner train station, the arch was proposed as part of the station ensemble.

Construction of the arch started on February 19, 1903, and was completed on August 15, 1903, at a cost of around $10,000. President Roosevelt was visiting Yellowstone during construction and was asked to place the cornerstone for the arch, which then took his name. The cornerstone laid on April 24, 1903 covered a time capsule that contains a Bible, a picture of Roosevelt, local newspapers, and other items. Several thousand people came to Gardiner for the event.

Chris pulled into a parking lot by Gardiner High School’s scoreboard so I could snap a picture of this grazing elk.

Soon after we passed through the arch and into Gardiner, we were not greeted by people but by elk lounging around Gardiner High School’s track. I later learned that the school is located on the former grounds of the Northern Pacific Railway Gardiner train station. The contrast between the school and the wildlife made me wonder how peacefully the two manage to coexist.

Gardiner High School’s mascot is a bear. I wonder what this elk thinks about that.

Getting to the cemetery wasn’t difficult. At first, it looked like the gates were locked but the chain was only secured with a wire you could unwind.

Death of a Tinker

Not much is known about how Gardiner Cemetery began but it’s also known as Tinker’s Hill Cemetery. That’s probably because the first “official” burial there is thought to be of a 60-year-old tinsmith (also called a “tinker”) named John Hartz.

While on a horse that reared up on its hind legs, Hartz tried to keep from being crushed beneath the animal. In the process, Hartz hit his head on a rock and died without regaining consciousness. This took place on Oct. 3, 1886. I didn’t see a marker for Hartz at the cemetery and there’s no photo of one on Find a Grave.

Gardiner Cemetery is also known as Tinker’s Hill Cemetery.

According to Whittlesey, at the time of the cemetery’s establishment, it was outside of park boundaries. Today, it is privately owned by the Eagles’ Club of Gardiner, which recently disbanded. Its representatives are working to get Yellowstone National Park to accept the cemetery. I don’t know if they’ve been successful, but it looked to be in good shape when we were there.

Whittlesey goes on to point out that almost all of the 1880s and many 1890s graves are now unmarked because the stones have long ago fallen from years of neglect. There are at least 50, maybe 77, unmarked graves, he says. Find a Grave lists about 200 memorials for Gardiner Cemetery.

This is the Fitzgerald family plot at Gardiner Cemetery.

The earliest marked graves at Gardiner Cemetery belong to Fannie Fitzgerald and her baby, who both died in 1888. I didn’t know that they were the earliest marked graves when I photographed them that day.

Before I talk about Fannie, let me back up a little. Selleck Fitzgerald, Fannie’s father-in-law, was a native Iowan who married Mary Ann Brown in 1863 in Wyoming. After living in several Western states, the couple settled in Montana in 1873. Henry was one of their eight children, born in 1866.

Death Following Childbirth

Henry married Fannie Roche on Sept. 30, 1885 in Gallatin, Mt. A son, Roy, was born the next year. Another son, David, was born on July 5, 1888. Sadly, Fannie died of what was then called “puerperal fever”, a common bacterial infection following childbirth often caused by poor hygiene during delivery. It was a common cause of death for new mothers.

Fannie Fitzgerald died six days after giving birth to her second child, David.

Little David died 15 days later on July 26, 1888. He is buried near Fannie.

David Gardiner only lived 21 days.

Henry remarried in 1897 to Estella Alderton. Oddly enough, Roy is not listed as living with them on the 1900 Census. I could not find Henry in the 1910 Census but he is listed as living in Stillwater County, Mt. in the 1920 Census. He is listed there as a widow. Roy’s name does appear in Henry’s obituary after he died in 1932. He is buried in Nye Cemetery in Nye, Mt. I don’t know where Estella is buried.

Tragedy in the Fitzgerald family was not limited to Henry. His older brother Ambrose’s wife, Laura, knew her fair share. Ambrose was born in 1864 and in 1891, he married Wisconsin native Laura Hansen. On March 19, 1893, son Willie was born. Hazel was born on March 29, 1895. For reasons his obituary does not note, Ambrose died six months after Hazel’s birth on June 9, 1895. He was only 30.

Henry Fitzgerald’s older brother, Ambrose, died at the age of 30. His marker is on the left of the gate beside his children.

Laura remained in Gardiner with Willie and Hazel, possibly supported by her in-laws and husband’s siblings. By the time of the 1900 Census, she was managing a hotel in Gardiner. But her grief was not over. Willie died on February 21, 1900 at the age of six from spinal meningitis, according to a local newspaper.

Willie and his sister, Hazel, died eight years apart. Willie has a separate marker of his own to the right and behind the one he shares with Hazel.

“These Little Flowers of Love”

For reasons I could not uncover, Hazel died at the age of 13 on Jan. 9, 1908. The 1910 Census lists Fannie as living in Bozeman, Mt., working as a servant. She died at the age of 53 on April 21, 1912. I don’t now if she was still living in Montana but she is buried in Newport Lutheran Church Cemetery in Wisconsin, and shares a marker with her brother, John.

As it turns out, Henry and Ambrose’s father, Selleck, outlived his two wives and three of his children. He died in Fishtail, Mt. on March 22, 1932 at the age of 92. His first wife, Mary, died in 1906 and is buried beside him at Gardiner Cemetery. His second wife, Emily, died in 1920 and is buried at South Street Cemetery in Portsmouth, N.H.

Pioneer “Uncle” John Yancey

Whittlesey’s book mentions a Montana pioneer named “Uncle” John Yancey that’s buried at Gardiner Cemetery so I looked through my photos. Sure enough, I had photographed his grave. It’s Yancey who has the Roosevelt Arch connection.

Born in 1826, John Yancey was a Kentucky native. In the 1870s, shortly after the creation of Yellowstone National Park, he turned up as a prospector in the area of the Crevice Creek gold strike on the northern boundary of the park. With the money he made, he established a way station on the Gardiner to Cooke City road inside the park in 1882. Someone who met Yancey during a visit in 1896 described him as a “goat-bearded, shrewd-eyed, lank, Uncle Sam type.”

Undated portrait of “Uncle” John Yancey, a colorful character who ran the Pleasant Valley Hotel for many years.

In April 1884, the Department of the Interior granted Yancey a 10-acre lease in nearby Pleasant Valley to establish a hotel. Soon thereafter, Yancey constructed a five-room hotel he named Yancey’s Pleasant Valley Hotel. While the housekeeping left something to be desired, the hotel was a success and many travelers stayed there.

“Uncle” John Yancey died soon after he attended the April 1903 dedication of the Roosevelt Arch.

Yancey was 77 when he traveled to Gardiner to witness the dedication of the Roosevelt Arch by President Theodore Roosevelt on April 24, 1903. Yancey not only witnessed the dedication, he apparently met President Roosevelt that day. Unfortunately, Yancey caught a cold soon after and died in Gardiner of pneumonia on May 7, 1903.

While Gardiner Cemetery is small, there are many more stories to share from this picturesque burial ground. I’ll have more in Part II.


Iowa/South Dakota Cemetery Hopping: Finishing Up at Voss-Mohr Cemetery in…Nebraska?

My Iowa/South Dakota 2018 cemetery adventure actually ended in Nebraska! That doesn’t tie up my “Iowa/South Dakota” trip in a tidy package but it was a part of my visit so it doesn’t feel right to leave it out.

Two Cemeteries Merge

Voss-Mohr Cemetery is located in southwest Omaha in the suburb of Millard, not far from where Christi lives. I learned that it began as two family cemeteries. The Vosses buried their loved ones in the northwest corner of their farm and the Mohrs buried their family members in the northeast corner of their farm. The burial grounds adjoined to form the basis of the Voss-Mohr Cemetery. The area was known as Chalco at the time.

At some point, graves from the Stender family’s cemetery were moved to Voss-Mohr but nobody is sure when. Today, Voss-Mohr is a private cemetery managed by the Voss-Mohr Cemetery Association and burials are still taking place today. Additional room is available for future burials. Well maintained, it is located on busy Harrison Street and easy to access.

So why stop at Voss-Mohr? We were actually driving by it when I saw this large monument from the road. It was a great excuse to pull over and take a look.

Who was Ferdinand Petersen and why did he do to merit such a large monument?

It’s not often you see a statue on top of a monument in the U.S. of a man in a German military uniform. So I was immediately curious to figure out how Ferdinand Petersen merited such a grand monument.

Born on May 4, 1828, Ferdinand Petersen was from the Schleswig-Holstein region of Germany. It’s located in the far northern part of the country bordering Denmark. That would be a key factor in his future.

Ferdinand Petersen served in the First Schleswig War from 1848 to 1850.

According to his monument, Ferdinand fought in the German Wars of 1848, 1849, and 1850. From what I could find out, the First Schelswig War or Three Years’ War was the first round of military conflict in southern Denmark and northern Germany rooted in the Schleswig-Holstein Question. It involved the issue of who should control the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein.

It’s a safe bet that it was a desire to leave the strife of war behind him that caused Ferdinand to emigrate to America around 1850. How he ended up in Nebraska Territory is uncertain but around 1858, he married Elizabeth “Bettie” Fuellner. They only had one child, Lizzie, around 1864.

Lizzie married Adolph Voss at the age of 32 in 1897. Adolph had also emigrated from the Holstein region with his family around 1876 as a boy. That explains how the Petersens came to be buried in Voss-Mohr Cemetery. The 1900 U.S. Census shows Ferdinand and Bettie living with their daughter and son-in-law on their farm.

The inscription on Ferdinand Petersen’s “Vater” marker is in German.

Ferdinand died on March 17, 1903 at the age of 74. Fortunately, someone posted an article from the Papillion Times that described the monument and how it came to be at Voss-Mohr Cemetery.

“An Honest Soldier”

Last week at the cemetery a mile and a half south of Millard was erected one of the finest monuments in the state to the memory of Ferdinand Peterson, who was one of the oldest residents of Sarpy County. The monument was finished and erected by Hodges & Baldwin of Fremont at the cost of $500. It is of the best dark barre granite, with a granite statue of a soldier standing at parade rest, with a uniform like they wore in the German War of 1848, 1849, and 1950 of which Mr. Petersen was an honest soldier. The monument stands 15 feet high and made two train car loads from Fremont to Millard. The bottom base weights over eight tons and took ten horses to haul it from the station to the cemetery.

The inscription on Ferdinand’s marker is in German but someone on Find a Grave had a translation:

As the World’s Master sent me to the last Peace, then you all rest good night. Thy work is complete, now have a blessed sleep in Peace.

I’m intrigued by the effort and expense that went into providing this fine monument for a farmer. He must have been much loved by his family and community. I wish I knew more about what role he played in the community but was unable to do so.

Bettie Petersen died in 1912, nine years after her husband.

Bettie continued living with Lizzie, Adolph, and her grandchildren until her death in 1912. She is buried beside Ferdinand.

Lizzie and Adolph had one son, Ferdinand, in 1902. They moved to Long Beach, Calif. around 1915. Lizzie died in 1919 and her body was sent home for burial at Voss-Mohr Cemetery. Adolph remarried in 1924 to twice widowed Nebraskan Mary Jensen Reeh, who had four children of her own. Adolph died in 1947 in California but he, too, was sent back to Nebraska for burial beside first wife, Lizzie. Son Ferdinand died in 1963 and is buried in California.

Hodges & Baldwin Fremont Marble and Granite Works (1894) were a mainstay in Nebraska for 50 years. (Photo Source:

It’s not often you get the luck of knowing who actually provided a monument. As the article points out, Ferdinand’s monument came from the Hodges & Baldwin Marble and Fremont Granite Works. Fremont is located about 30 miles northwest of Voss-Mohr Cemetery.

G.H. Hodges and L.W. Baldwin operated a prosperous monument works in Fremont, Neb. until 1936.

The History of Hodges & Baldwin

George Henry “G.H.” Hodges came to Fremont around 1881 and worked as a stonecutter. At some point, he and L.W. Baldwin forged a partnership, opening their own monument works in Fremont. Over the years, they grew and expanded their operations, always operating a store in Fremont where customers could view samples of the stone available and designs.

The business had its fair share of ups and downs. A lawsuit that resulted after the accidental death of a worker went all the way to the Supreme Court. One article I found reported the theft of a horse from the monument works’ barn. But for the most part, Hodges & Baldwin prospered.

Hodges & Baldwin stayed in business until both men retired around 1936. G.H. died in 1940 at the age of 76. He and his first wife, Lura, share a beautiful monument.

A native of Wisconsin born in 1859, Lewis William “L.W.” Baldwin came to Nebraska in 1877 in a covered wagon. He was working as a traveling salesman for the same employer as G.H. when they met. L.W. died of a stroke in 1944 at the age of 85.

Both G.H. Hodges and L.W. Baldwin are buried at Fremont’s Ridge Cemetery.

Julius Schroeder began farming in Nebraska but gave it up in 1875 due to poor health.

Millard Pioneer

The tree-shaped monument for Julius Schroeder and his wife, Wilhelmine, stands out. There’s also a bit of irony about it that I’ll share later. A native of Germany, Julius was born in 1836. He married Wilhelmine Millitz around 1857. They journeyed to America in 1868.

They landed in Louisiana, traveling through Texas to settle in Nebraska where Julius farmed until 1875 when his health declined. In 1880, Julius was operating a saloon in what was then known as McCardle, just north of the area that became Millard. Julius was part of the first board of trustees when Millard was incorporated in 1885.

Although Julius was still keeping the saloon, he also owned a 320-acre farm that prospered. He and Wilhelmine would have six children who lived to adulthood.

“Mutter” is German for the word “Mother”, which was appropriate for Wilhelmine Schroeder.

Wilhelmine died on Feb. 12, 1896 at the age of 59. Soon after, Julius died on April 17 of the same year. He, too, was 59.

Julius Schroeder’s “vater” marker is log-themed to fit with he and Wilhelmine’s tree monument.

Now here’s why I think the Schroeder’s tree monument is a bit ironic. In doing a search for Julius, I was only able to come up with this interesting item from the Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Neb.) on Aug. 28, 1896. In those days, newspapers thought nothing of publishing your financial worth and that included any insurance you might have had.

Julius Schroeder’s life insurance came from his affiliation with the Knights of Pythias fraternal organization.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that tree-shaped markers are very closely tied to Woodmen of the World, a fraternal organization based in Omaha. Many people have WOW tree-shaped markers, complete with a WOW seal. While Julius and Wilhelmine’s family chose a tree-shaped marker for their parents, it was likely paid for by insurance proceeds from the Knights of Pythias. Not Woodmen of the World.

Stender Cemetery Grave

The last marker I’m going to share probably came from the old Stender Cemetery. Margaretha “Mattie” Brock married fellow German immigrant John Stender on Dec. 28, 1873 in Sarpy County, Neb. She was 17 years old. Mattie gave birth to a son, Fred, on Dec. 15, 1875. She died at the age of 22 on March 18, 1878.

Mattie Stender was only 22 when she died.

Husband John would remarry to Sophia Lupteen not long after Mattie’s death. The couple had five children, four living well into adulthood. John died in 1902 and is also buried at Voss-Mohr. Sophia died in 1891 but if she is buried at Voss-Mohr, her grave is unmarked.

With all three of these markers, German was used for the inscriptions. Even the German “mutter” for mother and “vater” for father were not considered unusual at the time. This acceptance would change in the next decade when World War I approached and anti-German sentiment began to rise. Some immigrants would even change the spelling of their names entirely to downplay their German heritage.

Visiting Voss-Mohr was a pleasant way to end my Iowa/South Dakota adventure and it’s one I’ll remember fondly. Going cemetery “hopping” with my best friend is time I always treasure.



Iowa/South Dakota Cemetery Hopping: Discovering Iowa’s Le Mars Cemetery, Part IV

How can you tell if I truly fall in love with a cemetery? Big hint is I write a four-part series about it! That’s been the case with Le Mars Cemetery. With its bevy of white bronze markers, there’s been no shortage of examples about which to do a “show and tell”. Despite the fact there are more I could talk about, I’m ending this series today.

The first monument I’m going to share with you shows how one of these monuments enabled a family to share much of its history in one place, plate by plate. There are a total of 44 Beckers buried at Le Mars Cemetery. Five of them (Fred, 2 Katherinas, Jacob and Rosina) share one marker.

The Becker white bronze monument includes the names of five family members.

The Becker family story begins in 1829 in Switzerland with the birth of patriarch Fredoline “Fred” Becker. His emigration to America in 1849 interested me because unlike many Europeans, Fred made his arrival in New Orleans and not a Northeastern port like New York City or Boston. My own ancestor, John McCoy, took this same passage from Ireland in 1776.

Fred’s daughter, Celia, was married to photographer Robert Dabb. He owned the Le Mars studio where this photograph was taken. Both he and Celia are buried at Le Mars Cemetery. (Photo source: Find a Grave)

Fred married fellow Swiss immigrant Katharina Hefti in Galena, Ill., but I’ve seen two different years listed for that event. As their children were born, they moved from Illinois to Plymouth County, Iowa around 1867. I believe they had 10 children total but I’m not certain.

Grave foot marker for Rosina Hefti, who died in 1870.

The earliest date of death on the Becker marker is for a Rosina Hefti, who died at the age of 67 on May 16, 1870. Since Hefti was Katherina’s maiden name, it’s possible that it was her mother.

Rosina has a grave foot marker (an item we talked about last week) that would have cost around $4 at that time. She is also featured on a panel of the monument, which she shared with one of Katherina and Fred’s son’s Jacob.

Jacob Becker died at the age of 22 in 1885.

Jacob Becker was staying with his sister at the time of his death.

At the time of Jacob’s death on Oct. 28, 1885, he had been living with his married sister, Katherina. She married cigar store owner Nicholas Koerting in 1880 and the couple had two children. According to a newspaper article, Jacob died of malarial fever (sometimes called typhoid). This was common during the 1800s, especially during the Civil War era.

Katherina Becker Koerting died only weeks after her younger brother in 1885.

Jacob’s death ushered in a terrible time for the Becker family. His mother and married sister, Celia Becker Dabb, were also ill at the time. Sister Katherina, age 25, succumbed to malarial fever on Nov. 19, 1885. Just a few months later, Katherina Becker died of the same ailment on Feb. 6, 1886. She was only 55.

Katherina Becker died a few months after two of her children in 1886. She was only 55.

Fred remarried in 1889 to a German immigrant 30 years his junior, Kate Durst or Drest. They had two sons, William and George. By now, Fred has amassed quite a bit of property. The family moved to Leeds, a neighborhood of nearby Sioux City.

“Liked By Every Man, Woman and Child”

On August 17, 1909, Fred died at the age of 80. His life was eulogized in the local newspaper as a Le Mars pioneer. But his will resulted in a scandal that I’m sure Fred never imagined when he had it drawn up.

The rough appearance of Fred’s plate on the monument indicates it may have come near the closing of the Western White Bronze factory in Des Moines.

Born around 1853 or 1854, Rosina “Rose” Becker was the first child of Fred and Katherina Becker. She married Gabriel Freuler in 1873. Together, the couple had at least three children.

Sometime after 1900, Rose was admitted to what is now called the Cherokee Mental Health Institute. When it opened for patients on August 15, 1902, it was called the Cherokee Lunatic Asylum. Rose spent the rest of her life there, dying at the age of 91 in 1945. Her death certificate states she died of bronchial pneumonia due to a fracture in her neck and femur caused by a fall. It also explains that the reason Rose was there was due to “manic depression psychosis.”

Left Out of the Will

In November 1909, after Fred’s will had been read, the family learned that while Kate Becker and all the other children were left bequests, Rose had been left out. His second wife was named executrix. Thanks to Ancestry, I saw the will for myself. Why did Fred purposefully leave Rose out of his will? I honestly don’t know.

Fred Becker’s will left out his eldest daughter, Rose, who suffered from manic depression. (Photo source:

Rose’s husband Gabriel Freuler sued the estate (which supposedly amounted to anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000) because Rose was not included. Gabriel charged that Fred had been unduly influenced his son, Fred Jr., in shutting out his sister. The court sided with Fred’s estate and Gabriel received no money.

I traced Fred’s second wife, Kate, to the 1910 U.S. Census, living in Leeds with sons, William and George. She appears for the last time in the Iowa Census of 1915 as living in Sioux City. She would have been 54 at that time. I don’t know what happened to her after that.

The Fall of Ben Amos

This next story I’m going to share is a sad one and not typical of what I encountered in researching the folks buried at Le Mars Cemetery. Ben Amos came from a good family and showed promise in his early years. But in the end, his life took a tragic turn.

Born in 1856 in Jackson County, Iowa, Ben was the son of Franklin and Martha Amos. He spent his boyhood years in the eastern part of the state. Franklin served in the 31st Iowa Infantry and was severely injured at the Battle of Atlanta in 1864. The couple also had a daughter, Talitha.

Ben Amos shares a white bronze monument with his father, Franklin, who died in 1890 six years before he did.

At some point, the Amos family moved to Le Mars. Ben married a young woman from Illinois named Victoria Nold. I’ve seen two different years listed for the marriage. In 1885, they were living with Franklin and Martha. Ben worked in real estate and seemed to be doing well. Franklin died in 1890 at the age of 60.

This is not exactly the same monument as the Amos one, but the draping near the top and general shape are the same. (Photo source: Smithsonian Libraries)

But sometime during the 1890s, Ben’s love of drink slowly took over and destroyed his marriage. Victoria left, heading for Colorado. By 1896, Ben had moved into rented rooms and according to the local newspaper, was known as the town drunk. He died on Feb. 7, 1896 after several weeks of drinking. The final blow came when he overdosed from a supply of drugs provided to him by a local man named Bill Schields, also known as “Morphine Bill.”

Ben shares a white bronze monument with his father, who also has a white veteran’s marker. Note that the top features an urn with an eternal flame coming out of it.

Ben Amos died of a morphine overdose in 1896.

Victoria did not attend her estranged husband’s funeral but his mother and sister, now married, were present. Eventually, she remarried to a man named John Murphy in 1899 and began a new life in Montana.

Talitha Amos Miller, whose husband died from stomach cancer in 1910, died in 1912 from dropsy. Ben’s mother, Martha, had gone to live with Talitha and her family after Frank died in 1890. She died at the age of 89 in 1917, having lived her last years with her granddaughter in Minnesota.

One thing I noticed in the obituaries of both Talitha and Martha was the complete absence of Ben’s existence. In fact, Martha’s death notice specifically states that she had “but one child” and that was Talitha. It’s my guess that Ben’s death was considered so scandalous that his name was not to be mentioned ever again, which is incredibly tragic.

The Detloff Family Story

My last story is an example of how something that today would merely be an irritant could end one’s life. It also shares one family’s brief history that came full circle.

The Deltoff marker is topped by a draped urn.

Born in Germany in 1860, Frederick Detloff arrived in America with his parents, John and Dora, when he was a child. In 1881, he married fellow German immigrant Rosa Wilde. Their son Arthur Detloff was born and died on Nov. 9, 1882. Freddie Detloff was born on June 12, 1887 and died the next day. They also had two other sons, Ernest and John, who lived to adulthood.

Arthur and Freddie did not live long but they were surely missed by their parents.

Grave footer for Arthur and Freddie Detloff.

Frederick cut his hand one day, probably doing something quite simple while working on his farm. In a world where antibiotics did not yet exist, it proved fatal. Blood poisoning was the result and he died a few days later on Feb. 18, 1888. As was the rather unsettling custom of the time, his death notice included how much life insurance he had.

Fred Detloff’s obituary explains the sad story of his demise from a simple cut. (Photo source: Le Mars Semi-Weekly Sentinel)

Farmer Fred Detloff only lived to the age of 27.

Rosa was left a young widow at the age of 24 with two sons to raise. From what I can tell, they remained in Le Mars for some time. She remarried some 14 years later to David Cross, who was a widower who had lost his wife in 1897. After living in Rock Island, Ill. for a while, they moved to Yakima, Wash. where she died of leukemia in 1911 at the age of 47.

According to her obituary, David and her two sons traveled with her body back to Le Mars for her burial beside her first husband and infant sons. She had one sister still living in Le Mars. What began with the death of her first child in 1882 ended with her own in 1911. David, who died in 1930, is buried in Yakima, Wash.

I’ve truly enjoyed putting together these blog posts this month, reliving a visit that was truly a highlight of my “hopping” career. Le Mars Cemetery remains only about 35 percent photographed on Find a Grave. It’s a goal of mine to go back and perhaps complete photographing it some day. It’s certainly a place I’ll never forget.

Iowa/South Dakota Cemetery Hopping: Discovering Iowa’s Le Mars Cemetery, Part III

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:

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.












Iowa/South Dakota Cemetery Hopping: Discovering Iowa’s Le Mars Cemetery, Part II

Today I’m diving deep into why I consider my visit to Le Mars Cemetery my favorite part of my Iowa/South Dakota road trip with Christi in June 2018. It really boils down to two words: white bronze.

This block for Annie McCurdy is made of metal and not stone. Zinc markers marketed as “white bronze” became a hot trend in the 1880s.

“White Bronze” Equals Zinc

White bronze is really just a fancy term for zinc, which is a metal. White bronze markers became popular starting in the 1880s. While there were a few different companies, Monumental Bronze of Bridgeport, Conn. was the largest with a number of subsidiary factories in Detroit, Chicago, Des Moines, Philadelphia, St. Thomas, Canada, and perhaps New Orleans. Around the start of World War I, all metal was needed for munitions so the factories started closing. The name/date plates continued to be manufactured into the 1930s.

This is the cover of the 1882 Monumental Bronze Co.’s catalog. Many thanks to Smithsonian Libraries for putting this online to use as a great resource.

Better Than Stone?

An agent for the company could show you a catalog of all the possibilities/costs available. The pieces were shipped by train and you put them together. At the time, they were marketed as a less expensive, longer lasting alternative to stone. But some people thought if you bought them for a loved one, you were being “cheap” so a little bit of a stigma existed.

I found this bit of marketing in the 1882 Monumental Bronze catalog:

There being no deterioration in their value, you always have in these your money’s worth; while, with marble, or even granite, what you obtained at great expense, may, in a few years, become of little or no value, as defective headstones and monuments in every cemetery bear witness. Is it not then the part of wisdom to invest where you will always feel satisfied with your purchase, and also give better satisfaction to coming generations.

Some insist that all the casting was done in Bridgeport and only finishing work was carried out by the subsidiaries. However, rail cars loaded with zinc rolled regularly into Des Moines from Kansas with material for the Western White Bronze Co., so it’s likely that casting occurred there, too.

I did find ads from the 1891 editions of the Le Mars Semi-Weekly Sentinel promoting a salesman named John Bogen who sold grave markers (both stone and white bronze) at a local furniture store, a common practice in those days. I got a kick out of how the quote used is attributed to “Science”. I did note that according to Find a Grave, Bogen is buried at Le Mars Cemetery but has a stone marker. Did he decide, in the end, not to put his faith in “Science”?

John Bogen promoted the value of white bronze markers but chose a stone one for his own grave.

This marker for Catherine Garman (they misspelled her last name as “Germen”) is a good example of a smaller white bronze. There are two more like it that I saw for other people.

White bronze marker for Catherine Garmon, although it says “Catherina Germen”. She only lived the last few years of her life in Le Mars with her married daughter and family.

On the back is a lily of the valley suspended by a cuffed hand.

The lily of the valley usually symbolized symbolizes innocence, humility, and renewal.

Having the 1882 catalog to refer to, I found an example there that looks much like the Garman marker. Size would vary depending on need.

This is possibly what the Garman family saw in the Monumental Bronze catalog, if they were given the chance to look at one.

I did notice that Catherine’s daughter, Mary Anna Elizabeth Garman Hamm, has a large stone marker nearby.

Four Little Lambs

For those of us who adore “zinckies” (as we call them), finding certain examples of them in a cemetery can be very exciting. Before visiting Le Mars Cemetery, I had only seen a white bronze lamb marker online. To my amazement, Le Mars has not one but FOUR of them! I’m going to share all of them with you here.

Seven-year-old Tommy Plumb died of the croup on March 6, 1886.

Friderick Knuth was only seven months old when he died on May 30, 1891.

Theresa Caroline Utech passed away at the age of five weeks and five days on Sept. 7, 1883.

Edward Patzig died on Feb. 25, 1889. It’s possible he is the son of Louis and Maggie Patzig.

I think I may have found the answer as to why Le Mars Cemetery has so many lambs.

The final one pictured is a for a boy named Edward Patzig, who died in February 1889 at the age of 16 months. An item I found in the newspaper from November 1890 indicating Louis Patzig and his family were moving to Des Moines where he would be selling white bronze monuments and working with his wife’s relative, Joseph Clos, as an undertaker. It’s possible that Louis Patzig, already known in Le Mars, sold the other lambs to his former neighbors. Louis’ mother, Johannah Patzig, is buried nearby.

“Suffer the Children”

Sadly, white bronze was a popular choice for families mourning the loss of their children. Several examples of this can be found here. If any family knew loss, it was the Traeders.

Originally from Germany, Albert Traeder came to America with his family around 1865.

A native of Germany, Albert Traeder was born around 1849 and emigrated to American with his family in 1865. He married Bertha Woodke in 1876. Edward “Eddy” Bernhard Traeder was born in 1877. Lora Marie Traeder was born in 1878. Rudolph “Rudy” August Traeder was born on Oct. 24, 1880. Albert Jr. was born on April 27, 1884.

Eddy and Rudy died only a day apart in 1883.

Scarlet fever ravaged the Traeder home in early May 1883. Six-year-old Eddy died on May 10, 1883. Two-year-old Rudy died the next day.

Tragedy struck again on Aug. 15, 1884 when Albert Sr. died at the age of 34 from “brain fever”, as it was called. Today it might have been called encephalitis.

Only 34, carpenter Albert B. Traeder Sr. was much loved by his community.

It’s not surprising that the family chose what the Monumental Bronze catalog refers to as the “Suffer the Children” design for one of the panels.

“Suffer the Children” is a motif reflecting Matthew 19:14.

At the foot of the monument are two name plates for the boys and their father. Such plates are often damaged by mowers and end up in sad shape. But it appears the Traeder ones are holding up fairly well.

Bertha’s woes were not yet over. On May 28, 1886, Lora died from complications stemming from the croup and diphtheria. She has her own stone at Le Mars Cemetery.

Bertha didn’t let these tragedies stop her from making a life for her and Albert Jr. She became a successful businesswoman in the community. She waited until 1908 to remarry to Henry Frevert, when Albert Jr. was 24.

Albert Jr. married in 1917 to Victoria Dionne. They had one child, Patricia, in 1920 and Victoria died soon after. With the help of Bertha, Albert raised Patricia. Bertha died in 1932. When Patricia was 16, he remarried. He died 13 years later in 1949.

I found plenty of markers for older people as well. This one for the Blackwells is an example. Catharine is one one side and husband Henry’s on the other.

Catharine Blackwell died at age 66 in August 1880.

Born in 1823, Henry emigrated from Canada and settled in Le Mars. Catharine was about nine years his senior. I don’t know what year they married but four children followed.

“The Angels Took Her Home”

Catharine died in August 1880 at the age of 66, I don’t know what from. Henry must have mourned her greatly. The words at the bottom of her marker read: “She faltered by the wayside, and the angels took her home.”

The news account of his death notes that Henry was an “old man” nearing 70 when he was actually only 63. It also said he was suffering from rheumatism and “felt for some time that death would be a great release.”

Henry Blackwell committed suicide six years after his wife, Catharine, died.

On April 18, 1886, Henry was alone in his room at the home he shared with his son, William, and his family. He somehow managed to rig a shotgun against a plank at the bottom of his bed and shot himself in the chest. His family raced to help him but it was too late.

His epitaph reads: “Where immortal spirits reign, there we shall meet again.”

There are many more white bronze stories left to share from Le Mars Cemetery. Stay tuned for Part III.

Annie McCurdy, whose block you saw at the start of this post, also has a full monument at Le Mars Cemetery. She died in 1885 at the age of 28.