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.

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

So we’re nearing the end of my Iowa/South Dakota 2018 adventure back in Iowa. While I truly enjoyed all the cemeteries we visited, and seeing Sioux Falls for the first time, our excursion to Le Mars Cemetery was by far my favorite. It’s probably going to take at least three parts to cover it all.

Origins of Le Mars

According to Le Mars’ web page, the history of the town goes back as early as the 1850s when white settlers arrived to the region now known as Plymouth County. The county of Plymouth was organized in 1853 and started with 2 townships. Le Mars was platted in 1869, but no lots were sold until the Iowa Falls and Sioux City Railroad, later part of the Illinois Central Railroad, arrived in 1870.

You might think, as I did, that Le Mars was named after a Frenchman. But that’s not what happened. In 1869, Le Mars was named when railroad builder John I. Blair came by special train with a company of officials and a group of ladies. These ladies were asked to suggest a name for the town, then know as Saint Paul Junction. The ladies’ names were (and locals quibble a bit on whether or not all the names are accurate): Lucy Underhill, Elizabeth Parsons, Mary Weare, Anna Blair, Rebecca Smith and Sarah Reynolds. The result: Le Mars.

Historic postcard of Le Mars’ courthouse and jail, taken around 1890. (Photo source: Bobette Yamado)

Unlike many rural Iowa towns, Le Mars did not begin as your typical farming settlement but was pitched as an English colony of sorts. In Philadelphia in 1876, Oxford University student William B. Close and Daniel Paullin, a land agent who was promoting land sales in Illinois and Iowa, talked about the opportunities in Iowa. Inspired by Paullin’s idea, Close and his three brothers organized the Iowa Land Company.

The Close family was well connected in England and secured financing for their venture. They encouraged upper-class Englishmen to join the colony. Several Englishmen came to buy farms and ranches, and set up banks and other businesses. You might be asking yourself why, as did I.

An English Colony for “Second Sons”

Young Englishmen, especially the “second sons” of elite families were encouraged to travel to Le Mars to learn the business of farm management. Some of the older men took responsibility for the housing and training of these young pupils. In England, such young men were not known for being incredibly industrious but tended to live off the coffers of their eldest brothers who held the family money.

William Close was one of four brothers from England with a plan to turn an Iowa town into a British colony. (Photo Source: Northwest Iowa Genealogical Society)

Le Mars is not the first type of “colony” of this nature, another being Rugby, Tenn. Founded in 1880, it had similar origins but failed miserably due to many factors I won’t get into. While Le Mars fared better, I’m not sure a great many of the young men truly took to farming. I read that some were known to have unhitched plow horses for informal racing and betting, among other activities. They even played polo.

While the original experiment fizzled out around 1890 after the death of Fred Close in a polo accident in 1890, some of the Brits stayed an married Americans. By 1895, when the Prairie Club caught fire and had to be rebuilt, the new club began accepting forced  Americans as well as British members.

Birth of Blue Bunny

While few people know about Le Mars’ British connection, many are familiar with the ice cream that one of its families started producing that became a household name.

In 1913, Fred H. Wells, Jr. paid a local dairy farmer $250 for a horse, delivery wagon, a few cans and jars, and the goodwill of the business. His investment covered the milk distribution route and guaranteed Wells a source of raw milk from a herd of just 15 milk cows. Around 1925, Fred and his sons began manufacturing ice cream in Le Mars.

Undated photo of a Blue Bunny ice cream truck. (Photo Source: Wells Enterprises, Inc. web site)

In 1935, the brothers decided to run a “Name That Ice Cream” contest in the Sioux City Journal. A Sioux City man won the $25 cash prize for submitting the winning entry, “Blue Bunny,” after noticing how much his son enjoyed the blue bunnies in a department store window at Easter. The winner, an illustrator , also created the first Blue Bunny logo, used on Blue Bunny packaging for nearly 70 years.

Ice Cream Capital of the World

Le Mars reportedly earned the title of “Ice Cream Capital of the World” in 1994 after being recognized for more ice cream being made by one manufacturer in one location. Le Mars makes the most of this distinction and it’s noted on the town’s sign as you enter.

Le Mars’ Blue Bunny ice cream parlor is well worth a stop.

Christi and I visited the Blue Bunny ice cream parlor when we arrived in downtown Le Mars, which has preserved a number of those original British-built storefronts. The parlor boasts a great store of Blue Bunny merchandise (I bought a cool tie dye t-shirt) and a small museum upstairs. It’s definitely worth a stop.

If you ever make it to LeMars, you’ll notice several fiberglass ice cream cones around town uniquely designed to reflect local businesses. This one pictured below is right across from the Blue Bunny ice cream parlor and I believe it is for a church. About 55 of them can be seen around Le Mars, having been part of a local art project.

This ice cream cone is one of 55 around Le Mars that were part of a local art project.

If you’re wondering, we finally did make it to Le Mars Memorial Cemetery, although the sign says “Memorial Cemetery”. I’m going to refer to it as Le Mars Cemetery. I could find very little about the cemetery’s history. Not when it was established, who owned the land, etc. According to Find a Grave, it has close to 7,000 graves. An 1893 article states it covers 20 acres and was managed by a man named C.P. Woodward.

I don’t know what year the Le Mars Memorial Cemetery was established.

The first person I wanted to find at the cemetery was Blue Bunny’s founder, Fred Hooker Well, Jr. To my surprise, while he had a Find a Grave memorial, there was no photo of his grave. I remedied that quickly.

Grave marker for Fred Hooker Wells Jr., founder of Blue Bunny Ice Cream.

The next two markers I’m going to focus on were actually among the last I found during our visit. But I wanted to talk to them in this installment because they’re not white bronze markers and I’ll be focusing on them next week. They are unlike any other in the cemetery.

The Artistic Moon Sisters

Born in Ohio, Araminta “Mintie” Moon and her sister, Sylvia Theresa Moon, were both of a creative and artistic nature. They were the daughters of Eveline and George Moon. They had a younger brother named Willis. I don’t know when George died but by 1870, Eveline and her three children had left New York and settled in Waterloo, Iowa, which is 220 miles east of Le Mars.

The Waterloo newspapers often featured stories about the sisters’ artistic pursuits. They were popular in local society and both enjoyed participating in local plays. Mintie was the sister known for her painting. Theresa focused on supporting literary pursuits, singing, and playing the organ. Mintie took classes at the Massachusetts Normal School Art School in Boston for a few years. Willis helped support the family as a bookkeeper.

Mintie Moon’s love of art is expressed in her grave marker, which features a painter’s easel. “To live in loving hearts is not to die” is a variation on a quote from a poem by Thomas Campbell called “Hallowed Ground”

Sometime after 1880, Mintie and Theresa opened their own school in Waterloo that they called the Art Association. They hosted a number of exhibitions there and taught students. But Mintie’s health began to fail. She had contracted tuberculosis. The family moved to Le Mars around that time. Several months later, Mintie died on March 15, 1884. She was only 30 years old.

“To Live in Loving Hearts Is Not To Die”

Eveline died only three years later in 1887. Later that year, Theresa married attorney Alvin Low. He had older children from a previous marriage. By 1900, the family had moved to Los Angeles, Calif. Willis, who never married, shared their home later.

I can find no evidence that Theresa continued her artistic pursuits in California. She died at the age of 73 in 1925. Her body was brought back to Le Mars, where she was buried beside her beloved sister, Mintie, and her mother.

Sylvia Theresa Moon Low’s artistic life may have ended after she married lawyer Alvin Low.

Willis continued to live with his brother-in-law Alvin and his step-niece and nephews in California. He died in 1941 and is buried in the same lot as his sisters. There is no photo of his grave or Eveline’s on Find a Grave and I did not see any for them when I was there.

Next time, I’ll delve into the wonderful collection of white bronze markers at Le Mars Cemetery. There are more of them here than any other cemetery I’ve ever visited.


Iowa/South Dakota Cemetery Hopping: Pausing at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church Cemetery, Union County, S.D.

On our journey back to Omaha, we decided to make a stop in Le Mars, Iowa to visit the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Museum. When looking on the map to see what exit suited us best off I-29, I noticed there was a small cemetery near a tiny town called Spink. So that’s where we left the interstate.

St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery is also known as Garryowen Cemetery by the locals. The Garryowen community was first settled by the O’Connors, the Mannings, and the Sullivans. If you go to Find A Grave and look up St. Mary’s Catholic Church Cemetery, you’ll discover that 71 of the 315 memorials recorded have the last name of O’Connor. St. Mary’s and the church building are about all that’s left of the Garryowen community.

When I first saw the metal triple cross arch, I was puzzled. Later, I learned the cemetery sign used to hang under the crosses.

You’ll notice in the photo above that there’s a large metal piece with three crosses on it. I had no idea what this was supposed to signify at the time. Later, when I was doing research, I learned that it had formerly held the cemetery’s main sign.

Roots of Garryowen

The Irish families that moved to this southeastern corner of South Dakota had first lived near Dubuque in Garryowen, Iowa. These were immigrants mainly from Munster, Ireland. Garryowen is a variation of the Gaelic for “John’s Garden,” a popular parade and fairground outside Limmerick, Ireland.

In 1860, a group from Garryowen, Iowa, led by a Manning, moved west to start a new community. Between 1860 and 1879, these families attended church in nearby Fairview and their dead were buried in the Fairview Cemetery. When the Garryowen community had increased to 50 families, a parish was finally organized in 1879 to form St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Initially, the Fairview priest was responsible for this church.

The church’s new sign, made out of stone, explains the history of the community and cemetery.

This stone explains the history of St. Mary’s Catholic Church well.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church and the cemetery were first located together on five acres donated by Patrick Mahan. Eventually, the church became too small for the increasing membership so a larger one was built in 1904 at the James Casey farm. It was destroyed by fire in 1924. A third church was built in 1925 diagonally across the road from the cemetery on land donated by Tom O’Connor.

The signs also indicated that in 1993, the diocese of Sioux Falls closed the church. My thought is the community had shrunk considerably by then.

That 1924 church building, I recently learned, still exists. I didn’t notice it at the time when we stopped at the cemetery, probably because it doesn’t look much like a church any longer. I read that it was used as an antique store and as of 2016, the building and property were for sale. I have a feeling it’s not going to last too long unless it gets some TLC.

This is what St. Mary’s Catholic Church in looks like today. (Photo source: Wikimedia Commons)

A brief history of the church and cemetery that I located notes that the first burial at St. Mary’s Cemetery was that of Michael O’Connor. The grave was dug with the help of Vincent O’Connor, who was 16 at the time. There are only about 300 or so burials at St. Mary’s, so it is a small cemetery but well maintained.

It also notes that the second grave was that of Jeffery Donahoe in September 1883. Problem is, there’s no Jeffery Donahoe listed on Find a Grave but a Mary Ann Donahoe who died in September 1883 is. So I think the author is referring to her. As it turns out, Jeffery was her husband. There is no marker for him in the cemetery.

It is likely that Mary Ann Donahoe was the second burial at St. Mary’s Cemetery.

Born around 1831 in Castle Ireland, County Kerry, Ireland, Mary Ann Breshanan married Jeffrey Donahoe. I don’t know when they arrived in America but their first child, Daniel, was born in Connecticut in 1854. By 1860, they were in Table Mound, Iowa and that was about 15 miles northeast of Garryowen, Iowa. So they may have been among those that migrated over to Garryowen, S.D.

Mary Ann passed away at the age of 51 on Sept. 3, 1881. I couldn’t find out when Jeffrey died and he has no marker at St. Mary’s. Their son, Andrew, who died in 1935, is buried near Mary Ann with his wife.

The Mysterious Rev. Kennedy

One gravestone I photographed was for the Rev. Matthiae Kennedy. I’ve never seen what I’m guessing is a form of Matthew spelled that way.

Who was the Rev. Matthiae Kennedy?

The information I was able to glean from his marker was that he was born in Ireland and died in Dubuque, Iowa on Oct. 8, 1887. At the bottom is the Latin inscription: Pro me omnes vos orate, which means I pray for you all.

If he did indeed die in Dubuque, why was he buried in Garryowen, S.D.? Did he ever pastor St. Mary’s? I Googled my heart out and could find nothing at all about him online. Perhaps someone reading this is familiar with him and will contact me.

The Dillon Children

I found a repaired marker for two children of John and Annie Dillon. Born in Camross, Ireland in 1823, John arrived in Boston, Mass. around 1848. He married Annie McCarty in Galena, Ill. sometime before 1853. By 1880, they were living in Spink, S.D. (which is next to Garryowen) and had seven children.

This marker for two of the Dillon children was repaired at some point.

Born in 1860 in Illinois, Thomas was probably the third child in the family. He died on March 16, 1878 at age 18. Anna, who was born in 1871, died in 1885 on April 26, 1883. She was 14. I don’t know their causes of death. Their parents share a marker nearby.

Mother of 13 Children

This marker got my attention because of the words “Mother of 13 Children”. It also has that homemade rustic quality that tugs at the heartstrings.

Sadly, most of Mary O’Connor’s children did not live to adulthood.

Mary Donahoe (or Donahue) was born in Iowa in 1855. She married Irishman Jeremiah “Jerry” O’Connor in 1878. He’d only been in America a few years, having emigrated from Ballyferriter, County Kerry, Ireland in 1875. He came to Iowa to join two of his brothers who were already farming in Iowa.

By 1880, the couple were living in Garryowen where they farmed. When I saw the 1900 U.S. Census, it listed them with four children (Mary, Anna, Joseph, and Luke). But it also noted that the total number of children Mary had given birth to was 13. I can only guess that nine did not live past childhood, which is incredibly tragic.

Mary died in 1905, I don’t know her cause of death. Jerry and the three younger children remained on the farm. He moved to nearby Vermillion, where he taught school and farmed there near daughter Margaret. When Margaret and her family moved to California, he went with them. He died there on Feb. 5, 1935 and is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles, Calif.

O’Connor Brothers

This handsome marker for James O’Connor and his wife, Nora, is one of the largest ones in the cemetery. I am fairly sure that he’s the son of Michael O’Connor, the first man buried in St. Mary’s. Michael and his wife, Margaret were also from Ballyferriter, County Kerry, Ireland like Jerry O’Connor.

James and Nora O’Connor both came from County Kerry (or County Cary as their marker states) in Ireland.

Born in 1829, son James may have married Hanora “Nora” Shehan after he came to America. They were both from County Kerry and married in 1850. They settled in the Jones County area of Eastern Iowa and had all of their children there before moving over to Union County, S.D. in 1869. The U.S. Census from 1870 lists eight children in the household. Amazingly, it looks like they all lived well into adulthood.

James died in 1910 and Nora died the following year. At least four of their children were also buried at St. Mary’s when they died.

James’ brother, Thomas, also moved to Union County and raised his family there. He and his wife, Johanna, share a very similar marker next to James and Nora’s. Thomas died in 1907 and Johanna died in 1910.

Thomas and Johanna O’Connor’s monument does not have a cross on the top.

There are small cemeteries like St. Mary’s on country roads throughout states like South Dakota and Iowa. Many are the last remnant of a community whose population dwindled over time and eventually died out. Garryowen is one of them.

Fortunately, those left behind are still taking care of the final resting place of those Irish pioneers.




Iowa/South Dakota Hopping: Taking a Stroll Through Sioux Falls, South Dakota’s Woodlawn Cemetery

We’re still in Sioux Falls, South Dakota! This week, our destination is Woodlawn Cemetery. Founded in 1905, it’s a not as old as nearby Mount Pleasant Cemetery. But it has an illustrious history all its own.

This sign at the 26th Street entrance, made of stones from the petrified forests of Arizona, was provided by Woodlawn’s founder Richard F. Pettigrew.

With some cemeteries, it can be difficult for me to locate information on who the founder was or any kind of history. With Woodlawn, their website provides plenty of useful information.

The man at the center of Woodlawn’s history is Richard Franklin Pettigrew, who is (as you might imagine) interred at the cemetery he founded. There’s a lot of material written about him because he was a key player in South Dakota history.

A Dakota Pioneer

Born in Vermont in 1848, Richard and his family relocated to Wisconsin where he attended the University of Wisconsin Law School. In 1869, he moved to the Dakota Territory, where he first worked as a surveyor, then entered the Territorial Bar in 1871. After establishing a law practice in Sioux Falls, he also pursued real estate interests.

Active in politics, Pettigrew served a term in the Dakota Territorial Legislature, and two terms on the Territorial Council before being elected as a Democrat to represent the Dakota Territory in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1880. He served a single term in Congress from 1881 to 1883, and was unsuccessful in his bid for re-election.

Richard F. Pettigrew’s mausoleum is one of the few I’ve ever seen that has a photo of him on the outside.

When South Dakota was admitted to the Union in 1889, Pettigrew was elected along with Republican Gideon C. Moody as the state’s first two Senators to the U.S. Senate. He served two terms from 1889 to 1901, switching from Democrat to Republican in 1896. The party switch hurt him of politically, and he lost his re-election bid to Senator Robert J. Gamble. His post-Senate career was marked by a time of practicing law in New York City before returning to Sioux Falls.

A New Cemetery for Sioux Falls

It was during his time in New York City that Pettigrew served as an officer of the Rosehill Cemetery Association (located in New Jersey), which sparked his intent to help establish a cemetery in Sioux Falls.

When a 70-acre tract of land in the southeast corner of the city went up for sale, Pettigrew paid the $8,750 purchase price from his personal funds.The entire amount, plus interest, was repaid to him as the cemetery association’s funds slowly grew. In the winter of 1922, an adjacent 10 acres were purchased from a private owner.

Today, Woodlawn Cemetery covers 80 acres, with about half of it plotted and sold. According to Find a Grave, there are about 17,400 recorded burials.

Richard F. Pettigrew’s final years were marred by controversy.

The Pettigrew mausoleum features this lovely stained glass window of Easter lilies.

Unfortunately, the last decade of former Sen. Pettigrew’s life was colored by difficulty. In 1916, his wife, Bettie Pittard Pettigrew, died after a long illness. In 1917,  he criticized America’s involvement in World War I, and publicly urged young men to evade conscription. As a result, he was arrested and charged with sedition under the newly passed Espionage Act of 1917. He enlisted famous lawyer Clarence Darrow as his defense attorney, who delayed the case long enough for the charges to be dropped.

Today, Richard F. Pettigrew’s home in Sioux Falls is a museum. (Photo Source: Jerry F.,

Before Pettigrew passed away in 1926, he donated his residence to the city of Sioux Falls and it is operate it as the Pettigrew House and Museum. He was interred in the Pettigrew mausoleum with his wife, Bessie. Also interred inside are his youngest brother, Harlan, who died in 1917 at the age of 34, and unmarried sister Alma Pettigrew, who died in 1922 at the age of 78.

Other siblings of Richard Pettigrew are also buried at Woodlawn. His older sister, Luella Belle Pettigrew, is buried near the Pettigrew mausoleum. Born in 1839, Belle was greatly influenced by her abolitionist father, Andrew. After graduating from Rockford Seminary in Illinois (now Rockford University), she devoted her life to missionary work.

This photo was on Belle Pettigrew’s monument but it was vandalized before I photographed it. This photo of it was taken by a Find a Grave member in 2006.

For 12 years, Belle represented the Woman’s Baptist Home Mission Society as a missionary among African-Americans, teaching at two historically black institutions, Shaw University and Roger Williams University. She also spent three years as a general missionary in South Dakota, living in Sioux Falls for periods of time.

A Lifetime of Service

Later, Belle lived for several years in Washington D.C., where was a member of the Columbia Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, the Anti-Saloon League, as well as being a member of a missionary society and literary club connected with the Calvary Baptist Church. She traveled extensively in the U.S. and internationally, including visits to Europe, India, China, and the Philippines to do inspection visits for missionary organizations.

Belle died in 1912 of hardening of the arteries. Staying at a sanitarium in Chamberlain, S.D., her remains were returned to Sioux Falls for burial at Woodlawn.

Luella Belle Pettigrew died at age 73 of hardening of the arteries.

It’s hard to miss the other Woodlawn monument for a Pettigrew because it’s one of the largest in the cemetery.

Like his brother, Fred Pettigrew’s monument features a photo of him.

Born in 1850, Frederick “Fred” Pettigrew moved from Vermont to Flandreau, S.D. (about 40 miles north of Sioux Falls) around the same time as sister Belle did. He married Jennie Salome in 1879 and they had five children.

Fred did not attain the status of his brother Richard, but he made a mark in his community just the same. More comfortable in a rural setting, he was content developing and working his large farm in South Sioux Falls. He was a judge in Moody County for several years as well.

A Mysterious Accident

At the same time, Fred had a reputation for being somewhat taciturn in nature. On Dec. 8, 1901, while doing evening chores around his farm, he was found unconscious and injured in the road by two hired men near his home. Some thought he might have been accidentally run down someone in a buggy in the darkness. But others wondered if he was attacked by an enemy with a grudge.

Fred Pettigrew was only 50 when he died after being injured under mysterious circumstances.

A few days later, Fred regained consciousness for a short time but did not make a great deal of sense. When asked about the accident, he claimed a buggy driven by someone he didn’t know had struck him in the darkness, although he had tried to step back out of its way. Despite the belief he might recover, Fred passed away on Dec. 21, 1901.

Another farmer that made his mark in Sioux Falls was John Alguire, whose family has a distinctive “tree” monument at Woodland.

A native of Canada, John was born in 1842 and took a circuitous route to get to the Dakotas. He left Canada for New York in his late teen years. He later moved to Wisconsin to farm, marrying Jane Foster in 1869. The couple moved to Benton, S.D. around 1874 where their third child was born.

“Summoned to the Other Side”

After moving to Oregon for a few years, the Alguires returned to South Dakota and John continued to farm. He and Jane had a total of nine children together. John died of pneumonia at the age of 69 on Dec. 1, 1911. His obituary in the Sioux Falls newspaper had a headline that said he was “summoned to the other side.”

John must have done quite well because one article I found estimated his estate to be worth $75,000. That would be about $2.03 million dollars today.

Farmer John Alguire left an estate worth $75,000 behind.

I am especially fond of the Alguire family “tree” monument. There are no specific first names or dates on it. Those are inscribed on individual stones or “logs” around the monument. There’s a potted calla lily at the base and a sweet bird resting on a branch near the top.

This bird is most likely meant to be a dove, symbolizing peace or the Holy Spirit.

Here’s a look at the “logs” for John and Jane, his wife who died in 1920 at the age of 73.

John Alguire’s marker also says “Father” on it.

Jane Foster died in Los Angeles, Calif. in 1920.

Next time, we’ll return to Iowa for some more cemetery hopping…

Iowa/South Dakota Hopping: Exploring Sioux Falls, South Dakota’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery

Welcome to Sioux Falls, South Dakota!

I’m posting two pictures of the falls, one close up and one from the observation tower, so you can get some perspective on their size.

This is a more close up view of the falls for which Sioux Falls was named. At this angle, you can’t completely get an idea of their size.

This is photo I took from the observation tower further back. Nearly lost my hat from the strong winds. This view allows you to see the city of Sioux Falls in the background.

Christi and I stayed at a Hilton Garden Inn located right next to the Big Sioux River that feeds into the falls. There’s a wonderful park that leads there and we enjoyed exploring.

Birth of Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls is named for the Sioux Tribe of American Indians and the waterfalls of the Big Sioux River. Pioneers began staking claims on the banks of the Big Sioux River prior to the Civil War in 1856. Homesteaders continued to settle in Sioux Falls bringing the population up to 2,100 by 1880.

The village of Sioux Falls was incorporated in 1876 and became a city in March 1889. By the turn of the century, the prairie settlement had grown into a city of more than 10,000. Today, the city’s population is around 190,000. So it has definitely grown over the years.

Established in 1873, Mount Pleasant is the oldest cemetery in Sioux Falls.

Our destination that first morning was Mount Pleasant Cemetery, located just east of downtown. Mount Pleasant Cemetery has a well-written web site with a lot of details that I found helpful.

History of Mount Pleasant Cemetery

Established in November 1873, Mount Pleasant is the oldest cemetery in Sioux Falls. The incorporation group chose the name, and elected Dr. Joseph Roberts as chairman and later the board’s first president. The group found 32 people who would pay $10 for a cemetery plot, collected as much of the money from them as possible and determined they were now “in the cemetery business.”

Originally covering about 20 acres, Mount Pleasant (at one point) covered 150 acres. The present cemetery is comprised of about 52 acres, nearly 100 having been lost over the decades to development. Although present burials number around 16,000, the cemetery still retains about 40 percent of its remaining burial space.

The Glidden Chapel is just inside the front gates. We were surprised to find it unlocked.

Inside the gateway, the Glidden Memorial Chapel was built in 1924 with a $13,000 bequest of Josephine Glidden in memory of her husband Daniel, an early member of the cemetery board. We were quite surprised to find it unlocked and took a few moments to look inside.

Stained glass windows inside the Glidden Chapel.

A sign nearby explained that pioneer banker Dennis McKinney (also a friend of the Glidden family) was the first person whose funeral was held in the chapel. McKinney was also president of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery board for several years. He died on Dec. 24, 1924 and because the ground was frozen, his body was stored in the chapel’s crypt until conditions enabled him to be buried.

Daniel Glidden, in whose honor Mount Pleasant’s chapel was built, died in 1912.

Mount Pleasant’s web site explains that over time, the Glidden Memorial Chapel fell into disrepair and at one point, the doors were removed and it became a home to mowers, tractors, and grounds-keeping equipment. Fortunately, volunteer efforts to clean up and restore the chapel took place in the 1980s and it was restored to its former glory. The Glidden Memorial Chapel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

A stone’s throw from the Glidden Chapel is this helpful sign with information about the cemetery. I was amazed to see an actual price list for services available, including the cost of a plot, burial and columbarium niches. I also learned that green burial is available at Mount Pleasant, which is pretty rare for an older cemetery. My guess is that because it has a lot of available burial space, they can handle it.

I’ve never been to a cemetery where the prices were listed on a sign.

I did notice that the sign was part of a 2011 Eagle Scout project, so prices may have gone up since then. But I was impressed to see them just the same as an indication of the owners’ transparency about costs.

We drove around the cemetery to get an overview of the place. Truth be told, if you are looking for large obelisks and grand monuments, Mount Pleasant is going to disappoint you. But it is well maintained and a lovely setting.

View of Mount Pleasant Cemetery on a sunny June day.

The Gale obelisk is arguably the largest monument at Mount Pleasant, representing a family that made a distinct mark on Sioux Falls history.

I think the Gale obelisk may be the tallest monument in Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

The Gale family originally hailed from New Jersey but later moved to Albion, N.Y. David Gale and Elizabeth Decker Gale had several children of which Artemas was one of the most enterprising. Born in 1825, he married a woman named Louise whose maiden name I was never able to pin down. After purchasing land in St. Paul, Minn., he moved there in the 1850s and worked as a furniture/grain dealer while also dong some some land speculating.

He and Louise purchased land in Sioux Falls in the 1860s but didn’t build a homestead there until 1872. During their first years, he was active in school matters and was also director of the Dakota National Bank for much of his life. Over time, he amassed quite a fortune.

The couple had no children of their own but adopted at least two sons that show up on census records, Sidney and Ernest. Louise died in 1880 at the age of 51. According to newspapers, the disposition of her will caused Artemas a bit of a headache because of her land holdings.

Louisa Gale died at the age of 51.

Not long after Louisa’s death, two of Artemas’ siblings moved to Sioux Falls from New York. Younger bachelor brother Gabriel, born in 1837, had never married and was the last to leave the Gale family farm. Widowed sister Kathleen Gale McKennan, born in 1841, had lived in Sioux Falls for a time before she married and moved back to New York. She shared brother Artemas’ mind for business and invested well. Youngest sister Frances Gale Carpenter and her husband, Charles, moved to Sioux Falls in 1885.

This bust of Helen Gale McKennan honors her gift of land to the city of Sioux Falls to create McKennan Park. (Photo source: Ruth VanSteenwyk)

Kathleen Gale McKennan’s Legacy

Both Artemas and Kathleen especially were keen on establishing a park in Sioux Falls for its residents to enjoy. In 1906, Helen contacted her friend E.A. Sherman and discussed with him her idea to give her house and the 20 acres of adjacent land to the city for a park. She died on Sept. 29, 1906 after giving to the city of Sioux Falls what would become the jewel of the park system. She also left money for the development of a new hospital, which was named McKennan Hospital.

Helen McKennan died at the age of 65.

Brother Gabriel, who has suffered from the kidney disease then called Bright’s Disease, died on June 12, 1908. He’d been living with a married couple to whom he left his estate in his will, which his siblings contested in court. They claimed he was insane at the time he wrote it.

Living with sister Florence since 1900, Artmeas was already gravely ill when his brother Gabriel died. Artemas passed away on Jan. 17, 1909. The names of Artemas, Louise, Gabriel, and Kathleen are all inscribed on the Gale obelisk at Mount Pleasant.

William Stevens, Dakota Pioneer

Markers like those for William Stevens invite my interest because of the early date of his death, which predates the establishment of Mount Pleasant. That leads me to believe he was originally buried in the old city cemetery that predated Mount Pleasant and his remains moved there after it opened.

William Stevens died in 1869, which predates the establishment of Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

William Stevens was born in Oswego, N.Y.on Oct. 12, 1828. He’s listed as one of the early settlers of Sioux Falls when South Dakota was still a young territory, purchasing land in 1858. The 1860 U.S. Census lists him as a farmer with no wife or children.

Picture of officers’ quarters at Fort Dakota, located on the Sioux River.  (Photo source: Siouxland Heritage Museums, Sioux Falls, S.D.)

Fled His Farm

According to the Congressional Record, Stevens farmed his land until 1862 when Sioux Indians attacked the settlement and he (along with his neighbors) fled. Later, the land was part of the property upon which Fort Dakota was built in 1865. After the Army left Fort Dakota, Stevens returned to his farm in the spring of 1869, making repairs to his original home. But William was already suffering from tuberculosis and his health took a turn for the worse. In his last days, he was cared for at a neighbor’s home until his death on Nov. 16, 1869.

Apparently, Stevens did have family and in later years, his heirs tried to purchase his farm from the South Dakota government in 1876. From what I can tell, they were given permission to do so.

Modern Memorial

I don’t often include modern grave markers in the blog but this one reached out to me so I’m going to include it. I’ve never seen one quite like it before.

Kathleen “Katie” McNeill-Merrill was a successful real-estate professional in Sioux Falls.

Born in 1952, Kathleen “Katie” McNeill-Merrill was a native Nebraskan. She eventually moved to Sioux Falls, married and had two children. She was a successful real estate professional and was much loved in the community. She died on Jan. 6, 2004 at the age of 51. I don’t know the cause of her death.

The steps lead to an archway.

At the top of her monument is a laurel wreath behind which are is a stairway leading to an arch. In ancient times, the Greeks equated laurel wreaths with the god Apollo. They awarded laurel wreaths to victors in the Olympics and poetic competitions. Today, the laurel wreath stands for victory and peace.

I’m not sure what the stairway and arch are meant to signify. They could mean many things, including the steps into Heaven.

Join me next time when Christi and I visit Sioux Falls’ Woodland Cemetery.


Iowa/South Dakota Hopping: Discovering Sioux City, Iowa’s Mount Carmel Cemetery

This week, I’m heading to the far corner of Sioux City, Iowa’s Floyd Cemetery. That’s where you can find Mount Carmel Cemetery. They have a small sign but I didn’t see it when we were there. I think we entered through the side and not the official entrance. I admit we did not spend as much time there as I usually do because we needed to be on the road to Sioux Falls to check into our hotel that evening.

The view from Mount Carmel Cemetery.

The Jewish Community of Sioux City

I found a helpful article detailing some of the history behind Sioux City’s early Jewish community. Finding a place to bury their dead was in the forefront of their minds. Rabbi Simon Glazer noted in his 1904 history, “The Jews of Iowa,” about Sioux City:

It is very remarkable that the few Jewish pioneers of Sioux City should have thought of death before any form of an organization was considered. For in 1869, when their entire number did not exceed 25 souls, a meeting took place among them and its prime object was a cemetery.

The first Jewish burial ground was in an area called Cole’s Addition on land donated by Godfrey Hattenbach, thought to be the first Jewish settler to arrive in Sioux City around 1857. In 1884, the Mount Sinai Cemetery Association was established by the Jewish Ladies Society with the goal of purchasing a section of Floyd Cemetery for burial purposes as one of its objectives. The original cemetery in Cole’s Addition was sold and the bodies buried there were transferred to the new cemetery, named Mount Carmel.

Because the markers are so close together, I am guessing mowing here can be treacherous work.

Mount Carmel’s cemetery was formed by Sioux City’s conservative congregation. According to Find a Grave, there are close to 1,190 recorded burials. Mount Sinai also owns land at Floyd Cemetery for their reform congregation, and they have about 440 recorded burials. We only had time to visit Mount Carmel so I’m going to concentrate on what we saw there.

Christi and I stuck to the corner where we entered for the most past. Like many Jewish cemeteries, the grave markers are closely situated beside each other to maximize space. I thought to myself that it looked due for a good mowing but I felt sorry for anyone with that task. Getting a mower in there has to be a difficult task and the grass grows even faster in the summer.

Life of Rabbi Moses M. Matlin

The crypt of Rabbi Moses Meir Matlin got my attention because of its size and construction.

Rabbi Matlin’s wife is buried beside him.

A native of Slutsk, Lithuania, Moses Matlin was born in 1855. He studied at yeshivas in Slutsk and Kovno. After being ordained, Rabbi Matlin was invited by Rabbi Jacob Joseph to come to New York to become a dayyan (rabbinic judge) in the beth din (rabbinical court) Joseph was setting up there.

Once there, Joseph put Rabbi Matlin in charge of the kosher supervision services under his authority. For the next 20 years, Rabbi Matlin served as a mashgiach, supervising the kashrut (Hebrew dietary status) of kosher establishments.

Part of Rabbi Matlin’s duties included working with the California Wine Association of New York. On his way back from a trip out west, he stopped in Sioux City to visit friends. Because of chronic health issues, Matlin was eager for a quieter life in a better climate. He moved with his wife to Montana soon after when he received a land grant there, his children having already grown up and left home.

There are holes on each side of the tomb so I took a peek. All I could see were some aluminum cans at the bottom.

Rabbi Matlin hoped to create a model Jewish community and earn his living as a farmer in Montana but because he had no experience in it, that didn’t pan out. He returned to Sioux City, where he assumed a rabbinical pulpit and earned the respect of the community. He died in 1927 at the age of 72. His wife, Esther Anna, died the following year and she is buried beside him.

Someone Jewish might be able to explain why Rabbi Matlin’s crypt has a hole on each side. I could not resist looking inside. All I could see were some aluminum cans and broken glass. You cannot see his casket, which is ensconced in stone.

Strangers in a Strange Land

As I began looking into the lives behind the gravestones at Mount Carmel, some similarities began to emerge beyond a shared religion. Many of the folks here were immigrants who left their homeland (mostly former Soviet Union countries) for a new life in a strange country. Not only was the language different but so was the landscape. Some prospered while others faced unexpected circumstances.

A sunny afternoon at Mount Carmel Cemetery.

I photographed the stone of a child, Morton Blotcky, knowing nothing about him. He was born on May 15, 1908 and died on June 27, 1910. There are no other Blotckys in the cemetery so he is alone. I got curious so I began to dig and a sad tale emerged.

A Successful Immigrant Family

Morton’s grandfather was Joseph Blotcky, a native of Lithuania who came to America in the 1870s and married fellow Lithuanian Dora Frankel. Joseph operated a dry goods store with his brother in Des Moines and prospered. They branched out to other Iowa towns, including Onawa, at times.

Joseph and Dora had four children and the youngest was Charles “Charlie”, born in 1883. He worked for his father from time to time in his stores. From what I could gather, he got into a fair share of mischief and even participated in local theatrics. But in 1907, at age 24, it appeared he was ready to settle down with an Omaha miss named Ida Grossman, who was the daughter of Rabbi Leib Grossman (later Graceman). Their wedding in Omaha was announced in the Sioux City newspaper.

A Tragic Union

Sadly, things went sour quickly for the couple. According to court proceedings, soon after the birth of little Morton in 1908, Charlie gave up any interest in his marriage and deserted the family. Newspaper accounts detail the efforts Ida had to go to in order to obtain financial support for her and Morton, who died of scarlet fever in June 1910. The divorce was granted in December 1910, with Ida asking to take her maiden name back.

Morton Blotcky’s marker stands alone without his parents.

Ida and Charlie’s paths diverged after that. Charlie went to live with his brother and began working as a traveling salesman. He died in Chicago following a stomach operation in 1913. He is buried in the Blotcky plot with his parents at Jewish Glendale Cemetery in Des Moines, Iowa.

Ida’s story has a much happier ending. She remarried in 1913 to Casper Gilinsky, a Sioux City wholesale merchant, and it was a much more stable union. They had two sons and moved to Minnesota before settling in Muncie, Indiana in the 1930s. Casper died suddenly at age 58 in 1943. Ida died in 1966. They are buried together at Mount Sinai Cemetery, which is also within Floyd Cemetery. So she’s closer to Morton than I first thought.

Headed for the Falls

We got back on the road after that so we’d get to Sioux Falls before dark. The adventure was far from over. Join me next time for some South Dakota cemetery hopping.


Iowa/South Dakota Hopping: Visiting Sioux City, Iowa’s Floyd Cemetery

After leaving Onawa Cemetery, we got back on Interstate 29 to head north to Sioux City. But we made one stop on the way that I thought was worth the time because it was an important gravesite.

Located the banks of the Missouri River just below Sioux City is the Sergeant Charles Floyd Monument. It’s a towering 100-foot obelisk made of Kettle River sandstone that’s part of a 23-acre park managed by the National Park Service.

The 100-foot tall Sergeant Floyd monument was completed in 1901.

Who was Sergeant Charles Floyd?

Born in Kentucky in 1782, Charles Floyd is the first U.S. soldier thought to have died west of the Mississippi. He was a member of Lewis & Clark’s Corps of Discovery that explored the Louisiana Territory. He’s also the only member of the group that died during the journey.

Sergeant Charles Floyd was only 22 when he died.

On the night of August 19, 1804, as the explorers reached the area just south of what would later be Sioux City, Floyd became ill with “bilous cholic”. It is now thought that Floyd had appendicitis. Although leaders did everything they could to help him, Floyd became weaker. He died sometime after 2 p.m. in the afternoon on Monday, August 20, 1804, most likely from peritonitis caused by a burst appendix.

Originally, Floyd’s remains were buried on a nearby hillside. Erosion caused by the Missouri River partially exposed Floyd’s grave. Locals recovered and re-interred most of the skeletal remains in a different location on the bluff. The grave was moved again in 1895. The Sergeant Floyd Monument was dedicated in 1901. At that time, Floyd’s remains were moved a third time and reburied at the base of the monument.

Memorial plaque on the Sergeant Floyd monument.

It seemed proper that we were now going to visit nearby Floyd Cemetery, which is only three miles from the Floyd Monument.

Here’s what the Sioux City web site had to say. “In 1866, a field on the bluff overlooking the Floyd River was purchased by Sioux City from Israel G. Link and Joseph Plummer. In February of 1868, the first lots were sold in the new Floyd Cemetery. Prominent citizens lined up to purchase the first lots, including Theophile Bruguier, son-in-law of Sioux Chieftain War Eagle.”

It’s my assumption that Floyd Cemetery was named after Sergeant Floyd but nothing I’ve read states that clearly. There are over 13,100 recorded burials on Find a Grave but I noticed only 56 percent are photographed.

In the back corner of Floyd Cemetery is Mount Carmel Cemetery, a traditional Jewish congregation’s burial ground that was purchased from the cemetery managers at a later date. I’ll be writing about that cemetery later.

A Young Life Cut Short

One of the first monuments you notice coming into Floyd Cemetery is this one for young Violetta Barrett.

Violetta Barrett was only seven years old when she passed away.

Born on Sept. 16, 1889 to British immigrant parents John and Martha Kitchen Barrett, Violetta Blanch Barrett was the youngest of 10 children born to the couple (seven of which lived to adulthood). The 1895 Iowa Census notes that both John and his son, Robert, worked as stone cutters. So it’s possible one or both helped create Violetta’s monument.

It’s likely that Violetta’s father and brother helped carve her monument.

“From Earth to Heaven”

I located an article in the Sioux City Journal about Violetta’s death, which noted that she was much beloved by the town, and known for her ability to sing and recite at local churches and at home parties.

Article from the Nov. 8, 1896 edition of the Sioux City Journal.

Not long after Violetta’s death, the Barrett family moved to Fairview, Iowa about 275 miles away. Nearby is what was then known as the Anamosa State Reformatory. This interests me now because Christi and I visited the museum at this prison in 2019, which is still in operation today. By 1910, James was working at the Reformatory. I have to wonder if one of his jobs was making grave markers for the nearby prison cemetery, which we also visited.

Violetta’s statue has a rather forbidding look on her face.

James Barrett died in 1914 and Martha in 1922. Both of them are buried beside Violetta.

Short Life of Carl Wold

One of the more eye-catching monuments is this tree-shaped one for Carl Wold. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll notice right away that it’s a Woodmen of the World monument because of the seal and tree shape.

What caused Carl Wold’s early death is unknown.

Carl J. Wold (or Wald as newspapers spelled it) died at the age of 26 on July 9, 1898 in Sioux City, Iowa where he lived. Little is known about Carl beyond the fact he was obviously a much-beloved member of Woodmen of the World (WOW). I found an article that described the festivities when his monument was unveiled. I can’t think of another WOW monument I’ve found that merited a lengthy account of its installation.

According to this article in the Sioux City Journal on Sept. 26, 1898, members of WOW camps from Sioux City and neighboring Le Mars and Sergeant Bluffs marched with their band playing for a ceremony at Floyd Cemetery. Carl is described as “a pure Christian, and as such, a practical Woodman.” Nothing in the article explains how Charles died or if he had any family to mourn him.

Anchors Aweigh

In the same wooded area that Carl Wold’s tree monument is located, you can find this anchor-shaped marker for Joseph Tibbels.

Despite the fact his gravestone features a large anchor, Joseph Tibbels was not a sailor.

A native of Carthage, Ohio, Joseph’s family moved to Calliope, Iowa when he was a little boy. As a young man, he became a telegraph operator and later worked as a grain broker in Sioux City. He married a Nebraska girl, Flora Kimball, in 1888. Together, they had at least one child. Joseph had a good reputation around town and he was active in the local lodge of the Knights of Pythias.

Unfortunately, Joseph’s health was not good. Early in 1897, he contracted the measles and just a month or so later, was diagnosed with tuberculosis. One newspaper account I found said a friend reported that Joseph’s weight had dropped to 45 lbs. in his final days and he barely recognized him. Joseph died at the age of 32 on July 3, 1897. His Knights of Pythias lodge brothers handled his funeral.

Unfortunately, the piece with Joseph Tibbel’s name is broken.

Joseph’s marker features a handsome anchor leaning against a pile of rocks, a chain wrapping around it. Joseph was never a sea captain or sailor. The anchor is a common symbol found on graves. Its meaning has several origins, the most obvious of which is Hebrews 6: 19: “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.” In other words, an anchor is often a symbol of hope and strength.

The last story I’m going to share with you involves one of the largest monuments in the cemetery. But it stands for the life of a man whose background doesn’t represent the typical accolades and list of fraternal organizations to which he belonged that you might expect.

A Gambler at Heart

Born in Pennsylvania around 1849, Edward J. Courtright married New York native Fannie Arthur sometime before 1880. They settled in Sioux City. Gambling was Edward’s love and he was good at it. Partnering with a friend named Edward Owens, he ran a successful saloon on Fourth Street for several years. He made sound investments with his saloon profits and bought property around town. Edward Owens, on the other hand, was dependent on Courtright for his living. He even resided with the couple at their Pearl Street home.

Edward Courtright’s health began to fail and patrons were having scrapes with the law in their saloon. Pressure from the town fathers forced the partners to cross the Platte River to do business in Nebraska. He and Edward O.’s name appeared in the local papers frequently in March 1891 as their woes mounted.

Edward Courtright died on July 14, 1891. I couldn’t find an obituary for him anywhere. Soon after that, Fannie became embroiled in a legal battle with her husband’s siblings over his estate, worth around $160,00. The siblings claimed Edward’s will was written when he was in an “insane” state and that they deserved a more equal share. This went on in court for a number of years.

Edward J. Courtright was only 41 when he died. His siblings fought with his widow over his estate.

A Stormy Union

In October of the same year, Edward Owens and the widow Cartright eloped to Colorado where they were married. Eventually, they returned to Sioux City and Edward enjoyed freely spending his former partner’s wealth.

However, there was trouble in paradise and the couple fought often. The couple filed for divorce in September 1894, with Fannie alleging Owens had beaten her and unwisely spent her money. The divorce became final a week or two after the couple had a physical fight in which Fannie’s father assaulted Edward with an ice pick, landing him in the local hospital with serious injuries.

Edward’s wife, Fannie, married his business partner a mere three months after his death.

To the surprise of many, the couple wed again in Sioux City just three weeks after their much-publicized divorce. On the marriage register, Edward lists his occupation as “gentleman of leisure.” Fannie and Edward Owens remained a couple until Fannie’s death in 1907 from “the grippe” at age 45. I don’t know where she is buried and the whereabouts of Edward Owens after that are unknown.

Next time, I’ll wander to the back of Floyd Cemetery to explore Mount Carmel Cemetery.

Floyd Cemetery’s Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) memorial includes more than 70 Union Army veteran graves.





Iowa/South Dakota Hopping: Wide Awake at Iowa’s Onawa Cemetery

Ready for more Iowa cemetery hopping?

Onawa Cemetery, also located in Monona County, is just up the road from Graceland Cemetery. It’s a bit bigger, with about 4,400 burials listed according to Find a Grave.

Onawa Cemetery is still an active site, with many recent burials.

Onawa Cemetery is still an active site, with many recent burials.

Wide Awake in Onawa

Established around 1857, there’s some debate on how the town of Onawa got its name. Some believe it was a contraction of the pioneer phrase “on-a-way”. But most seem to think T. Elliot, the gentleman who is thought to have named Onawa, had a love for Longfellow’s poem “Hiawatha”, which includes the Native American word “Onaiweh”. The translation means “wide awake.” This seems plausible since Monona County is said to come from the Native American name for “peaceful valley.”

I could find nothing abut Onawa Cemetery itself, when it was established, etc. I saw some markers dating back to the 1870s and I’m sure there are some that date earlier than that.

The W.H. Mullins Co. of Salem, Ohio

Like a lot of cemeteries, Onawa has a memorial to honor the town’s Civil War dead. I want to point this one out because there’s some history behind the company that created the bronze statue on top of the five-ton red granite base. I apologize that due to the bright sunlight, you can’t see the soldier’s face amid the shadows very well.

Onawa’s Civil War monument was erected in 1916.

If you look on the base of the statue, you can make out the name of the company that made it, the W.H. Mullins Company of Salem, Ohio. Sorry it’s rather blurry.

You can find W.H. Mullins statues in many cemeteries, North and South.

The company’s origins were as follows. Thompson and Bakewell came first, then Bakewell and Mullins in 1882, then W.H. Mullins in 1890. Statues were just one of the many items they sold, from metal boats to fences to architectural pieces. I found one of their catalogs from 1894. These are three of the statues they offered. They were often made of sheet zinc or copper, sometimes bronze. That’s what Onawa’s soldier is made of.

This is the 1894 edition of the “Catalogue of architectural ornaments and statuary, in sheet zinc, brass or copper : manufactured by W.H. Mullins, Salem, Columbiana Co., Ohio.”

A statue like one of these could cost $300 to $500 depending on the size and material. According to a newspaper article, funds for the 20-foot monument came from a local tax imposed by the county board of supervisors. The total cost of the monument was $2,000.

Onawa’s monument was unveiled on Memorial Day 1916 with great fanfare and speeches, preceded by a ceremony at the local opera house. The red granite base was secured by the local monument firm of Sheely and Lane, who had it brought from Council Bluffs.

It’s important to note that W.H. Mullins produced similar statues for Confederate monuments in the South, such as one in Pittsboro, N.C. So if you’re ever in a cemetery, regardless of what part of the country, odds are good you might get a glimpse of a W.H. Mullins statue. Just look at the base.

Into the Woods

Last week at Graceland Cemetery, I featured a stump marker for a child and a lovely double tree monument for an elderly couple. I hope you don’t mind but I naturally gravitate to this style and I found a few wood-themed gems at Onawa that I fell in love with.

This stump marker is for the children of Charles Huntington and Rebecca Anne Norris Huntington. While that indicates there was more than one child, only one name is inscribed on the marker. Charles was employed by the local Onawa bank as a cashier.

Only one child’s name is inscribed on the Huntington marker.

I found the death notice for Sam Norris Huntington, who was the second son of the family. Sam died at the age of seven from “diphtheria and inflammation of the bowels”. The 1910 U.S. Census indicates that of the four children the Huntingtons had, two survived. It’s possible the other was an infant who died at birth or soon after.

Can you see the dove?

This stump, indicating a life cut short, has some lovely details. There’s a dove with its wings unfurled perched on a branch beside the inscription of Sam’s details. Fern fronds decorate the base of the stumps and you can glimpse a tiny bird amid the wood “grain” that’s carved near the bottom as well.

Kendall Branches

The Kendall family monument is a glorious creation of wood-themed branches. Thanks to the digitized Onawa newspapers, I had some information to go by in tracing their history.

Morton Kendall suffered from Bright’s Disease, a kidney ailment.

Born in 1853 in Elgin, Ill., Morton Kendall married Florence Wilcox there in 1878. He was already living in Iowa by that time. It’s my belief that Florence’s mother, Angie Greene, moved to Iowa with her daughter. She appears on the 1880 U.S. Census as living with them. Angie is listed in the “widowed/divorced” category.

Morton and Florence had a son, Lyle, on July 13, 1885. That same year, Angie died at the age of 65. The exact day is not listed. Her inscription says “Angie Greene, wife of W.S. Greene.”

Was Angie Greene a widow or divorced?

Sadly, Lyle died at the age of two on Oct 12, 1887. He was buried with his grandmother, Angie.

“Re-united in the Home Above”

Morton died on March 15, 1893 at the age of 10 from Bright’s Disease (kidney disorder), according to his death notice, which also mentioned he had not been in good health for several years but was a well-liked businessman in the community.

Florence was the last one in the family to die.

Florence died a few years later on at age 37 on Jan. 8, 1896. One can only imagine how hard it must have been on her own. Her death notice said she was laid to rest beside her husband and that, “Their spirits are re-united in the home above.”

I noticed that in addition to the grand marker, each family member was represented with a “log” bearing their name: Morton, Florence, Lyle and “Grandma”.

Each family member has their own “log” to represent them, akin to a footstone.

The Colbys

Not far from the Kendall monument is another wood-themes monument that I think was probably made by the same maker. They share a lot of similarities, especially the short, knobby “branches” and split “log” base.

The Colby monument is only for two people.

Born in 1822 in Darien, N.Y., Harry Eugene Colby married Susan Maria Eldridge in Kane County, Ill. This is the same area that Morton and Florence Kendall were from. They moved to Monona County in 1855 when the area was just starting to develop and Harry was considered one of its pioneers. The couple had three children: Helen, Frank, and Harry.

Sudden Death

The story of Susan’s death was written in a newspaper account. According to the Monona County Democrat, she was caring for her infant granddaughter on March 29, 1893 at her home. She went to walk the baby home a block away when she felt ill and asked a friend passing by to do it for her. She then sank against the fence in front of a neighbor’s house and had to be assisted onto the porch. She died soon after. She was 72 years old.

Harry Colby’s inscription is hard to make out due to the shadows.

Harry, who had been in business with son Frank, retired soon after Susan’s death but will still much respected and beloved by the community. He died at the age of 80 on Jan. 24, 1903.

The Mystery of Alvin Perkins

This last marker is a bit of a mystery. Albert Perkins was born in 1900 and died in 1917. But who was he? There was no memorial for him on Find a Grave, so I created one for him.

According to Ancestry, the first record for Albert is at the Northern Hospital for the Insane in Redfield, South Dakota. He was nine years old and from Michigan. How did he end up there at such a young age?

Who was Alvin Perkins?

I learned that the hospital was actually meant to be a place for children with developmental disabilities, those consider “feeble minded.” Yet records indicate that Alvin could both read and write.

The only other mention of Albert is from the Iowa Census of 1915. The card days he is living in Onawa and is 16, doing “general work.” On the bottom of the card it is stamped “Industrial School for Boys.” This probably referred to the Industrial School for Boys in Howard County, Iowa in Eldora. That’s over two hours away from Onawa.

The Industrial School for Boys was located in Eldora, Ill.

At the time Alvin was there, the Industrial School’s goal was to teach young boys who had fallen into trouble some kind of trade in hopes of improving their future. It’s possible someone in Onawa hired Alvin to work on their farm.

I could find nothing about how Alvin died or who might have paid for his grave marker. His death was not reported in the local newspaper. That he has a marker at all is sort of amazing. Yet I’m sad that this is all that’s left to indicate he ever lived, as short of a life as it was.

Next time, I’ll be at Floyd Cemetery in Sioux City.

Civil War cannon and military grave markers at Onawa Cemetery.