Today I’m going to wrap up this two-part series on York, Nebraska’s Greenwood Cemetery. We ended up spending quite a bit of time there because not only is it well cared for, there’s a surprising variety of things to see.
Like many cemeteries, Greenwood has 911 memorial, a sadly common addition in recent years.
Wyuka Cemetery (in Lincoln) also has a 911 memorial. Greenwood’s is different in one way. It features an actual piece of a metal girder that came from the World Trade Center wreckage. While Wyuka’s is much larger, the girders they used did not come from there.
One monument I saw features a style I’ve seen in other cemeteries in other states. But it’s not one I see often. Cube-shaped monuments always puzzle me because they seem almost out of place in a cemetery due to their almost geometric coldness. The Tucker cube is fairly large and was carved from a colorful piece of stone. I can’t imagine how much it cost to purchase in 1924.
One web site I consulted said the cube represents the earth and earthly existence. Some monuments have a cube or square inverted to point the corners downward and upward. This illustrates earthly existence and the directions of earth and heaven.
A native of Illinois, James Tucker spent most of his life in that state. He served in the 11th Illinois Cavalry Volunteers, Company K, during the Civil War. This unit was organized in 1861 and was part of the action until the end of the war in 1865. The 11th took part in the Battles of Shiloh and Corinth, along with the Atlanta Campaign.
James returned to his father’s farm after the war. He didn’t marry Eva Nelson until he was 43 years old in 1887. Eva was 15 years his junior. By 1900, the Tuckers were living in York. They only had one child, Glenn. Eva died in 1909, only 11 years after he was born.
In 1910, James was stock farming while Glenn worked as a chauffeur for a local family. Glenn became a veterinary surgeon, serving in the U.S. Army during World War I in the Philippines and China. By 1920, James, Glenn and Glenn’s wife Lydia were living together in San Diego, Calif. James died in 1924. Glenn is buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, Calif.
The type of cube-shaped monument you’ve probably seen that is much more common are ones like this. They don’t stand on their own but rest on a base or are part of the monument as a whole. It’s possible the same person who made the Tucker cube made this one as well.
One monument got my attention by the simple decoration of a small arrow. I thought it might just be an artistic flourish but I later found that it was much more than that.
Vinnie Harrison Cowell lived in York probably all of her life. She was the daughter of Kate Harrison. According to the 1885 Nebraska Census, Vinnie was living with her mother (a widow), a brother and a sister (who was listed as attending college). The Harrison name appears often in York’s history and I’m not sure how they’re all related.
Sometime between 1885 and 1890, Vinnie married William Cowell. I could find nothing about him except that he contributed $250 toward the Methodist Episcopal College (also called Nebraska Methodist College in some texts) in York during the 1880s. Vinnie’s mother, Kate, contributed $500. From what I can tell, this seminary eventually became York College.
I believe Vinnie’s sister Anna may have attended the seminary but I’m not sure Vinnie herself did. The two were part of a group of women who unsuccessfully tried to start York’s first public library.
Vinnie, however, did have a small place in York history. She was among a group of ladies who were charter members of the Chi chapter of I.C. Sorosis, later known as Pi Beta Phi, founded at Nebraska Methodist College on July 5, 1884.
Pi Beta Phi was founded as a secret organization under the name of I.C. Sorosis in 1867 at Monmouth College in Illinois. It began to use Greek letters as its name in 1888. Pi Beta Phi is regarded as the first national women’s fraternity, starting when 12 female college students wanted to enjoy the benefits of a secret society similar to those formed by their male counterparts. Today, there are 208 chapters of Pi Beta Phi on college/university campuses across the country, with a membership of more than 300,000 women.
The arrow on Vinnie’s monument is the symbol of I.C. Sorosis. According to the Pi Beta Phi web page, the badge of I.C. Sorosis (chosen by founders in 1867) consisted of a golden arrow with the letters “IC” on its wings. Being a member must have been very important to her for it to be inscribed on her monument.
Sadly, Vinnie only lived to the age of 30. According to “The Arrow of Pi Beta Phi, Volumes 7-8”, she died of at her home of consumption (now known as tuberculosis). She is buried among other Harrisons at Greenwood, but I could not find a marker for her husband, William Cowell. Kate Harrison is listed as the plot’s owner but she is not buried there either.
The last monument I’d like to mention is not a traditional monument at all. It is more a tribute of a father’s love for his wife and two of his daughters. For years, its history was unknown until two students in the University of Nebraska School of Journalism became interested in the mystery in 1976.
Inside a tin and wood monument is a painting on tin of three women bearing a banner that says “We are waiting for Papa.” Beneath it, a small card reads: “This monument was made and placed here in 1898 by James Bauer, tinsmith, in memory of his wife, Theresa, and two daughters, Frances (Rice) and Rose (Marsden). Picture was painted by artist Mitchell Landusky, brother of Theresa Bauer.” Beneath that explanation, it reads “James Bauer—born Jan. 1, 1827, died—July 13, 1920.”
Theresa Bauer, who is in the middle, died of gall bladder disease in 1895 (25 years before James). Her two daughters died before she did. Rose died as a result of appendicitis in Boston, Mass., leaving two children. Frances died after a miscarriage in Cozad, while still in her 20s, after bearing three children.
At some point after Theresa’s death, James asked his brother-in-law, Mitchell Landusky, to create the painting in memory of his Theresa, Frances and Rose.
A native of the Alsace region in France, James Bauer was born in 1827. Although Theresa was born in Alsace in 1832, the couple didn’t meet until they came to the U.S. James arrived in America in the 1850s. He worked as a tinsmith in Kentucky and fought in the Civil War as a second lieutenant with the Fourth Kentucky Cavalry.
According to relatives, Theresa was known in the York area as “Grandmother Bauer,” and was one of the few nurses in the area. She often traveled many miles to treat her patients.
Including Frances and Rose, James and Theresa had nine children. Birthplaces of the children, according to census records, indicate the family moved from Kentucky to Indiana, and back to Kentucky, before arriving in Nebraska around 1871. Homestead records show he signed for a claim on June 13, 1878.
After Theresa died, James lived in Benedict with the family of his daughter, Lulu. His granddaughters remembered him as a “rather crotchety man,” who still had a French accent although he had lived in the U.S. for more than 50 years.
Having spent several hours at Greenwood Cemetery (and at times being buffeted by very strong winds), Christi and I decided to head to our next destination of Grand Island. We did stop at one more cemetery along the road before we got there, but I’ll save that for next time.