Herrrre’s Norfolk!: Johnny Carson and Nebraska’s Prospect Hill Cemetery

It was evening by the time we reached Norfolk. It’s about 85 miles Northeast of Central City, where we were driving from.

The next morning, we settled on seeing Prospect Hill Cemetery before heading out toward the former Norfolk State Hospital for the Insane and its cemeteries. You can read about that part of our trip here.

In late 1865, three scouts left from a German Lutheran settlement near Ixonia, Wisc. to find farmland they could claim under the Homestead Act. On September 15, they reached the junction of the Elkhorn River and its north fork, and chose that area as a settlement site. On July 15, 1866, 124 settlers in three wagon trains representing 42 families from the Ixonia area arrived. A second group from Wisconsin arrived in July 1867.

Map of Norfolk, Neb. from 1889. Photo source: World Maps Online.com.

Before we arrived in Norfolk, Christi told me to be sure to pronounce it “Nor-fork” instead of “Nor-folk” (like the city in Virginia) or I’d sound like an out-of-towner. I wondered about this until I read more about Norfolk.

The original name of the colony was a variant of “North Fork”, but accounts differ on the exact name: “Northfork”, “Nor’fork”, and “Nordfork” are all suggested. The name was submitted to federal postal authorities, and at some point was transmuted to “Norfolk”. So that’s the story behind the distinct pronunciation.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Norfolk’s population was 24,210. This makes it the ninth-largest city in Nebraska. Norfolk’s main claim to fame is one man: Tonight Show host and TV icon Johnny Carson.

John William “Johnny” Carson was born on Oct. 23, 1925, in Corning, Iowa to Homer Lloyd “Kit” Carson and Ruth Elizabeth Hook Carson. The family moved to Norfolk when Carson was eight. He was fascinated with magic. At age 12, Carson’s mother sewed him a cape, and his first performance was staged in front of the local Kiwanis Club. He debuted as “The Great Carsoni” at age 14 and was paid $3 a show.

Early publicity still of Johnny Carson.

After a stint in the U.S. Navy, Carson attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln to study journalism but switched to radio broadcasting. He ended up at WOW radio and television in Omaha in 1950. Carson hosted a morning TV program called The Squirrel’s Nest. One of his routines involved interviewing pigeons on the roof of the local courthouse that would allegedly report on the political corruption they had seen.

A few years later, Carson headed for California and his career took off from there. But he never forgot his Norfolk roots. I wish we’d had time to drive by his boyhood home. It was nearly destroyed when a man accidentally plowed into it with his SUV in 2011. But someone bought it in 2014 with plans to bring it back to its former glory.

A 1987 picture of Jimmy Stewart chatting with Johnny Carson. I loved watching those two together. Photo source: NBCU Photo Bank

Carson ended his run on the Tonight Show on May 22, 1992. Bette Middler, a singer I usually don’t like very much (please don’t hate me) sang “One For My Baby” to him. Like most of the country, I bawled my eyes out watching her pay tribute to a man who’d been part of my life ever since I could remember. He died on Jan. 23, 2005 and was cremated, so he is not buried at Propsect Hill (or any cemetery).

I found very little information about Prospect Hill Cemetery online. The original 10 acres were donated by the Hon. Samuel Storrs Cotton. A gentleman named James Y. Craig, then superintendent and landscape gardener for Omaha’s Forest Lawn Cemetery, remodeled the cemetery in the 1890s. According to the 1895 book I found this information in, the cemetery was then at about 30 acres. I don’t know what the current acreage is.

In a 1905 newspaper article, Samuel Storrs Cotton is referred to as “Col. Cotton” and as “one of the wealthiest landholders in the state of Nebraska.” He did serve in the last years of the Civil War but I don’t think he ever made it to colonel.

I unwittingly photographed Samuel Storrs Cotton’s monument while I was at Prospect Hill. From what I could piece together, the Connecticut native didn’t come to Nebraska until after 1880. He appears on the 1885 Nebraska Census with his daughter and other family members. He was 61 at the time and listed as a mill proprietor.

Because of that, I don’t think Prospect Hill was officially established until sometime after 1880 since he provided the land. I did see a marker with a burial date of 1870 so my thought is that the land was already being used as a cemetery. From Find a Grave, I saw it has around 6,800 burials recorded but I know there are more than that. It’s still an active cemetery.

One of the first things you see when you drive up into Prospect Hill is a large statue of Abraham Lincoln. The base says that it was dedicated in 1939 by the Women’s Relief Corps, relatives and friends to honor of Norfolk’s Civil War veterans.

Prospect Hill’s statue of Abraham Lincoln was dedicated in 1939. He could use a little TLC.

I liked the rugged simplicity of the DeFord monument for Dick and Gertrude DeFord.

The monument for Dick and Gertrude DeFord.

According to the 1920 U.S. Census, both Dick and Gertrude were photographers. Although they are buried in Norfolk, I can only find records that indicate they lived in Lincoln. A native of Illinois, Dick came to Nebraska with his parents when he was a child. He and Gertrude had one child, Dick Jr.

Photographer by day and jazz orchestra leader by night, Dick DeFord died at the age of 45.

According to many Lincoln newspaper ads I saw from the early 1920s, Dick was also a popular jazz orchestra leader. He appeared at many venues around Lincoln, traveling to Iowa and Kansas occasionally. He died at the age of 45. Gertrude lived on several more years and died at the age of 90 in 1872.

I did feel a tug on my heart when I saw the graves of the three Heath children. Andrew Warren Heath and Myrtle “Mertie” Sewell Heath were both Nebraska natives. They married in February 1909 and lived much of their lives in Battle Creek, not far from Norfolk.

Between 1916 and 1919, the Heaths had three children. All of them (as far as I can tell) died at birth.

Harold was the Heaths’ first-born son who died in 1917.

Daughter Helen was born and died in April 1917.

Randolph Heath died in February 1919.

I could find no children listed as living with them in any of the U.S. Census records. I don’t know if they had other children who died. Neither Mertie or Andrew have markers at Prospect Hill as far as I know. They both died in the 1970s.

Richard Lidmila’s monument is a simple cross but I haven’t seen one with two crossed tree logs like this one before.

Richard Lidmila’s sister, Elayne, lived to the age of 88. She is buried in another cemetery.

Born in 1927, Richard served in Germany during World War II. His twin sister, Elayne, died in 2015. I recently heard from Ramona Lidmila that the twins’ mother, Mary, died shortly after their birth. Richard died in 1947 from injuries he received in a motorcycle accident.

This one is a puzzler. No birth/death date. I found his name listed in a few newspaper articles as being selected to help with Norfolk elections. But that’s all I could find. He was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) No. 46 but my research indicates that camp was based in California.

W.H. Law’s marker indicates his IOOF affiliation but has no birth or death dates on it.

This small marker for Johney Farrell is in need to repair. He was only 18 months old when he died in 1893. His parents may be buried beside him but if so, their graves are unmarked.

“In loving remembrance of our boy…”

As we prepared to leave, I noticed there were a lot of Mullers buried in one area. Because my maiden name is Muller (what some might say are the Smith/Jones of Germany), I always get excited when I see it in cemeteries. I am related to Claars in Nebraska (whom I revisited in Blair the next day) but I don’t think any of my Muller relatives made it out that far.

At the same time, I felt it was my duty as a Muller to stop and wish them well before we left.

This is what your hair looks like after gusting winds hit you.

Next time, I’ll wrap up the Nebraska portion of my April 2016 trip at Blair Cemetery.


Nebraska’s Central City Cemetery: The “Dread Scourge” of 1882, Part II

Last week, I shared some stories about my visit to Central City Cemetery. A kind reader, Nancy Johnson, left a comment that filled in some of the gaps about the history and people I mentioned. She said the cemetery (established in 1877) was originally located on south Highway 14 on the west side of the street. Graves were moved from that location and from other small and private cemeteries.

If you want to learn more about Anna Holtorf and the Rev. Wesley Wilson (not Willson as inscribed on his monument), I’ve added Nancy’s information to the original blog post.

Jessie Baker’s monument has a little crown on it. I see many lambs, flowers and crosses on monuments but not crowns. Especially on a younger person’s marker. It made me curious to find out more.

Daughter of Ruben and Lurancy Baker, Jessie and her two brothers were born in Pennsylvania before coming to Central City. Eldest brother Burton was a school teacher while Mark taught music, according to the 1880 U.S. Census. Jessie was a bit younger than her brothers, who were both in their 20s. She was only 13 when she died.

Jessie Baker was a 13-year-old schoolgirl when she died in 1882. My apologies for the blurriness of the photo.

I don’t know what Jessie died of but her obituary indicates she was ill for several weeks. Fortunately, the person who created her Find a Grave memorial posted her obituary. I’ve read many similar to hers of young people who died in their teens:

Possessed of an active, cheerful, and affectionate nature, she was a great favorite with her schoolmates, while her earnest and studious disposition gained her the love and esteem of her teachers. Her courage and cheerfulness never flagged during her sickness, and this fact gave hope of her recovery almost to the end.

Ruben Baker’s profession was listed as “tombstone agent” in the 1885 Nebraska Census. Perhaps that’s why he was able to purchase this monument featuring a crown motif, which I don’t often see for younger people.

On the 1885 Nebraska Census, Ruben Baker’s profession is listed as “tombstone agent.” This was not always a full-time job but was combined with others and he was primarily a farmer.

In reading the obituaries of others buried at Central City, fall 1882 through 1883 was a year in which many children in Central City died of diphtheria. It’s a disease you don’t hear about in the U.S. now because it’s so incredibly rare. Between 2004 and 2015, 2 cases of diphtheria were recorded in the U.S.

Immunization against diphtheria began in the 1920s but before then, it killed thousands. The U.S. recorded 206,000 cases of diphtheria in 1921, resulting in 15,520 deaths.

One family that truly suffered during that 1882-1883 diphtheria outbreak was the Persons family. The photo below of the Harrison E. Persons family plot was taken by Ann Berry for Find a Grave. I tried to piece together the timeline of children and birth/death dates, but if I have made an error, please let me know.

The grave stones for six of Harrison E. and Chrissie J. Persons’ children. Three died of diphtheria. The parents’ stones are on the left and right of the tree monument. Photo source: Ann Berry, Find a Grave.

In 1871, Harrison W. and Mary Fish Persons moved from their native Vermont to Central City with their large family (some already adults). Three of their sons were Fred, Harry V. and Harrison E. Harrison (the elder) built a small general merchandise store in Central City that he later expanded.

In 1876, Harrison E. married Chrissie Jane Burk, who came from Ohio to Central City with her parents Henry and Lucinda Burk. By 1880, Harrison E. and Chrissie had two children, Jessie, 2, and Franklin “Frankie”, 1. In November 1880, a daughter, Hattie was born. She died on January 15, 1881 from unknown causes.

Sadly, most of the branches on the Persons family tree were cut far too soon. In cemetery motifs, ferns convey frankness, humility, and sincerity.

Frankie died of diphtheria on Dec. 26, 1882. On Jan. 6, little Percy (who was only 10 months old) died of diphtheria as well. Finally, on Jan. 9, Jessie died at the age of five years, 2 months and 22 days. All of Harrison E. and Chrissie’s children were gone.

The Central City Courier noted the Persons’ overwhelming loss:

Of the many who have been lately bereaved by that dread scourge, none more richly deserve the sympathy of the community than the family of H.E. Persons upon whom the hand of affliction has fallen with rapid strokes, until their home has been left utterly childless. The father and mother have watched and hoped…that their household might pass unscathed by the destroyer. The entire community, many of whom have lately stood agonized and helpless at the bedside of their own little ones, sympathize deeply with Mr. and Mrs. Persons in their affliction.

Amid their sadness, the couple adopted a baby named Charlie who would die a few months later in September 1883 (not of diphtheria). Chrissie gave birth to a boy, Willie, in 1887, but he died in 1891 for unknown reasons.

Cholera infantum (more often dysentery) was once a common killer of infants in the summer months. It shouldn’t be confused with Asiatic cholera, often caused by unclean water. Notice printed in the Sept. 20, 1883 Central City Courier.

Brother Fred and his wife, Jennie, were also hit by tragedy during the “dread scourge”. Their children, Bertha and George, died within days of each other in October 1882.

Brother Harry and his wife, also named Jennie, lost children as well. According to the Central City Nonpareil, the first child who died on Nov. 26 was not named. The item read: “A two-year-old child of Harry Persons died of diphtheria Sunday evening, was buried Monday. Two other members of the family are sick with the same disease.”

Lizzie Persons was only four when she died during the “scourge” of 1882.

Their daughter, Lizzie, died on Dec. 1 at the age of four of diphtheria.

Harrison E. died only a year after Willie in 1892. I could only find one other mention of Chrissie, who was living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1917 according to a city directory. She died in 1929. She is buried with her husband and their children. Harry V. died in 1906 and Fred died in 1926. All of them are buried at Central City Cemetery.

Chrissie Persons is buried with her family. She outlived all of them.

There are countless others who died during that tragic period that are buried at Central City Cemetery. Some of their graves are marked but I’m certain there are even more that are unmarked.

Near the end of our visit, I caught sight of a monument that I wanted to look at more closely. I’ve written about these “baby on a half shell” monuments in the past. They fascinate me because they were popular during the later Victorian era and some of them are intricately carved.

Markers such as these were often purchased by families who had lost several children but did not have individual markers.

Looking through my pictures, I could not find any specific markers for individual children near this monument. But that isn’t unusual. Many times, a family simply purchased one monument to represent all of their children who died. I don’t know if these children died during the 1882 diphtheria outbreak, but it’s possible.

As we left Central City Cemetery, I thought of how I could have spent several more hours there. I also thought about the Persons family, the children who died of an illness that is now easily prevented by a vaccine. How I take for granted that I don’t have to worry about my own son falling prey to it.

It’s a blessing I thank the Lord for as he grows up.

Civil War monument at Central City Cemetery. Nebraska was a territory during the Civil War but became a state in 1867.

Nebraska’s Central City Cemetery: Two Precious Gems and a Lone Tree, Part I

When doing research for this post, I again concluded that in those pioneer days you had to be realistic about death. Sometimes it left you alone for several decades. Maybe you could make it to middle age. But more often, it stole little children or young adults just entering their prime.

With over 5,400 marked graves and room for another 1,500, Central City Cemetery is located on Highway 14, just north of town amid wide fields. I was initially unable to find out what year it was established but it’s definitely old. After I published this post, kind reader Nancy Johnson contacted me to say that the cemetery was originally located on south Highway 14 on the west side of the street. Graves were moved from that location and from other small and private cemeteries.

Central City Cemetery is well maintained. A directory near the front gate is available if you are searching for a particular grave.

With a current population a little under 3,000, Central City is the county seat of Merrick County. Before settlers arrived, the land was home to the Pawnee. Rival Pawnee tribes, the Chaui and the Skidi, frequently skirmished over the territory.

Organized in 1864, the county was named for Elvira Merrick, maiden name of the wife of territorial legislator Henry W. DePuy, who introduced the bill that created it. Naming places after the maiden names of the wives of prominent pioneers seems to be a trend in Nebraska, I am finding.

Central City was originally called Lone Tree. The first pioneers passed through the area via the Mormon Trail in 1847, and later on the Oregon Trail and the California Trail. This location was close to a huge cottonwood tree, called Lone Tree, that the pioneers used as a landmark.

This monument was erected in 1911 in memory of the “lone tree” that marked the Mormon and California Trails.

The lone tree died in 1863 and was blown over due to a storm in 1865. Part of the trunk was taken to Lone Tree train station and placed on the depot platform. Over time, fragments were carried away by tourists until it disappeared. In 1911, they erected a granite monument to honor the original tree. About 30 years later, another cottonwood tree was planted at the original tree’s location next to the granite monument.

Lone Tree became Central City in 1875. This is an undated picture of a view of 17th Avenue from H Street.

In 1875, some residents petitioned to have the town’s name changed from Lone Tree to Central City. Those in favor argued that the name Lone Tree gave the impression that the area was desolate and inhabitants were poor and uncivilized, limiting the growth of the area. Opponents thought Lone Tree portrayed a “beautiful spot and is a name dear to the pioneers.”

On July 1, 1875, the name was officially changed to from Lone Tree to Central City. People have been calling it that ever since.

I could (initially) find no information about Anna Holtorf.

One of the first graves I noticed was that of Anna Holtorf, who died at the age of 21. She’s one of 13 recorded Holtofs buried at Central City Cemetery. Initially, I could find no information about Anna because I didn’t know her maiden name.

Nancy let me know that she was originally Anna Barta, the daughter of immigrants John and Anna LaPour Barta. She married Ludwig Carsten Holtorf and they had a son, Henry, in October 1922. Anna died only a few months later in July 1923. Her sister Sophie and brother Edward, who lived much longer lives, are buried beside her.

I don’t see many portraits on older markers in Nebraska. This one was from Dedo, the respected Chicago firm that’s over 100 years old and still in operation. Nancy told me that until recent years, Anna’s was the only monument at Central City that had such a portrait on it.

Anna Holtorf was only 21 when she died. She died a few months after the birth of her son, Henry.

I especially liked the McCollister monument for its rustic simplicity. Nancy informed me that the stones were from Colorado. A monument much like it is at Bureau Cemetery, also in Merrick County.

The pinkish stone at the top right intrigues me most.

I’ve featured many children’s graves in my blog posts and this one is no exception. So it’s especially interesting to find a marker for someone who lived quite a long life. Mercy Martindale Nicholson Thorn qualifies.

Mercy was born in 1798 in Vermont and spent the first 30 years of her life there. She married Henry Nicholson in 1819 (she was 21) and together they had seven children. Five of them lived long lives like she did. By 1828, the Nicholsons had moved to Pennsylvania.

Henry died in 1837. Mercy married Richard Thorn, a veteran of the Mexican War, in 1843. By 1860, they were living in Iowa with Mercy’s daughter Mary Conner and her family. At this point, Richard was 74 and Mercy was 62. By 1880, they had moved with the Conners to Santa Barbara, Calif. Richard died in 1884 and is buried in California.

A native of Vermont, Mercy moved to Pennsylvania to Iowa to California and finally to Nebraska, where she died five days later.

Mercy and the Connors moved to Central City in March 1889. She died only a few days later.  Her obituary states: “Mrs. Thorn came to this city from California five days before her death with her son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Conner, with the intention of making her home with them in this county.”

It must had been quite sad for the Conners to bury Mary’s mother only a few days after reaching their new home.

When I saw the white bronze (which is actually zinc) monument for the two Holden girls, I knew there had to be a story behind it. Such a grand marker for two children is not common.

This lovely white bronze monument is in memory of Josie and Chloe Holden, who died within just a few days of each other.

A native of Canada, James G. Holden moved to Wisconsin after his father died. At 17, he joined the Wisconsin 13th Infantry, Company K, and fought for the Union for most of the Civil War. He married Mary Josephine “Josie” Bradt in 1870. Soon after, they moved to Nebraska and started a family. By 1880, he was serving as the county clerk of Merrick County. Sadly, death would visit them three times during the 1880s.

In May 1882, scarlet fever invaded the Holden home. On May 21, four-year-old Chloe Holden died. According to a newspaper article: “The family of Treasurer Holden is sorely afflicted. The remaining five children are all down with scarlet fever, and two, Josie and Hattie, are quite dangerously sick. It is to be devoutly hoped that this scourge may pass over without further loss of life.”

This was the initial marker made for little Josie. The white bronze monument was likely ordered and arrived months later.

Hattie survived but six-year-old Josie did not, dying on May 27. A different newspaper article stated: “Thus twice within a week has death entered this household and carried from it two precious gems. Certainly it is a deep and sad affliction and calls forth unbounded sympathy.”

Mother Josie gave birth to a final child, Raymond, in February 1889. But he died a little over a year later. I don’t know the cause of his death.

Not far away is another white bronze marker for the Rev. Wesley Wilson and his twin sons, William and Edward. Nancy, who has transcribed some of Rev. Wilson’s journals, told me that the spelling of “Willson” on the monument was an error.

The white bronze monument for Rev. Wesley Wilson and his twin sons, William and Edward.

A native of Illinois, Wesley Wilson was the oldest son of Henry Wilson and Harriet Breckon Willson. Born in 1854, he was an ordained Methodist minister. He married Julia Ann Russell in 1880. According to the Nebraska Census, they had two children, Walter and Charles, by 1885. His parents had moved to Nebraska to be with them.

I believe this to be a portrait of Methodist minister Wesley Wilson.

There were many traveling ministers in these pioneer days, evidenced by the “United Methodist Minister” seal on the Willson marker. He is listed as having served as a pastor at Loup City Methodist Church from 1882 to 1883, which is about an hour west of Central City. Nancy told me he was also one of the first pastor’s of Central City’s Fairview Methodist church.

Nancy also told me Wesley’s health was poor from the time he was a child. I found a short biography of him in a United Methodist annual conference book:

“He entered upon the year’s work with great zeal, laboring beyond his strength, riding and preaching while enduring great suffering. The last part of the year he was compelled to cease almost wholly from labor He continued to steadily decline, but did not give up the hope of recovery until very near the last. When convinced that he must die, he calmly submitted to the will of God, saying ‘It is alright.'”

It was not uncommon for Methodist ministers to cover a great deal of territory on a single horse, preaching in small towns along the way.

Before Wesley died, Julia had given birth to twin sons William and Edward on Jan. 29, 1886. William died a few days later on Feb. 2 ,1886. Wesley died on April 2, 1886. Little Edward died on May 14, 1886.

A woman clings to a cross, a motif seen often on older monuments.

A small news item remarked:

“Last week the remains of the late Rev. Wesley Willson and the two twins were taken up from the Henry Willson farm and taken to the cemetery at Central City were the graves could be appropriately decorated and marked as the sacred resting place of the loved ones.”

Julia married George Gagle (Nancy’s grandfather) a year later and they had at least five children together. George died in 1907. The 1920 Census lists Julia as a widow living with her son, William, and her daughter, Nellie (who was a teacher). Julia died in 1940 and is buried beside the monument shared by her first husband, Wesley, and their twin sons. George is buried with his first wife, Martha, in Burke Cemetery.

Despite the loss of a husband and twin sons, Julia remarried and had five more children.

There are more stories to share from Central City Cemetery. I hope you’ll come back to read them in Part II.

A Touch of Denmark: Stopping by St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery

My Nebraska posts usually focus on cemeteries established by communities. Today I’m going to share about my visit to St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery in Kronborg, Neb. The cemetery may be located beside a church, but it’s been at the heart of the community since it began.

Kronborg is a tiny settlement in Hamilton County, about three miles from the nearest town of Marquette.  St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery is also referred to as Kronborg Cemetery because the church and the community are so intertwined.

More than 300,000 Danes came to America in the late 1800s and early 1900s, a small fraction of the total European emigration. At the same time, that number was about 10 percent of the population of Denmark in 1900. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

When you wander through Kronborg Cemetery, you can see Danish words on several of the monuments. The Danish name for the church is actually St. Johannes Danske Lutherske Kirke. Until the 1960s, St. John’s pastors were all native to Denmark.

The iron arch/sign over the entrance was made in 1900 after a disastrous tornado wiped out the original church. During our visit, the roof was getting some much needed repairs.

Thanks to information in the church’s National Register of Historic Places application, I learned more about Kronborg’s history. These documents are great for finding out not only architectural facts but the events that took place there.

The first Danes to arrive in the early 1870s established homesteads along Lincoln Creek, north of the present town of Hampton. Soon, Danish immigrants began settling in the Marquette and Kronborg area.

Kronborg didn’t actually get its name until 1909 when it was named after Kronborg Castle in Helsingør, Sjaeland, Denmark. Shakespeare enthusiasts know that Kronborg Castle served as Elsinore in the British playwright’s famous Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Elsinore is the anglicized name of the surrounding town of Helsingør.

Construction of Kronborg Castle began in the 1420, under the rule of Danish King Eric VII. Kronborg is known to many as Elsinore, the setting of Shakespere’s Hamlet.

Kronborg’s residents had a great admiration for famous Danish religious leader, poet and historian Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig. Born in 1783, Grundtvig was the son of a Lutheran pastor. He developed an educational philosophy that served as the foundation for Denmark’s folk schools and he favored more inclusive religious themes  (called Grundtvigianism).

While the community wanted to embrace all the aspects of their new home, it was clear they would never forget their Danish roots and wanted to keep them alive.

Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig’s influence on Danish religious and educational institutions was felt far beyond his homeland. Portrait by Constantin Hansen.

Kronborg’s first church was completely destroyed on May 27, 1899 when a tornado swept through the area. You might remember my previous post on Plainfield Cemetery in Bradshaw, Neb., a town destroyed by a tornado in June 1890.

In the June 3, 1899 issue of the Hamilton County Register, someone wrote: “The Danish Lutheran church, costing $3,000, with its fine parsonage, school building, barn and cemetery, was left an utter wreck.” Photo source: Laura Mattingly, Pinterest.

St. John’s congregation quickly rebuilt. The present church, designed in the High Victorian Gothic style, and some of its outbuildings were completed in August 1900. Details include pointed arched windows and door openings, with decorative border trim along the eaves. Colored and stained glass windows are featured inside.

Unfortunately, workmen were making repairs to the roof of the church during our visit and we couldn’t go inside. My pictures of the outside were taken at more of a distance than I would have liked but I didn’t want to get hit by a stray shingle by getting too close.

It only took local carpenter Carl Jensen a little over a year to build a new church building in Kronborg. You can see the construction equipment to the right side of the church.

Side view of the church.

Interior of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. I found the picture on Pinterest.

One key group that formed at the church was the Ladies Aid Society, formed in 1883. It was headed by Jensine Bodholdt, wife of St. John’s first pastor, Knud Clausen Bodholdt, who served from 1882 to 1887. Her grave is surrounded by an iron railing with a stone noting her leadership.

Wife of St. John’s first pastor, Jensine Bodholdt was president of the first Ladies Aid Society.

The inscription on Jensine Bodholdt’s monument is in English and Danish.

As I mentioned earlier, many of the markers in St. John’s Cemetery have Danish inscriptions. You can see this in the Jensen family marker.

Lauritz Jensen became an American citizen in 1872, having come from Denmark to Wisconsin. He married Maren “Minnie” the same year. She also came from Denmark and became a citizen in 1867. They had their first two children, Lauritz Jr. and Tekla, in Wisconsin before moving to Nebraska.

Lauritz and Minnie Jensen met and married in Wisconsin after emigrating to America from Denmark.

Also, on either side of it, are the Danish equivalents of “mother” and “father” (“moder” and “fader”).

The Danish equivalent of “father” is “fader”.

The Danish equivalent of “mother” is “moder.”

You can also see the names of the Danish towns where many of Kronborg’s residents were originally born on their markers. An example of this is the Eriksen family.

Morten Eriksen was born in 1839 in Bjorup, Denmark. He married Maren Kirstine Born in the 1860s. She was from Falster, Denmark, a town only 10 miles away. They didn’t emigrate to America until 1882. By that time, they already had three children.

Morten Eriksen was born in Bjorup, Denmark in 1839. Bjorup is about 85 miles south of Copenhagen.

A native of Falster, Denmark, Maren Kirstine Born Eriksen outlived her husband by four years. She died in Omaha, Neb. but is buried in St. John’s Cemetery.

Morten died in 1917 and Maren went to live with her daughter, Emma, who lived with her husband in Omaha and had four children. Maren died in Omaha in 1921 but is buried at St. John’s with Morten. Son Carl is also buried there.

Upon first glance, the Larsen monument has some of the motifs you’d see in an older marker. The cross within the crown above the gates of Heaven is a common one, as is the log on top (a life cut short). But if you look closer, the condition would indicate it is fairly recent. My thought is that the original may have been damaged and they had a replacement made.

The Larsen family didn’t emigrate to America until Anders and Dorthe were in their 50s.

Born in 1827 in Guldager, Denmark, Anders Christian Larsen and his wife, Dorothe Kirstine Larsen, didn’t emigrate to America until 1879. Their four children had already been born.

The inscription on the front of the monument is in Danish so I couldn’t make out what it said. I tried Google translate but some of the words didn’t translate well. I welcome anyone who knows Danish to to share their thoughts with me about it.

I could not get a good translation of the Danish inscription on the Larsen monument.

Amid the older Danish inscripted monuments were also many modern ones, sharing the affiliations and pursuits of those they represent.

Raymond Steven Kelso was a lifelong Navy man. According to his obituary, he entered the U.S. Navy in December 1941. He served in the Pacific Theater during World War II and also served in Korea and Vietnam. He retired from the military in 1968.

Ray Kelso spent nearly 30 years of his life in service to the U.S. Navy.

It’s on the back of his marker that you can see his Navy ties. I don’t know the name of this ship. But by going on Ancestry.com, I found out he did serve on the U.S.S. Chandeleur during World War II, a seaplane tender.

The U.S.S. Chandeleur was a seaplane tender during World War II in the Pacific Theater.

The back of Raymond Kelso’s marker has a ship etched on the back of it. I don’t know the name of it.

The marker for Patty Jo “Pat” Williamsen caught my eye as we were leaving because of the unique picture on her marker. I did not get a very good picture of it, but you can see she is sitting with two turkeys she bagged while hunting. Her obituary shared that fishing, hunting and kayaking were her hobbies.

A wife and mother of three, Pat enjoyed fishing, hunting and kayaking.

Kronborg was not on my original itinerary so we had to make some extra time to get there and return to our original route. But the effort to visit was well worth it. This small Danish enclave has a rich history that is far from over, as its church and cemetery clearly show.

I have seen this particular style of sundial in many cemeteries. But it never fails to make me smile.

Unique Finds: Exploring Nebraska’s Grand Island City Cemetery, Part II

Last week, I shared some of Grand Island’s history and reviewed some unique markers/features at Grand Island City Cemetery. Today, I’m starting with a stunning story. One unlike any I’ve ever read concerning a family I researched. There’s only one that comes close.

I photographed the grave of Heinrich “Henry” Egge as an example of the many German markers at Grand Island, a town founded by German immigrants. His marker indicates he was “geb” (short for “geborener” meaning born) in 1830 and “gest” (short for “gestorben” meaning died) in 1879. He was only 49 when he died.

This monument marks the grave of Heinrich “Henry” Egge, a German immigrant and Grand Island pioneer.

A native of Holstein, Germany, Henry Egge was among its earliest settlers. He wrote a diary about his experience of leaving Hamburg, Germany for New York City with his wife, Augusta, out to Iowa, then his journey to Grand Island with one of the groups that visited. Peter Stuhr, another Grand Island pioneer, was a close friend. Henry became a prosperous farmer and was active in town life.

A portrait of Heinrich “Henry” Egge. His diary of his journey from Germany to America then Grand Island is a valuable piece of American history. Photo source: Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer

At some point in the 1890s, the Egge family’s financial situation took a blow. Funds tied up in a bank that had recently failed sent Henry’s widow and children into a tailspin.  Eldest Egge daughter, Adele, who was 25, was most deeply affected.

On the morning of Dec. 28, 1893, Adele rose and made breakfast, baking cakes. Younger sister Margaret joined her sister, who was eating the cakes she’d made. After taking a few bites, Margaret commented about their bitter taste. Adele smiled and revealed she’d put strychnine in the cake batter and (as a news article noted) that “it was better thus for all of them.”

Horrified, Margaret ran for a doctor who quickly dosed her with an emetic to induce vomiting. But by the time he arrived at the Egge house, Adele was taking her last breaths when she managed to tell him “she was glad she and her sister were out of misery but was sorry her mother and brother had not partaken of the deadly food.”

This headline of this article about Adele Egge’s suicide and attempted murder of her family ran in the St. Paul Daily Globe. Several other newspapers printed similar stories.

Fortunately, Augusta and her son, Otto, didn’t eat the cakes and Margaret survived her ordeal. But it devastated the family. Adele is buried somewhere in Grand Island City Cemetery without a marker. I suspect she is next to her father, Henry.

Was the Egge family’s financial situation so dire that Adele thought suicide was the only solution? Most of the articles I found were the same but one written for the Lincoln Daily News hinted that Adele had become “mentally deranged” as a result and caused her to commit the unthinkable act.

Augusta and Margaret moved to Lincoln by 1900. But by the 1920s, Augusta and all of her children (Margaret, Herman and Otto) had moved west to Orange County, Calif. The family (including wives and children) are buried in Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana, Calif.

German graves (not just at Grand Island City Cemetery) are often marked with the stones “Mutter” and “Vater” for “Mother” and “Father.”

“Mutter” for Mother

“Vater” for Father

Two metal markers got my attention, one for the Peterson family and the other for a Fanny Bouquett.

P.O. and Marie Peterson share this unique metal grave marker.

I found little about either family (they seem connected by marriage) so I don’t know who made the markers. Perhaps someone in the families was an iron worker. They look to be in fairly good shape considering P.O. Peterson died in 1898, Marie died in 1920 and Fanny Bouquett in 1910.

The marker for Fanny Bouquett’s grave

Another marker I admired was for John and Wiebke Neubert. I’ve seen a number of things carved on markers, from angels to crosses to pointing fingers. And there’s a Bible on top of this one, a common motif. But this is the first one I’ve seen with a water wheel and a mill.

This mill scene is unusual for a monument.

John and Wiebke Neubert were also German immigrants from Holstein, becoming American citizens in 1872. Did they have a mill in Grand Island? Or perhaps in Holstein? Perhaps one of their children commissioned it. Either way, it’s beautifully carved.

A closer view of the Neubert monument.

The monument for Minerva Merrick has the same base and similar script as the Neubert monument , so the same carver probably did this one as well. The motif of the woman clinging to a cross is not unusual but I think whomever did this particular marker executed it with better skill than many I have seen.

The image of a woman clinging to a cross is often associated with the classic hymn, “Rock of Ages.” A person or soul who is lost in a sea of sin, whose only hope is to cling to Christ’s cross.

There were a few oddly shaped ones as well that I don’t often see, especially the one that looks like an egg.

The Houck monument features a pyramid top. That’s Christi in the background.

The Baker monument looks almost prehistoric to me for some reason.

The last items I’m going to talk about aren’t monuments or markers at all. These are urns/planters and you can find them in a lot of older cemeteries. Sometimes they are in poor condition, but others stand the test of time pretty well. I could devote an entire blog post to this sub-genre of cemetery architecture by itself.

On the northern half of Grand Island City Cemetery, I found two green urns with some cool carvings on the sides.

I don’t know what material this urn is made out of or the paint used.

These urns are a total mystery to me. Age, material, symbolism…all of them are a blank. What does the image of a bearded man with wings and a sunburst mean? Is it God? Your guess is as good as mine. But I like them very much.

What a face! Is it a Greek god? Or God? I wish I knew.

Across the road on the southern half of the cemetery, I found this cast iron planter. I’ve seen a few of these before but had not seen markings on them. This one, while quite rusted, has the maker’s mark on it: C.E. Walbridge, Buffalo, N.Y.

This is a Walbridge & Co. cast iron garden planter, made in the late 1800s.

The cast iron planter is signed here.

As it turns out, Walbridge & Co. was who you turned to for garden planters and urns in the second half of the 1800s. Charles E. Walbridge, son of a prominent Buffalo, N.Y. businessman, was a Civil War hero who served in the the 100th Regiment New York Volunteers, Co. H. By the war’s end, he was a Lieutenant Colonel. Walbridge returned to working for his former employer at a hardware store in Buffalo before opening one of his own in 1869. His brother, Harry, joined him in the business later.

An 1895 receipt from Walbridge & Co. Wholesale Hardware in Buffalo, N.Y. The building still stands today.

By 1884, Walbridge & Co. was doing well, selling a wide variety of items. I found a picture of a kitchen scale they sold. But what pops up today are garden urns and planters of a wide variety of style and size. They often appear on auction sites or gardening antique specialty stores. I found a lot of pictures of reconditioned and original urns/planters.

These two Walbridge urns are being sold by Aileen Minor Garden Antiques and Decorative Arts (Centreville, Md.). You can call them to get the price. Photo source: Aileen Minor website.

The cost of such items today is hard to put a figure on. But I found a pair of planters similar to the one at Grand Island City Cemetery (minus the tall stands and in better condition) on a website for $1,495. I found a much more ornate one that sold for $3,000. Someone with more gardening wisdom than myself would have a better idea on today’s pricing. But in the right condition, I imagine they can fetch quite a high price.

I left Grand Island City Cemetery feeling very pleased, as I often do after visiting a cemetery that features styles and items (such as the pergolas) that I’ve not seen before. Such unique finds always make me eager for my next cemetery hopping adventure.

Interior of the Brown family mausoleum.


Unique Finds: Exploring Nebraska’s Grand Island City Cemetery, Part I

With a population of around 50,000, Grand Island is the fourth largest city in Nebraska. Located about 90 miles west of Lincoln, it’s home to the Nebraska State Fair.

Grand Island got its name from the French La Grande Ile, referring to a large island in the Platte River. Inhabited by the Pawnee, fur traders (many of them French) probably discovered the island in the late 1700s. Travelers heading west noted it in their journals. Hall County’s first settlers came in 1857 when three Iowa-based businessmen saw the economic potential of a town near Grand Island, speculating that the Union Pacific Railroad would soon follow. And they were right.

While that initial venture went bankrupt, the 37 German settlers hired to start Grand Island (as a city) stayed. Most of them came from the area of the German-Danish border, Schleswig-Holstein. It explains why some of the grave markers we saw were inscribed in German.

Grand Island’s business district during the 1890s. You can see the Michelson Building and its distinctive clocktower in the background. It was built around that time and still stands today (minus the clocktower). Photo source: Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer.

Oddly enough, La Grande Ile ceased to exist not long after Grand Island was incorporated in 1872. It happened when the north channel of the Platte River was dammed to prevent the yearly flooding of crops. So if you’re visiting Grand Island with the hope of seeing a real island, you’re going to be disappointed.

Grand Island’s downtown area was pretty busy when we were there. If you’re looking for some tasty pizza, give the Wave Pizza Company a shot.

Despite the fact it’s landlocked, Grand Island does have a resident shark at the Wave Pizza Co.

Grand Island is home to the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer. Christi and I spent a number of hours visiting. It even has a replica 1890 railroad village you can walk around. It includes the home of actor Henry Fonda, who spent the first six months of his life (1905) in Grand Island. Fonda himself paid for the house to be moved to the grounds of the Stuhr Museum so it would always be taken care of properly.

Henry Fonda only lived in this home for six months before his family moved to Omaha.

Grand Island City Cemetery was established in the 1860s with George Thummel and William Platt as owners of about 20 acres. In May 1897, the Grand Island City Council approved a “New Cemetery” north of Stolley Park Road. It was then that the city took control of the Thummel-Platt Cemetery.

Record keeping prior to 1897 was poor, showing only the purchaser of the lot, and no burial information. The oldest marker found is for Sarah Shoemaker, who died on July 6, 1863.

Covering 90 acres, the current cemetery is split by busy Stolley Park Road. The northern half is the older part and was well planned.

I noticed at least two pergolas built on family plots, something I haven’t seen in a cemetery before. They provide a shady place to sit and visit. I wonder if it’s a local tradition of some sort.

A pergola offers shade to the Mayer family plot. Arthur Cleveland Mayer was a prominent attorney in Grand Island.

The pergola for the Ross plot is covered in vines, unlike the Mayer one.

In my earlier post about Aurora Cemetery, I talked about the Blizard family monument’s unusual style. I’d seen a few at Atlanta’s Westview Cemetery as well. At Grand Island, there are two monuments that while not as tall or dramatic as the Blizard monument, share this motif.

The first one is for the Dahlstrom family. A native of Sweden, Charles August Dahlstrom came to America as a young man in the 1870s, spending a few years in Boston then Omaha. But he found true success in Grand Island as a farmer. He died in 1910.

The Dahlstrom monument makes you think it was unfinished but that’s not the case.

An identical monument marks the Dudey family plot. A native of New York, Alonzo Dudey spent several years farming in Kansas until his first wife, Janet, died. He moved to Grand Island not much later and married again, to Irene Elizabeth “Lizzie” Hoes. Alonzo died in 1937.

The Dahlstrom and Dudey monuments are pretty much the same.

Because I couldn’t remember what this motif meant, I consulted Tui Snyder’s blog as she is a great resource for all things cemetery. According to her, half-carved stones signify that while we may do many great things while on Earth, there’s more to learn and do in the afterlife. So we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back about how much we did when we were alive. O the soul level we have a lot more “polishing” of our rough edges to do.

There’s a 27-year gap between the deaths of Charles Dahlstrom and Alonzo Dudey. But I don’t know when either monument was purchased and placed. Regardless, both families clearly liked the style and chose it for their families.

I mentioned Lizzie Hoes Dudey earlier, and near the Dudey plot is the Hoes family vault. I admit it, I giggled at the name! But the vault itself is worth pointing out because of its tile work. The intricate nature of the green and white tiles must have been placed by hand.

The intricate tiled design of the Hoes family vault is unique.

You can get a better look at the tiles in this picture.

While some of the tiled sections are being encroached upon by weeds and there’s a large crack, I think it’s held up amazingly well. Sadly, the inscription on the top is almost impossible to read because it’s so faded.

The vault was made for Irene’s Uncle Albert Hoes and his wife, Margaret. Lizzie’s father, John Hamilton Hoes, must have been very close with his brother Albert. Census records indicate that younger brother Albert headed to California during the 1880s gold rush. John, his wife Melvina, and their children joined him there. Albert married Margaret McBride in California during this time.

The brothers’ fortunes must not have improved much because by 1883, both were in Grand Island, Neb. While John and Melvina had 12 children (including Lizzie), Albert and Margaret adopted at least one daughter (Mary) and possibly a son. The brothers became farmers and did quite well.

Irene Hoes Dudey’s father, James H. Hoes, and her mother, Melvina. James followed his younger brother, Albert, to California then Nebraska. Photo source: Compendium of History, Reminiscence and Biography of Western Nebraska

Albert died in 1926 from injuries he received in a fall off of a ladder. He is the only one buried in the Hoes vault because Margaret moved to California. The 1930 Census lists her as living in a lumber camp and working as a nurse. She died in 1942. Although her name and birthdate were inscribed on the Hoes vault, her death date is empty. Margaret is buried in Placerville Cemetery in Eldorado, Calif.

I  don’t know why the date 1914 is on this vault since Albert didn’t die until 1926. My guess is that he purchased the plot at that time and ordered the vault to be built then.

Our final unique find is the Clinger family vault. It got my attention because there’s none like it in the cemetery. I can’t tell what material it’s made out of, but I’m thinking perhaps concrete or plaster. But it does not look like stone to me.

The Clinger family plot’s monument is rather unusual because it doesn’t seem to be made of stone.

Elmer and Edith Clinger are the only two people buried in the vault. I couldn’t find much information about them. Elmer (a machinist) served on the Grand Island City Council in 1907 and 1908. The Clingers had one daughter, Helen, who married and is buried at Grand Island City Cemetery as well. Elmer died in 1951.

After Edith died in 1932, Elmer married Amanda Koehler. She was 39 years his junior. She died in 1970. Amanda is buried at Grand Island City Cemetery with her second husband, Richard Schmidt.

The marble plates on the floor of the monument are marble, with metal plates inscribed with the names. The middle plate tells us it was built in 1920, 12 years before Edith died. Like Albert, Elmer was thinking ahead.

Next week, we’ll explore Grand Island City Cemetery a bit more and I’ll share some more of my unique finds.

Nebraska’s Aurora Cemetery: “A Spot of Earth That We Can Call Our Own”

Having left Plainfield Cemetery, I looked on the Find a Grave app (very handy indeed!) to see what else might be on the way to Grand Island. I saw that nearby Aurora boasted a sizable cemetery worth seeing. So after driving into town, we headed north and about a mile away was Aurora Cemetery.

Entrance to Aurora Cemetery, established in the late 1870s.

There’s one thing I’d like to address right off the bat. I wasn’t aware of it until recently that Aurora Cemetery is popular among the paranormal crowd because of the legend of the witch supposedly buried at its far corner. I didn’t know about it so I didn’t visit the grave.

As it turns out, the legend is totally false. The woman some claim was a witch, Susan Gavan, was not. She was simply a wife and mother who died at the age of 40, leaving a husband and several children. But because her marker is chained off (like some graves I’ve seen over the years) and at the far edge of the cemetery, the legend grew. Kids still apparently visit the grave on Halloween and dare each other to step on it.

Like almost every Nebraska cemetery I’ve ever seen, Aurora is well maintained. I wish all states cared for their dead this well.

How the town of Aurora came to be is interesting in itself. A group of seven men from Lucas County, Iowa were keen to form a company and move to Hamilton County with the purpose of founding a town. I don’t know why they wanted to move 230 miles west from their current homes. But one of the group, Stillman P. Lewis, had visited Hamilton County and gave it his stamp of approval. He’s buried at Aurora Cemetery.

Grave marker for one of Aurora’s founders, Stillman P. Lewis. (Photo source: Nancy Stillman, Find a Grave)

The rest were not so sure but Robert Miller (buried at Aurora Cemetery) and Nathaniel Thorpe went west to visit the site David Stone had chosen on Lincoln Creek months before and were pleased.  It was laid out as a town in 1871 by David Stone who named it after his former hometown of Aurora, Ill.

Aurora’s fortunes improved significantly in 1879 when the Burlington and Missouri Railroad began service there.

Postcard of Aurora, sometime during the early 1900s.

Civil War veteran Brevet Brigadier General Delavan Bates was the man behind Aurora Cemetery. A native of New York, General Bates was awarded the country’s highest award for bravery during combat, the Medal of Honor, for his action (ironically) in Cemetery Hill, Va. during the Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864. While leading his troops in battle, Bates was seriously wounded about his chest and arms, in addition to receiving a bullet in the face (ouch!).

Portrait of Brevet Brigadier General Delevan Bates, who established Aurora Cemetery.

You might remember in my visit to Augusta’s Magnolia Cemetery that a soldier (Lieut. Nathan Elcan Levy) buried there fought and died at the Battle of the Crater.

After the war, General Bates married and eventually moved with his wife to Hamilton County after purchasing a homestead. He was active in helping establish Aurora as a town, holding many public offices over the years, including mayor.

But making sure Aurora had a cemetery was especially close to his heart, and the General was instrumental in securing a site. Arrangements were made to purchase the land from the Union Pacific Railroad Company (UPRC), but subscriptions were not forthcoming and the contract for the land was cancelled.

When his son, Loraine, died in 1874 General Bates began investigating the condition of the cemetery, renewed the contract with UCRC, making all payments until the town was incorporated. At that time the contract was turned over to Aurora. He served as superintendent of the cemetery for the first 16 years at a nominal salary.

On June 11, 1877 in an article in the Aurora Republican, Bates stated:

“While yet alive and well, it becomes us as intelligent beings to make some provision for our final resting place. A spot of earth that we can call our own, around which we can plant the cypress and the willow and to which our friends can bring kind tokens of remembered when we have gone the way that all must go”.

Brigadier Brevet General Delavan Bates died in 1918. In addition to his military marker, his grave has a lovely white bronze (zinc) monument. I didn’t see it while we were there but I wish I had. (Photo source: Thomas Fisher, Find a Grave)

The 40-acre cemetery is home to approximately 22,000 burial sites. So it’s fairly large but not overwhelming. There is still plenty of room for future burials.

Aurora has a few mausoleums, and the one for the Woodard family looks fairly recent. Although he is not interred within it, Dr. Daniel S. Woodard is buried nearby. The patriarch of the family, Dr. Woodard was born in Virginia and completed his medical degree at St. Joseph Medical College in Missouri around 1882. He and his wife, Sarah, arrived in Hamilton County soon after and he set up shop.

Stained glass panel inside the Woodard family mausoleum.

In 1886, Dr. Woodard ran as Representative to the Legislature on the Democratic ticket, but was defeated. Like many other prominent businessmen, he was a member of a number of fraternal organizations such as the Masons and the IOOF (International Order of Odd Fellows). But there was one in his bio that I didn’t recognize: the AOUW, or the Ancient Order of United Workmen.

This got my attention because I saw the AOUW symbol on some of the graves I saw as we walked around.

Fred Richardson was a Mason and a member of the AOUW, like many of his fellow businessmen. You can see the symbol to the right of his name.

The AOUW was established by John Jordan Upchurch in 1868 in Meadsville, Pa. He was dissatisfied with the League of Friendship of the Mechanical Order of the Sun. He wanted an organization that would be more responsive to the needs of its members and unite the conflicting interests of labor and management. The goal, in the following year, changed to providing benevolent insurance protection for its members’ widows and orphans.

Official symbol of the Ancient Order of the United Workers (AOUW).

The AOUW, which by 1885 was the largest fraternal benefit society in America, discontinued its supreme lodge structure in 1929. A congress was established in place of the supreme authority. In 1952, the AOUW dissolved or merged with various state societies.

Aurora does have some interesting monument styles that I enjoyed seeing. The one for the Blizard family definitely stood out.

The Blizard family monument stands out because of the contrast of the elegant, detailed Corinthian-style column supporting the rough-hewn stone that surrounds it.

I’ve seen this style of monument before but not often in a rural cemetery. I would see it again at Grand Island City Cemetery.

At the time I photographed the Barton family monument, I knew nothing about them. It was the style of their monument that caught my eye.

The Barton family monument has an unusual shape to it.

Silas Reynolds Barton was the famous member of the family. Born in 1872, he moved with his parents from Iowa to Hamilton County soon after. In addition to farming, he taught school for a time. He was deputy treasurer of Hamilton County, (1898-1901), grand recorder of the AOUW of Nebraska, (1901-1908) and Nebraska State Auditor (1909-1913).

Silas Reynolds Barton was running for his second term in Congress when he died shortly before election day in 1916.

In 1913, he was elected as a Republican to the 63rd Congress, serving until 1915. Running as a candidate for election to the Sixty-fifth Congress, Barton died suddenly on Nov. 7, 1916 from acute pneumonia before election day. He was 44.

Then there was the Michael family monument. Now I know Cinderella’s last name!

Does this mean Prince Charming’s first name was Joseph?

When I saw the graves of Delta Merritt and her children, I felt a wave of sadness wash over me.

Raymond Merritt and Delta Lopeman married in Council Bluffs, Iowa on Jan. 24, 1924. While their marriage record states that he was 22 and she was 18, census records indicate both were younger at the time. Both were more likely closer to 17. I suspect they went to Iowa to marry for this reason.

The Merritt children both died in infancy. I don’t know if Delta and Raymond had any children that survived.

A shared marker for Raymond Jr. and Betty Lou Merritt indicates both died in infancy. Raymond Jr. died on his birthday of June 27, 1926 while Betty died on May 6, 1927.

Nearby is the grave marker of Delta Merritt, who died the same year as Betty Lou. I don’t know if she died giving birth as I don’t have her exact date of death. She was only 20 when she died. Regardless, both her marriage and her life were too short.

Records indicate Raymond moved away and was living in David City, Neb. as a baker in 1930. The Social Security records indicate he died in Kansas in 1947. I don’t know if he ever remarried.

I’m glad we stopped at Aurora Cemetery but it was time to move on. I just hope the Hoefer family doesn’t mind that I took a little breather on their family bench.


On the Road Again: Stopping at Bradshaw’s Plainfield Cemetery

After finishing up at Greenwood Cemetery, Christi and I headed to downtown York to get lunch. I’d read about the culinary delights of the Chances “R” Restaurant and Lounge. And with a name like that, who can resist?

Chances are you're going to like dining at this restaurant (rimshot).

Chances are you’re going to like dining at this restaurant (rimshot). I wonder if Johnny Mathis has ever eaten here.

The Chances R lived up to its hype, happily. There was a piano sitting just outside the restrooms in the hall, so I forced Christi into playing an impromptu quick concert. I can’t remember if I made her play “Chanes Are” or not, but it would have been appropriate. Too bad we forgot to leave a tip jar on the piano lid!

Christi gave an impromptu performance at the Chances R.

Christi gave an impromptu performance at the Chances R.

Our next stop was Grand Island but as usual, I kept my eyes peeled for cemeteries along the way. We hadn’t gotten far when I spotted one and made Christi pull over.

Plainfield Cemetery is located in the tiny village of Bradshaw. That’s probably why it’s called Bradshaw Plainfield Cemetery on the directory. But the sign out front says Plainfield Cemetery so that’s how I’ll refer to it.


Plainfield Cemetery is a long and narrow stretch of land amid the fields. It’s not a large cemetery but was fun to explore.

Bradshaw was platted in 1879 when the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad was extended to that point. With a current population of around 350, if you blink when you drive by, you might miss it entirely.

Sadly, Bradshaw is probably best known for the June 3, 1890 tornado that completely destroyed the town and killed 12 residents. The disaster spurred people from all over Nebraska to help Bradshaw residents to rebuild. Many traveled by train from Omaha to look over the wreckage. All businesses and houses had to be rebuilt.

Ruins of the the Bradshaw Methodist Episcopal Church taken during service on the Sunday after the tornado. Rev. W. H. Prescott was pastor.

I didn’t know about the Bradshaw tornado when we stopped by Plainfield Cemetery. None of the markers I photographed have a death date from around that time but it’s possible some of the victims are buried there.

A long, narrow strip of land nestled amid the fields, Plainfield Cemetery is well tended. It has a small shelter at the back with the names of everyone buried there, which is around 750. It’s still an active cemetery with plenty of space available.

A small shelter with a directory of names/grave locations is at the back of the cemetery.

A small shelter with a directory of names/grave locations is at the back of the cemetery. You can see a train in the background.


My apologies for the blurry quality of the picture.

None of the grave markers at Plainfield are out of the ordinary and the styles were familiar to me. But they are a good collection of the kinds of markers that were popular, especially during the late 19th century into the early 1900s.

The dual marker for Josiah and Eliza Lichtenberger is a good example of the “Holy Finger” motif. Notice the buttoned shirt cuff at the wrist. Because of their advanced ages, the finger is pointing up into the clouds above. The Lichtenbergers are notable as being the first interments in Plainfield Cemetery. They are two of the 14 Lichtenbergers buried here.


Josiah and Eliza Lichtenberger spent most of their lives in Somerset, Pa. But son Samuel’s move to Nebraska brought them west.

Josiah and Eliza (Schneider) Lichtenberger were natives of Somerset, Pa. and they spent most of their lives there. Josiah was a tanner, a trade he taught his son Samuel. Having served in the Union Army during the Civil War, Samuel made his way to York County, Neb. in 1872. According to the book “York County, Nebraska and Its People: Together With a Condensed History of the State”, Samuel eventually became proprietor of the Cottonwood Stock Farm.

Alfred was one of Josiah and Eliza Lichtenberger's six children.

Alfred was one of Josiah and Eliza Lichtenberger’s children. This book style of flat marker is a bit unusual with the diagonal script.

I discovered that when Josiah died in 1880, he left no will. This situation apparently did not get resolved until 1934 when Josiah’s property was finally divided between his surviving children.

Not far from the Lichtenberger graves are two for Andrew and Almira Rhoads, both with pointing fingers. Unlike the Lichtenberger monument, the Rhoads markers have no clouds. The Rhoads, like the Lichtenbergers, did not arrive in Nebraska until much later in their lives and due to the movement of their children. New Yorkers Almira and Andrew moved to Illinois to farm before heading to Nebraska.

Andrew died first in April 1880. Interestingly, I found a record of his death and that the cause was dropsy. Today, it would be called congestive heart failure. I noticed that Josiah Lichtenberger was listed on the same page (having died in March of the same year). His cause of death was some form of inflammation.

Notice that this hand has a gentleman's cuff on the wrist.

Notice that this hand has a gentleman’s cuff on the wrist.

You can see on Andrew’s marker the words “Father, There is Rest With Jesus” carved in a rather plain style. That’s a contrast to the other words on it. Perhaps it was done much later. You can also see on the wrist of the hand pointing up that there’s a buttoned cuff. Such small details are fascinating to me.

Almira died about 10 years after her husband, but her marker is quite similar to his. I don’t now what her cause of death was. She was living with her son, Henry, and his family at the time.

There are a few differences between Almira and Andrew's markers.

There are a few differences between Almira and Andrew’s markers.

Notice that instead of a buttoned cuff, Almira’s marker has a frilly lace one at the wrist instead. Above the finger are the words: “Mother, There is Rest in Jesus”. This time the script looks much more in tune with the rest of the marker. I have no doubt they were purchased from the same person who made Andrew’s marker.

This next marker is notable for its simplicity. No elegant script or profound epitaphs here. I don’t know what type of stone it is.

It wasn't unusual for a man to marry two women in his lifetime in the 1800s. But for a woman to have three husbands over her lifetime was.

William Bunten Ronald was married twice and divorced once. His last wife, Mary, was much younger than he was, and she married twice more (and may have divorced once) after William died.

A native of Paisley, Scotland, William Bunten Ronald worked as a handloom weaver. He sailed on the Jamestown from Liverpool, England to America in 1850 with a few of his brothers and cousins. They arrived in New York City and moved on to Wisconsin. More of his family emigrated soon after.

In 1870, at the age of 47, William married Margaret Ward. She was a widow with four children. He and Margaret purchased land in Palmyra, Neb. soon after and he operated a hardware store. His brother, Ronald, joined him in his business and they expanded it to sell furniture. They also provided undertaking services, a common practice in those days for the profession. In 1872, William became an American citizen.

William and Margaret had one daughter together, but divorced in 1881. He married Ellen Reynolds in 1882 but she died of tuberculosis in 1883. By this time, he was living in York County. He purchased a small store and opened a savings and loan.

In 1886, William married Mary Cutshall. He was 63 and she was 28 at the time, quite an age gap but not unheard of then. William developed kidney problems that led to his death in July 1988. Their only son, Orville, died in 1889 at the age of two. He is buried next to William in an unmarked grave.

A view of Bradshaw, probably from the early 1900s.

A view of Bradshaw, probably from the early 1900s.

Mary, a young widow, married Frank Frost in 1898. This union ended in divorce or annulment because by 1900 she is listed on the 1900 Census as living with her mother in Bradshaw as a widow. I learned that Frank Frost claimed to have been married seven times before his death in 1944. Mary wed again in 1902 to Frank Krier. She died in 1930 and is buried with him in Norcatur Cemetery in Kansas.

The last marker I’d like to point out is only a few years old, but I thought it was quite sweet. Donald Trim spent most of his life working in construction in Nebraska and Arizona, according to his obituary. The bulldozer in the corner of the marker is a reminder of that.


Not surprisingly, Donald Trim worked in the construction industry much of his life.

After an hour or so at Plainfield, we got back on the road to Grand Island. Not surprisingly, we made another impromptu stop on the way, which I’ll share with you next time.

Another view of Plainfield Cemetery.

Another view of Plainfield Cemetery.

Return to Nebraska: Visiting York’s Greenwood Cemetery, Part II

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.

Like many cemeteries, Greenwood has a 911 memorial. But this one has something many of them do not.

Like many cemeteries, Greenwood has a 911 memorial. But this one has something many of them do not.

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.

Greenwood's 911 memorial features an actual piece of metal taken from the World Trade Center disaster.

Greenwood’s 911 memorial features an actual piece of metal taken from the World Trade Center disaster.

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.


It’s possible that James Tucker was a Mason, since they’ve always had a fascination with “sacred geometry” and its association with the Temple of Solomon.

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 Tucker enlisted in the 11th Illinois Cavalry Volunteers in the summer of 1861.

James Tucker enlisted in the 11th Illinois Cavalry Volunteers in the summer of 1861.

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.

The Fisher monument is a good example of what most cube-style markers look like.

The Fisher monument is a good example of what most cube-style markers look like.

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.

Vinnie Harrison Cowell's monument could use some TLC. But the small arrow above her name is what got my attention.

Vinnie Harrison Cowell is buried among other Harrisons at Greenwood but how she is related to them is not known.

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.

The small arrow under Vinnie's name has more significance than I first thought.

The mission of Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women is to promote friendship, develop women of intellect and integrity, cultivate leadership potential and enrich lives through community service.

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.

The arrow badge of I.C. Sorosis, the predecessor of the Phi Beta Phi women's fraternity. At the 1934 Yellowstone Convention, members voted to limit the links in the chain of the badge to 12 — one for each founder.

The badge of I.C. Sorosis, predecessor of the Phi Beta Phi women’s fraternity. At the 1934 Yellowstone Convention, members voted to limit the links in the chain of the badge to 12 — one for each founder. Photo source: Pi Beta Phi web page.

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.

According to Greenwood sexton Todd Gardner, the marker is maintained by a man who comes every year or so to visit the site and touch up the white paint that covers the tin.

According to Greenwood Cemetery sexton Todd Gardner, the marker is maintained by a man who comes every year or so to visit the site and touch up the white paint that covers the tin. At the bottom of the case you can see a small white picket fence on either side of the card.

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.

For many years, no one knew the identity of the three women portrayed in this painting on tin.

For many years, no one knew the identity of the three women portrayed in this painting on tin.

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.

James Bauer and his family moved several times before settling in Nebraska in 1871. Photo source: Wendy Redman Hudson, Find a Grave.

James Bauer and his family moved several times before settling in Nebraska in 1871. Photo source: Wendy Redman Hudson, Find a Grave.

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.


Return to Nebraska: Visiting York’s Greenwood Cemetery, Part I

Last April, I returned to Nebraska to visit my best friend, Christi, and we went on another road trip. You’ll remember we went on one the year before that resulted in some great posts for the blog. I’m just now digging into this more recent adventure.

Christi had a concert in Lincoln the night I was flying in, so I arranged to fly there instead of Omaha like I usually do. She picked me up around 10 p.m. and we drove west to York to stay overnight before hitting Greenwood Cemetery the next morning. FYI, this is different than the other Greenwood Cemetery I wrote about last year.

I often forget to photograph the cemetery sign but this time I remembered.

I often forget to photograph the cemetery sign but this time I remembered.

York is about 55 miles west of Lincoln (Nebraska’s capital). Greenwood Cemetery has over 10,000 burials. That’s about 3,000 more than York’s actual population. It is a very well maintained cemetery and even has a small covered area with a directory of names with grave locations, along with maps and brochures.

greenwooddirectoryA non-profit run cemetery, Greenwood is solely funded by plot sales and grave openings. It’s still an active cemetery. Currently, they’re raising money so they can replace the existing caretaker’s house, level some of the markers and remove then replace some dead/dying trees. They’ve almost met their $300,000 goal.

Despite the sunshine, it was an incredibly windy day. Here’s a picture of Christi fighting the gusts.

Even Christi struggled a little with the gusting winds that day.

Even Christi struggled a little with the gusting winds that day.

The first grave marker that got my attention was rather unusual. I don’t often see metal ones like this. It’s certainly different.

I think Gary is still alive and well at this time.

I think Gary is still alive and well at this time.

As far as I know, Gary is still among the living. There are no dates on the marker. I did Google his name and learned he works at an auto repair place in York. There are other Klundts buried at Greenwood. So it’s my guess Gary made this marker himself for his future burial.

Among the many things I noticed about Greenwood was the prevalence of organizational symbols, ranging from Korean War military service to the Woman’s Relief Corps. These symbols can tell you a little bit about the person buried next to it.

Here’s one I’ve seen a few other places but hadn’t taken the time to research. Back in 1895 when women couldn’t vote, couldn’t own property, and weren’t allowed to own life insurance, nine women founded Royal Neighbors of America (RNA). They were wives of men who were members of Modern Woodmen of the World (a popular fraternal organization).


The Royal Neighbors of America was created by women to help women who (up until that time) could not get life insurance on their own.

The name Royal Neighbors of America was chosen because members adhered to the belief, “For better is a neighbor that is near than a brother that is far.” (Proverbs 27:10). They intended to be that helpful neighbor, combining the Biblical “neighbor” with the word “royal”, supporting their belief in the nobility of the work they would do.

One of the many Royal Neighbors of America members at a conference. This picture was taken of a group in Dorrance, KS in May 1910. (Photo source: Kristin Waitkus McDaniel)

One of the many Royal Neighbors of America camps. This picture was taken of a group in Dorrance, KS in May 1910. (Photo source: Kristin Waitkus McDaniel)

Like Woodman of the World, the RNA was a fraternal benefit society that offered life insurance to both women and children. RNA is still going strong today and in 2013, life insurance in force totaled over $2.7 billion. They also continue to help in times of need, such as during Hurricane Katrina, through its fraternal aid fund.

This double marker for a husband and wife looks pretty ordinary and I thought little of it when I photographed it. But the dates caught my eye months later. They both died in 1918 within a day of each other. It had to be the Spanish Flu pandemic.

Charles and Norma Mae Tharp died within one day of each other.

Charles and Norma Mae Tharp died within one day of each other.

A native of York, Charles Fay Tharp was an electrician (according to his World War I draft card). At the age of 27, Charles was among a large contingent of young men drafted to be soldiers in World War I. On Sept. 14, 1917, they left for Camp Funston, which was situated within Fort Riley, Kans.

Camp Funston is considered by many to be Ground Zero for the first wave of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. An Army cook is thought to be the first victim, becoming ill on March 11, 1918. Before the end of the month, 1,100 men had been hospitalized, and 20 percent of those men developed pneumonia. This first wave continued through the spring, sweeping through other Army camps. Many took it with them to Europe as they left to fight the war.

The flu subsided briefly that summer but then roared back full force in Boston in September 1918, sweeping both soldiers and civilians alike.

Photo of one of the influenza wards at Camp Funston in Fort Riley, Kans. Did Charles Tharp bring it home to his wife?

Photo of one of the influenza wards at Camp Funston in Fort Riley, Kans. Did Charles Tharp bring it home to his wife? In Omaha alone, there were 974 deaths between Oct. 5 and Dec. 31, 1918.

While I could find no death records for either Charles or Nora, I feel it was likely the cause of their deaths. Did Charles ever make it to Europe? Or did he unknowingly bring it home with him from Camp Funston?

I did learn that according to a report, York County had so many Spanish Flu patients in September 1918 (during the second wave) that it overwhelmed the local hospital’s resources. The Red Cross opened a hospital in the buildings of the York County Agricultural Society, which operated from October 13 to Nov. 20. Charles died on October 13. Was he one of this makeshift hospital’s first patients? Nora died the day before.

Charles and Nora didn’t have Find a Grave memorials so I added them some months later. Only this week did I realize what day it was that I posted them: October 13, 2016. That’s 98 years to the day of Charles’ death.

Of the three Walker children, Eddie lived the longest. He died at the age of nine.

Of the three Walker children, Eddie lived the longest. He died at the age of nine.

As usual, there were many markers for children’s graves. This one I have seen before but usually it is for only one or two children. This one represented the three children of J.W. and Francis Walker. Eddie, Lulu and James all died before their 10th birthday. The tree stump represents a life cut short while the dove often means resurrection. Their names are written on the other three sides.

I did encounter a marker I did not expect to see  in a rural Nebraska cemetery. A Confederate grave marker.

What is a Confederate grave marker doing in Nebraska?

What is a Confederate grave marker doing in Nebraska?

The son of a blacksmith, Robert J. McPherson was born in Talladega, Ala. in 1846. By 1860, the McPhersons were living on a farm. Robert enlisted as a private in the 62nd Alabama Infantry, Company C, on Dec. 19, 1863 and mustered out on August 31, 1864. One website claimed he “swam Mobile Bay rather than surrender at Spanish Fort to fight another day.” Since this battle took place in 1865, I’m not sure this is true.

In 1870, Robert was back at his family’s farm. By 1880, Robert had married Anna Bell (a native of Indiana) and lived in York. His occupation is listed as teamster on the census. An obituary posted on his Find a Grave memorial states that a poorly treated foot sore led to sepsis and the amputation of his leg below the knee. He died a few months later.


Confederate veteran Robert J. McPherson died of an infection started by a simple foot sore.

At the time of the Civil War, Nebraska was still a territory and not yet a state. But it did not favor slavery. About 400 known Confederate graves are scattered across Nebraska. I don’t know how Robert was treated by his York neighbors because of his Southern ties, but his grave is well taken care of today.

Next time, I’ll share more stories from Greenwood Cemetery.


Christi examines one of the many children’s graves (with the lamb symbol) at Greenwood.