Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Visiting the Only Four Iowa Holdouts

When I made the comment in a blog post Genetically Iowa a few weeks ago that all but four of my 3rd great grandparents are buried in Iowa and the four that aren't were less than a mile from it's border, that turned out to be an exaggeration. During my first visit to their graves a couple weekends ago, I stepped it off and they are only 50 yards from the Iowa border.

They are buried in Scotland County Missouri which hampered my locating them for quite awhile. During President Franklin's term in which he set up the WPA, one of the projects that they did in Iowa to keep people busy was to set them to work recording gravestone transcriptions for future generations. This makes finding ancestors who died before the 1930's a fairly easy task for genealogists. However, Missouri and most other states, didn't do this and so one has to rely on county records. Scotland county doesn't have an online source that I'd been able to find but I was able to find a book written by my great uncle who evidently had led an effort to transcribe all the gravestones in the county sometime in the late 60's or early 70's.

I had always known that my great uncle had been a genealogist and was generally scorned by others in the family as being daft for wasting so much time tramping around in cemeteries. So far I have received this generalization from the family... yet. It was the family tree of my adopted side of my family that my great uncle did and that I rediscovered a half dozen years ago that got me interested in this hobby. So I tracked down a copy of my great uncle's three volume book in a library in Scotland county and set out one sunny Saturday afternoon to find it.

Finding it was easy and soon I had located the name of the cemetery in which two sets of my 3rd great grandparents were buried and one set of 2nd great grandparents. However, finding the cemetery turned out to be another story altogether. The two librarians on duty weren't into genealogy or helping patrons in general and ignored my questions of if they knew of the church or knew where maps of the county could be found with shrugs of their shoulders. So rummaging around in the genealogy room of the library, I came across a county map circa 1941 that while it didn't show Barker Cemetery did show Barker School. Thinking it might have been a church/school in 1941, I programmed my GPS and set sail.

Along the way, I spotted a sign for the Barker Church pointing in the way we were traveling so I was feeling optimistic. However, our route left the tiny paved road for gravel roads and I hadn't seen any more signs. I did find Barker School where it was abandoned perhaps 50 or 60 years ago from the looks of things but there was no cemetery so I circled back to the paved road and to the point where I had left it. I continued on it north looking for another sign to the church but was unable to locate one before I came to what is called the stateline road since it runs right on top of the line. I turned right but the road immediately curved north into Iowa so I turned around. That is when I saw another sign pointing towards Barker Church to the west along the stateline road.

The church was there and well tended for along with a small cemetery. I pulled into the cemetery and parked our car along the path to get out and walk. But as I stepped out of the car, I found that I was less than 20 feet from the grave of my 2nd great grandparents David W. Luther and Sarah E. Gordy. David had spent his entire life in the Miller township of Scotland County according to the federal census records. Sarah his wife was born just north across the border in Iowa but spent her life there too. As I was reading their gravestone, my focus shifted to the graves immediately behind theirs and there slightly to the left and right were both their parents and my 3rd great grandparents. Behind and to the left were the Reverend Elijah Gordy and his wife Eliza Jane Morton. Both immigrated from Ohio through Illinois and Iowa before ending up in the Miller township and up until visiting their graves, i didn't know that Elijah had been a member of the clergy.

Behind and to the right, right beside the Gordy graves were Jessie Luther and his wife Mary Jane Igo. I have written in a previous blog post about having to turn around due to a mountain blizzard on my way to visit the grave of Mary's parents in Pennsylvania. Instead, I had ended up at the courthouse where I had found a copy of Daniel Igo's will. Jessie Luther had suffered some injury during the Civil War and would spend the next sixty years of his life trying to obtain his disability pay only to succeed within days of his death.

I thought it was a serene scene to be laid to rest with both of your parents right over your shoulder. I guess that assumes that you had a good relationship with both of them. As always, when I am in the area of my ancestors, I can't help but take a mental step back and scope out the surroundings. Like so many of my ancestors, these had lived out their lives in an area of rolling hills, wooded dales and small meandering creeks. Terrain that I am familiar with and grew up in myself. Terrain that I still to this day call home, but a half mile on the other side of the border.


TC said...

I'm impressed by your genealogy work. I'm just not patient enough to do that much digging.

Ed said...

TC - Ah but addicts will go to great lengths to get their next fix.

sage said...

50 yards--that might have been an error from the surveyor tripping over his tripod. I need to go back and figure how far back I have to go to find a grandparent not born in NC--my brother has done the legwork, I just need to look at the sheets he's provided.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

And brother David (last comment) sent your link to me. My father gave me copies of the genealogy related info he'd collected and if I remember correctly, Jessie Luther was our great-great grandfather (or maybe great-great-great). I can get you a copy of everything I have -- I'll drop you an email with contact info.

- Jim Luther

Beau said...

What a cool post, and your work... yielding connections and life history as we read. Nice going Ed- it must be satisfying to know a little more about your ancestors.

Ed said...

Jim and David - I sent you an email.

Beau - I am amazed that I found a relative on this one so fast. The internet never ceases to amaze me.

R. Sherman said...

Query: If you're "genetically Iowan," why did your grandparents choose to be buried on the other side of Jordan, a/k/a the Des Moines River, in "The Promised Land?"

/ tongue in cheek.


Edelweiss Transplanted said...

I'm the friend. David is married to my best friend from middle school. I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw your post. If you want one more weird coincidence, I was born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania where you did some research on the Luthers awhile back. I swore to my kids that I'd stay anonymous on the internet, so if you correspond with David, please don't "out" me with my real name or hometown.

Ed said...

R. Sherman - Always the wise guy. :)

Edelweiss - Now I almost fell out of my seat. What a strange coincidence. I don't know your name and I won't ask. Even if I find out, which I have found others identities before, it is safe with me because I too value my anonymity which is why I go by Ed on my blog. Now I am going to go ponder who small this world really is.

Edelweiss Transplanted said...

Thanks, Ed! Much appreciated.

David's a great guy, and I don't say that JUST because he had the good taste to marry my dear friend of 36 years. You must have some stellar genes in your family!

Murf said...

Interesting turn of events. You'll have to keep us updated on the two new possible relations.

I have more than enough family so I don't feel the urge to find more...but I do still have the info that you sent me when you looked up one side of mine. Very interesting.

Three Score and Ten or more said...

Wonderful adventure. My wife had a somewhat similar experience tracing down her great great grandmother I (The grandfather's first wife), her only clues were they area of Washington State where she moved to, and the fact that she made her living after her divorce, whistling for a dance band (yep it's a fact). The trail is too long to trace in a "comment" but we appreciate the fun you are having and the ties you are cementing. My wife is desperately hoping to get healthy enough to go to Vermont to tramp cemetaries in that area..

I have to follow her adventures with her family, one of my uncles did a six volume trace of all my mother's family back to pre colonial times, and I can't seem to get much from pre-colonial England. (I think there were some name changes) My father's folks came from Sweden, and that is a whole new world of geneology.