Monday, August 1, 2011

Louisa County Roots: Part Two

It was pouring rain when I pulled up to the entrance seen above to Oakland Cemetery in Marshall Township of Louisa County and just a little over a mile from where the people I were seeking lived out their lives. As normal, I was jittery about meeting my ancestors or at least getting with a half dozen feet of them which is as close as I will ever come in this lifetime. Unfortunately the rain poured down in sheets and forced me to wait another twenty minutes until it tapered to a slow steady rain. With lots of places to go in a short amount of time, I was out there taking GPS cordinates, writing down information and snapping pictures while getting soaked. But as luck would have it, I had a few extra minutes on my way back home in the afternoon and my route took me write back by here where it began and so I retook all my pictures.

Oakland Presbyterian Church is no longer around but the next picture shows what it once looked like back when my ancestors were attending it. Although construction began in 1858, it wasn't until 1867 when it was finished and completely paid for and it wouldn't be until 1878 until the vestibule was added and it was 'officially' finished. On October 1951 the Presbytery order released the congregation so they could form a Community Church. Sometime in 1981, the old church building was torn down and all that remains is the branched sidewalk leading to the twin doors and a memorial. All this information I now know thanks to my 3rd great grandfather Joseph Trimble Cowles who wrote it down in a sermon now held by the Louisa County Historical Center.

Many times when visiting inactive cemeteries, I have no idea where in the cemetery my ancestors are buried and such was the case here. I knew they were there, I just didn't know where. So I started with what appeared to be the older graves on the east side and began walking down the rows. As I had spent quite a few days looks at plat maps of the area, most of the family names were familiar but at the end of the first row, I hadn't found the ones I was looking for. I turned to the next row and immediately saw the one below.

Elizabeth C. Chapman Cowles (above) and Joseph Trimble Cowles (below) were my third great grandparents.

The grave right next to Elizabeth C. Chapman Cowles was that of her brother Samuel Chapman who was a Civil War vet and the next to graves next to him were broken and laying on the ground. With some effort, I flipped the headstones over to the side with the writing but in both cases, I couldn't read any of the words. They were marble and just too far gone. Because all my ancestors were together in a line, I suspect one of them was the headstone of my 4th great grandfather John Chapman who according to the WPA, had a readable stone back in the 1930's when they transcribed most of the cemeteries in Iowa. If you recall, one of my goals was to see if John's wife Jane Cather Chapman was buried next to him and though it may possible, I can't know for sure. If she is, then her stone wasn't readable even back in the 1930s, some forty years after she died or possibly the other stone is that of one of his other three children whom I haven't been able to track down burials for. So that question is a question that will remained unanswered for the time being.

The next grave is probably the one that elated me most to find. It is that of John and Margaret Mather Grim, who like the Cowles, were my 3rd great grandparents. There are several reasons for this but the biggest is that John is an ancestor in my direct paternal line. (On a side note, my direct maternal line is ever changing as research progresses but right now it is the Kilpatrick from Revolutionary War era Pennsylvania.) The other big reason is that I have spent a lot of research time on John and his parents Adam and Mary Grim in hopes of furthering that line back even further.

On down the line, I came to my 2nd great grandparents William James and Jane Elizabeth Cowles Grim. Beyond that were numerous aunts and uncles all the way back to where the church had stood leaving me to believe that my ancestors had their own entire row at their disposal. After paying my respects at all the graves,  I continued walking the rest of the graves noting the names and all the other rows were mostly of the same names making me think that they all had their own row.

As always, the visit fills me with awe. I am literally within six feet of these people who were directly responsible for my being around today. For me, finding the grave has been kind of the final page in the chapter. I notify any living descendants of the location in case they may want to visit and I move on. Sometimes I stop by if I'm in the area and have the time but mostly I move on. This trip however, I wanted to try something new. I wanted to see more of their life and had spent hours pouring over plat maps and modern aerial views so that I could spend some time on the very same land they walked the earth and spent most of their time. That trip down memory lane was next.


R. Sherman said...

Missouri has a law that requires family and church cemeteries to file a list of graves and grave locations with the Recorder of Deeds if the cemetery ceases to function. Also, you can donate to a county trust fund and the county is required to maintain the cemetery in perpetuity if the original family or church ceases to care for it. It's not foolproof, but it can be very helpful.


Ed said...

R. Sherman - I think Iowa has a similar law about counties taking over cemeteries if the original caretakers become defunct. I think in all my cemetery visits, only one has been in sketchy shape. Of course, I still find lots of broken headstones.