Thursday, June 14, 2007

Finding Three Generations of Abbey's All In One Place

I look at my body as a battery that occasionally needs recharged. Weekends are especially refreshing in that I can usually find enough downtime in-between "honey do" projects to recharge my internal batteries for the upcoming week. The last few weekends however hadn't been that way and I was on empty. I needed a charge in the worst way so I took Monday off for something I have wanted to do for about a year now.

A year ago while doing some genealogical work, I found out that my great grandfather Abbey was buried in a cemetery about 80 miles away. Within days, I found out that three generations of Abbey's were buried there all the way back to my great great great grandparents, along with assorted uncles, aunts, and other relatives. I wrote down some notes in my mental filing cabinet and then pushed it out of mind until this past Monday.

With the powers of the internet and especially Google, I was able to not only find out the location of the cemetery but the names and rows of the inhabitants. So after a pleasant drive, I pulled into the cemetery located on a gentle hill across the road from a tiny baptist church of the same name. It was bigger than expected and I thought I would have to count rows to find the graves when I saw the name Abbey out of the corner of my eye. As I walked towards it I saw that it was the grave of my great great grandparents William and Elizabeth.

I wasn't sure what I would feel standing there by their grave, the closest I had ever been to them. Although I had thought I might feel satisfaction or happiness, I instead just felt as if I had come home to a family I have never known. I knelt there at their grave picking some moss out of the lettering of the tombstone for a bit and just wondering what they would have been like to talk too right then. They died in the early 1920's so I don't think it would have been too much of a shock to them.

After awhile I walked on over the crest of the hill counting rows and once again, my eyes saw the Abbey name long before I got there. This time it was the grave of my great grandparents James and Ramie whom I wrote about a little over a year ago. Mostly I thought about the story of Ramie's death and then how James died a few months later. Its funny how so many people die with in short periods of time of each other after having been married for so long.

The grave of my great great great grandparents Alexander and Sarah were a little harder to find. Being well over a hundred years old, the engraving was hard to read. Sarah's stone had fallen over and was laying face up on the ground. Alexander's stone had broken in half and someone long ago had leaned the top half against the bottom half and cemented it into place. Forever lost are the words of the epitaph on the lower half.

We poked around a little, reading nearby stones of probably great great great aunts and uncles on down. I carefully scraped at some of the moss here and there to see what words lay beneath. A few of the graves in the old cemetery were decorated still from Memorial Day so I knew some people still came out here but all my relatives graves were bare so after awhile, we drove on to a nearby town and found a store where we bought some flowers and some plastic drinking cups. Not sure if there had been a water hydrant, we also bought a case of bottled water too. Back at the cemetery, we decorated the graves and took some pictures to show to other interested relatives.

My wife and I stood over the graves of Alexander and Sarah for a while as I told her what history I knew. They were the first Abbey's in Iowa having moved from Tennessee well before statehood came. In fact, both were in their 40's before Iowa joined the union. Finally we bid our farewells and drove off towards home. Little did I know that before I would get home, I would find another relative that I hadn't seen in quite some time. More on that tomorrow.

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