Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday: Serendipity in Centerville

Joseph Grunden 1812 - 1855

I'll admit it, finding the tombstone of Joseph Grunden certainly falls under the definition of "serendipity". A definition of serendipity is when someone finds something that they weren't expecting to find....something they discover, by accidents and sagacity, that they were NOT in quest of. In the simplest of words, it means a "happy accident". 

But how many of these instances of serendipity can happen within a 20 day period before you get suspicious? I lost count of how many happy accidents I had on our trip through Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana earlier this year. Most probably had to do with tombstones but there were others, and then there was that one "accident" that didn't even have anything to do with genealogy. But I digress, so back to the tombstone of my maternal 3rd great grandfather, Joseph Grunden.

I already had a photo of Joseph's tombstone given to me by my very dear cousin Dorothy Hildreth (now deceased) about a dozen years ago. There is another photo of it on Joseph's FindAGrave memorial. I'd seen the photos at least a hundred times. I didn't need a photo and I just wasn't prepared to go looking for the tombstone. I didn't  have a clue as to the whereabouts of the cemetery anyway and I gave it no real thought. Somewhere in Centerville.

My husband Mike and I were through Centerville, Indiana along Route 40 three different times. On the first visit on Sunday, June 5th, we took our time and drove around looking at the wonderful historic homes and enjoying the rich history which is prevalent in all the small towns along the Old National Road. We spied a huge antique mall and thought we would come back to it, browse around and maybe eat our sandwiches in the parking lot before we moved on towards Richmond. I wasn't in Centerville to do genealogy. My ancestors had been there for only a short time on their move from Ohio. Joseph died there and afterwards his wife, Martha (Dungan) Grunden moved her family further west to Knightstown in the next county.

As we passed by the antique mall we saw straight in front of us a large cemetery. Out of curiosity we drove up to it. Did I mention it was large? I puzzled...was this the cemetery where Joseph's stone was? What WAS the name of that cemetery he was buried in? I said to Mike: "I'm not walking that whole cemetery looking for one stone that I already have a photo of." So, we slowly drove by and came to the next cross road. The large cemetery was on my right and as I looked to my left I saw another smaller cemetery a block away. I had a good view of it and even from that distance I immediately spotted the tombstone of Joseph Grunden. I knew it was his stone. It had a distinct shape because a large corner was broken off. I couldn't believe it! As we drove closer we saw the cemetery sign, "Centerville Cemetery". Aha, my memory of the cemetery name came back. This was it alright! I hopped out of the car with my camera in hand and walked straight up to that tombstone, Joseph Grunden's tombstone, broken and perfect.  I took my very own photo, paid my respects, took a few more photos of the whole cemetery, and we went back to that antique mall.

Tombstone of Joseph Grunden, Centerville Cemetery
Centerville, Wayne Co., Indiana

It was suspiciously odd in my opinion, that that stone stood out to me, among all the others, from that distance....like it had a halo around it or something. It stood there and beckoned to me like a lighthouse. "Come here, little girl."

Just a happy accident.  



  1. The way you found this stone is so inspiring! It reminds me of when I went back home to Massachusetts and visited the Old Deerfield Cemetery, thinking that my ancestor was buried there, only to find out that they had been buried in a smaller cemetery about 5 miles down the road, across railroad tracks, through woods...too much for a short visit with my aging Mom. So, I got directions for another time. Congratulations!!! I can just imagine your satisfaction with that appointment!

  2. Hmmm...an appointment. Yes. One I didn't make. One I didn't know about. But an *appointment* just the same. Yeppers, I'd say I'm pretty satisfied Debra! Hope you get to keep yours at that smaller cemetery!

  3. Joseph wasn't going to let you drive through without stopping to visit him!

  4. THAT would be my guess. Seriously, I'm almost ashamed that I was willing to pass up paying my respects simply because I already had a photograph of his tombstone. I guess he had other plans. Dead people rule.

  5. Great story, "little Girl", what are the chances that you would just stumble upon this treasure by chance? Aren't you glad you followed your instincts and drove past the larger cemetery? Thank you, Grandpa...serendipity, indeed.

  6. LOL David! I'm glad you share my suspicion about serendipity. There are things unknown to us and meant to be that way for some reason, and I truly believe that not everything can be explained away as simple *serendipity*.

  7. Nice read. It is always thrilling when you are coming to know something about history. Something mysterious about it! My grandparents died when I was under 5. So couldnt know much history[I was skeptical about asking my parents or may be they did not take me seriously]. but coincidentally/surprisingly my cousin's grandparents who were staying about 100 miles away for last 80 years knew each and every one of my ancestors. We are talking about our progress in technology and communications! ;) I knew where my ancestral house was, [its just at walking distance and still active, so no probs there], but to find out about my ancestors business and things like that were interesting.