Friday, October 28, 2011

Reddick Cemetery Revisited: A Lesson Learned

Rusty iron gate at the entry to Reddick Cemetery

In 1999 my mother and I visited the Reddick Cemetery in Rush County, Indiana and it was a lovely visit. I wish I'd had a digital camera back then and was free to take more pictures. But, alas, my film was limited so I didn't take all the photos I would have liked to have taken. Too bad.

My husband and I returned this year, one dozen years later, and I was appalled at what I saw. At first things looked good. All was green and nicely mowed. Then, I saw that the groundskeeper had moved stones, piled them up against trees and against other, larger tombstones. Both of my family tombstones were removed from the graves and I never did find them. I was mad. I was sorry to the deepest part of my heart that I'd even decided to return. It would have felt better not to have known.

I am so thankful that in 1999 I photographed the tombstones of my maternal third great grandmother, Martha (Brown) Cook and her young daughter Elizabeth Ann. (Click here: Tombstone Tuesday: The Cooks of Reddick Cemetery) I'd even found and photographed the footstone of Martha's husband, Giles Cook, that had been pulled up by some idiot and used to prop up another tombstone. That made me mad at the time, but I was glad that I had at least found the footstone because his headstone had been removed since the time the reading of the cemetery had been done, many years before. So much sacrilege!

In fact, Giles' footstone was the only one of my family's stones remaining, or at least that I could find, so this time I took better photos of it from different angles.

The problem is, even if Martha's and Elizabeth Ann's tombstones are found, or if I were to purchase new replacement stones, who's going to know exactly where the actual graves are to return them to? My old photos don't quite give me the exact placement. 

I won't forget that. It's a good lesson about taking photos in a cemetery....always take more photos than you think you'll need. You'll never be sorry that you have too many photos.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Those Places Thursday: Salisbury Court House

Salisbury Courthouse built 1811 (Front)

In the early 1800s Salisbury was a small Indiana settlement to the south of Richmond and Centerville in Wayne county. This log courthouse was Wayne county's first seat of justice and was built in 1811 and used until 1818 when the county seat was moved to Centerville. It was dismantled and reconstructed in 1952 and was finally moved to it's permanent location in Centerville in 1998. It is the only original log courthouse still standing in the Northwest Territory. Salisbury no longer exists.

Salisbury Courthouse built 1811 (back)
My interest in this courthouse was due to the fact that my maternal third great grandfather, Giles Cook, lived on a farm near Salisbury, Indiana in the early 1800s. Eventually his family, including two of his mother's brothers, decided to move west. They sold their household effects and purchased six oxen and a Carolina Wagon (a smaller version of the Conestoga Wagon). Unfortunately, just prior to the move, Giles' father was on his way home one night when he stumbled into a creek "having about one foot of water and, not being in full possession of his senses, failed to get up; he was found dead of drowning the next morning."   

Well, I suppose "not being in full possession of his senses" was a polite way of saying he was drunk...that's the only thing I can imagine that would cause a man to drown in one foot of water!

After her husband's death, his wife sold the farm and, it is said, some of her sons left for the Kansas gold fields.

My ancestor, Giles Cook, stayed in Indiana and bought a plot of land (88.2 acres) to farm in Rush county where he later married my third great grandmother, Martha Brown. 

The photos of the courthouse were taken by me on June 5, 2011. The story of the preparation to move west and the drowning of Giles' father comes from the diary of Giles Cook's great granddaughter, Ardesta Jane Duffy b.1905.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Charles Walter (Bud) Melvin

"Uncle Bud" 1916, age 20
my husband's maternal granduncle
son of Michael R. and Edna (Metcalf) Melvin


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Louisville: Plight of the Melvin Children 1908-1919

U.S. orpans 1913 - From the Library of Congress

This is the record of Susan Marie Melvin's stay at the Louisville Industrial School (click to enlarge) and is just one page of a dozen or so that I received on her and her siblings from Louisville a few years ago. Although the text is short in length, it tells a clear story on what went on during the childhood of my husband Mike's grandmother Florence Polly and her siblings. I often think how different Mike's family was from mine; his lived in the big city and mine were farmers from rural areas. Being poor in a large city was a meaner life than being poor in the country, at least that's the way it appears to me.

I'm sure Michael R. Melvin was a decent guy when he wasn't drinking. His father, Nathan Melvin, was a Civil War veteran and a good one apparently, since he was promoted twice in less than a year. His mother was Elizabeth Gollaher, daughter of Austin Gollaher who was a childhood friend of Abraham Lincoln. Michael was the youngest of five children. He married Edna Metcalf  in 1893 when he was 21 and she was just 18. By 1905 Edna had given birth to Bessie, Bud, Ruth, Susan, Florence, and little William who died within 2 days of birth. In 1908 Edna was pregnant again when Michael deserted his family and left them with no means of support. In June of that year all the children, with the exception of Bessie, were removed to the Louisville Industrial School to be cared for until they each turned 21 years of age. The school, formerly called "Louisville House of Refuge", was created to house orphans and delinquent children. (Click here to see many old photos of the L.I.S. and some of the orphans). The Melvin children were neither orphans nor delinquents.

Sisters Florence and Myrtle Melvin
and "Mr. B..."? - circa 1919
Four years later, in August of 1912, the children were early released to their mother and the following year Edna was able to obtain a divorce from her husband. However, Michael refused to stay away and ended up beating his wife to the point she had to be hospitalized and so, in November of 1913, the younger children were once again placed in the Industrial School. Bessie, Bud and Ruth were free to work and contribute to the family welfare but Susan and Florence had to go back as well as their youngest sister Myrtle who had apparently lived at home since her birth in February of 1909. 

Michael R. Melvin died slightly less than a year later on October 25, 1914 from cancer of the stomach. His death certificate says he was a distiller. Sounds like he had plenty of access to liquor which was unfortunate for his wife and children, and likely had much to do with the cause of his death.

As can be seen from the Louisville Industrial School record above, Susan Marie Melvin contracted the flu and died from pneumonia in 1919 before she was old enough to leave the school. Florence, my husband's grandmother, was paroled to their sister, Mrs. Bessie Church, later that same year and Myrtle was paroled to their other sister, Mrs. Ruth Moore, at the same time. It is unclear why the children were not returned to their mother at this time. Edna had remarried in 1915 but it appears it was a short marriage and she finally married again in 1921 to retired police officer, Thomas Jesse Price.

Despite their hard childhood, Bessie, Bud, Ruth, Florence and Myrtle were a close knit family and all managed to become responsible, hard working, and apparently, well balanced citizens in the end.