Oakwood Cemetery, Baldwin City, Douglas Co, KS
12 May 2007
If it would fit, this stone would be on my mantle as a personal trophy. An award for a quarter century of determination and perseverance. And to remind me to never leave the water bottle behind in the car when the temp is already on the hotter side of 90.
John and Zerilda were my great-grandparents. He was born in Rush Co, Indiana and she in Butler Co, Ohio. Theirs was the second marriage for both.
John's first wife was Lucinda Harris, whom he married in 1858. Before she died (prob. 1863) they had at least three children: Sarah, Jennie, and William.
In 1862 or '63, Zerilda married a Mr. Hanson, who most likely died in the Civil War. Their son George W. Hanson was born in 1865.
On 13th Dec 1868, John and Zerilda married in Shelby Co, Indiana. My grandfather Albert ("Bert") was born there the following October.
Then they began moving west.
Son Ed was born in 1872 in Ford Co, Illinois, followed by daughter Lulu in Vermilion Co, IL in 1875. They pulled up stakes again and followed John's eldest sister Harriet and her family to Ellsworth Co, Kansas. Son Frank was born there in 1879. (You met Lulu's daughter Vivian, Frank's wife Orrel, and George Hanson's wife Ida at Ed's daughter Viola's house in Calif.)
But I digress...
"Grandpa John" was a carpenter and a stone mason, and by 1885 had moved the family to Hope in Dickinson Co, KS, which thanks to the railroad's arrival was having a huge building boom. Hope is where a cousin and I assumed John and Zerilda died. I won't bore you with how many cemeteries are in or near "Hopeless" (as we came to call it), but John and Zerilda weren't in any of them.
A story was also passed down that after a prairie fire, half the family moved to California and the other half to Nebraska, but no one knew which half went where. Turned out it was a different branch entirely, but I didn't know that until later.
Finally the internet arrived, and soon after, censuses online. Hallelujah!
In 1900, "Grandpa John" was enumerated with daughter Sarah (Mrs. Clinton Toops) in Franklin Co, KS, but Zerilda wasn't with them. A bit later in 1900 I found him and Zerilda in Victor, Colorado. (I'd later learn they went there for her health and stayed 3 years.)
In 1905, now a widower, John was back in Kansas (Baldwin City) with as yet unmarried daughter Lulu.
On 11th April 1910, he was in Coldwater, KS with my grandparents, Bert and Emma, but by 14th May, was with Lulu and new husband Bruce Rittenhouse in East Rock Island, Grant Co, Oklahoma.
At some point, he also lived with son Ed in Larned, Pawnee Co, KS.
Can you see why I despaired of ever finding his (or Zerilda's) final resting place?
But a friend and I firmly believe the Dearly Departed will help us find them when they want to be found. And so it was with John and Zerilda.
One evening in May 2007, in the library's genealogy section, the Douglas County cemetery book practically jumped off the shelf. I quickly turned to the all-name index and...there they were! Barely 40 miles away!
My next day off was a Saturday, meaning Baldwin's City Hall was closed and the cemetery has no office. Which is why I didn't have a plot/lot number and walked most of two sections and nearly got heatstroke before finally finding The Stone.
Never mind that if I'd driven a bit further when I got there, I would've spotted it from the road. Instead, I took a right at the first crossroad, just after the tree on the right, and parked under that big tree behind the lower part of the wall. At least the car stayed cool...
distance you'll see the "mushroom" top of the Johnson stone (below).
bigger than it looks here. This was taken from the road.
the way around a cemetery when looking for a specific stone!