Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ancient Faces: The Ratcliffes at Hogue Cemetery

I ran onto these photos taken last fall at Hogue Cemetery down in Wayne County the other day while looking for something else, so it seems like a good time to trot out the Ratcliffes, the Coxes, even Myrtillo E. Hart, credited with being the first person buried at this lovely place back in 1852.

That's Jane Anna (Boswell) and Thomas J. Ratcliffe up top with two of their sons. Grandmother Jessie did not identify the boys, but I suspect that they're the youngest of Jane's and Tom's nine children, Lloyd (born 16 May 1875) and Peachy G. (born 5 July 1877). Peach was the only grandchild to carry forward the outlandish name of his maternal grandfather, Peachy Gilmer Boswell.

Quite a while back I did some theorizing about what makes a great cemetery, and Hogue falls into greatness in my book primarily because of its setting --- way off by itself in the hills and timber with a lovely view of a lake-sized pond downhill to the west (which I couldn't photograph last fall because the sun was going down and defied my attempts to shoot directly into it.

Located maybe two and a half miles southeast of Cambria in Section 35 of Washington Township, here's what I think is the easiest way to find it: Drive about four miles north of Corydon on Highway 14 and after you cross the South Fork of the Chariton River start watching on your left for a new-like sign that says "Hogue Cemetery" pointing up a gravel road headed up the hill west. Drive about a mile and a half west on the gravel road and watch to the south (left) for a shot-up sign beside a gate that says "Hogue Cemetery," too (keep in mind this a part of the country where everybody shoots at stuff, including signs, but we won't shoot at you --- unless it's deer season and you're not wearing orange). Turn left through the gate, drive a little more than a quarter mile down the narrow lane and you're there.

Jane and Tom lived less than a mile southeast of the cemetery on the south bank of the South Chariton --- but you can't get there from here anymore since a bridge went out and wasn't replaced.

Jane, born 14 February 1836 at Point Pleasant in Mason County, (West) Virgina --- there was no "West" in West Virginia then, was the second of the seven surviving children of my great-great-grandparents, Peachy Gilmer and Caroline (McDaniel) Boswell. My great-grandmother, Chloe Boswell/Prentiss Brown, was the eldest.

If you click on the family photo to enlarge it, you'll notice a finger missing on Jane's right hand. Here's the story about that: Chloe and Jane were the eldest Boswell children, so chores that might have been handled by the boys fell to them. They were sent out one day at Point Pleasant to chop up some wood for the fire. Chloe had the axe; Jane held the wood. Jane's finger got in the path of the axe and goodbye to it. She never seems to have held her missing digit against Great-grandmother.

Peachy and Caroline brought their family (which by then included Frances Susan, William Reed, Ellis Green, America Elizabeth and Thomas W., age 1) west to Village Township, Van Buren County, in 1850. Almost whole Boswell herd abandoned West Virginia in the late 1840s and 1850 and nearly all of Peachy's siblings and his mother ended up in Van Buren County, too.

Three years later, in April of 1853, Peachy and Caroline settled just the far side of Wildcat Creek immediately north of Corydon in Wayne County.

Tom Ratcliffe, son of Jesse, was born 18 January 1834 in Jefferson County, Ohio, and came west to Van Buren County with his family about 1852 and moved farther west to Wayne County in 1853, too.

Jane and Tom probably met in Van Buren County and were married there on 2 February 1854. Tom died 15 January 1896 on that riverside farm and Jane continued to live there until 1906 when she moved into Corydon. She died 18 September 1912 at the home of her son, Peach.

Buried to the northwest of the Ratcliffes, over by the west fence, are Jane's sister, America Elizabeth Boswell (8 December 1847-16 December 1925), and her husband, George Washington Cox (8 November 1846-20 August 1898). George and "Mec" lived a little more than a half mile due south of the cemetery. And yes I know the tombstone says born 1848, but it's a liar.

George, who was a teacher, died at 52 after a long, long illness; and America outlived him by 27 years. Aunt Mec was the only one of the Boswell siblings that my mother remembered --- and only faintly. It was the long, long trek by horse and buggy from English Township, Lucas County, to Washington Township, Wayne County, that Mother remembered better.

There are other kin buried here, but their graves are not marked. Peachy Gilmer Boswell's brother, William M. Boswell (died 25 December 1867), his wife, Eliza Jane (died 23 December 1884) and two of their children, Greene H. (died about 1858) and Angeline (died 15 November 1891) lie in unmarked graves just north of the Ratcliffes. Not many people know that, but I do --- although I have no idea exacly where on that lot or in what order they are buried.

As I said, Myrtillo E. Hart, who died 13 January 1852 at age 37, reportedly was the first to be buried here at Hogue. His tombstone has fallen flat on it's back, which allows us to take a look at something I found interesting --- the maker's mark on the stone that ordinarily would be below ground level. I read it as "R.S.S., Eddyville."

Keep in mind that there weren't many people, let alone a tombstone maker, in either Corydon or Chariton (the nearest good-sized towns) in 1852. So it looks like family members interested in marking graves had to go all the way to Eddyville, way off to the northeast on the Des Moines River were Monroe, Mahaska and Wapello counties meet, to acquire one. That was about the biggest trading center (larger than Ottumwa), milling center and river crossing site in the region in those long-ago days.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Frank,
I tremendously enjoy your Lucas Countyan
Jessie Boswell was my grandmother, she daughter of Ellis Green Boswell.
I have been "digging up old bones" for years and am headed to Virginia next month for research. Any input on what you would like me to look for?