Saturday, August 23, 2008

Jim Jordan's Bones: Part II

Some time after I’d finally decided that no Jordans other than Victor P. were to be found at Iowaville, I happened upon reference to a James Houston “Jordon,” not Jordan, whose grave WPA workers sent out to transcribe tombstone inscriptions in the 1930s reportedly had found in the big park-like Ottumwa Cemetery northeast of downtown several miles upstream from Iowaville and Eldon. The dates were right even though the name wasn't --- quite.

I finally got around to visiting that cemetery and with assistance from its helpful office staff and meticulous records was able to clear up some of the mysteries --- although several questions remain.

As noted earlier, the three surviving Hinkle children became keepers of the family flame after most other family members had died or moved away. Lora Jordan Hinkle, a determined woman if ever there was one, was the eldest. Then came Houston Arthur “Bud” Hinkle, a year younger. The youngest of the three surviving children was Harry Harper Hinkle.

About 1909, while sister Melvina Mae still was living, the Hinkle children donated to the state of Iowa a variety of documents, photos and artifacts they had inherited from James H. Jordan, including a ledger from his days as an Indian trader that caused a small flurry of excitement among Iowa historians. At the same time, a banged-up sword blade owned by Bud Hinkle was loaned to the state --- according to legend, this had been Black Hawk’s sword, given by him to Jim Jordan then gone astray before ending up in the hands of Masonic lodges at Iowaville and Keosauqua and finally being badly damaged in a fire.

After Abram Hinkle’s death in 1901, the family land had been divvied up among the children. The home place on Selma’s south edge was called Clover Hill Farm by Lora at least. Harry had inherited what was known as the Iowaville farm, which included the site of the old village as well as Robert Rathbun’s Iowaville House hotel, by then a tenant dwelling. Melvina May and Bud also had their land --- and Lora owned property she referred to as “the ranch.”

Lora had a brief early marriage. One record gives the name of her groom as A. F. Crapfel, but I can find no record anywhere of anyone even named “Crapfel,” let alone an A. F. Crapfel, so that probably is not accurate. But it’s really a moot point because they had no children, she divorced him soon and then reclaimed the name Hinkle. Lora seems to have spent most of her time at Clover Hill Farm and seems to have been deeply interested in history. There was a cabin on that farm that Laura decided had been built about 1832 by Thomas Benjamin Saylor --- making it, if that was accurate, one of the oldest surviving dwellings in southeast Iowa. She turned it into a museum that included among other things her grandmother Jordan’s square grand piano, brought upriver about 1850.

Bud Hinkle seems to have rarely left the family farms. He is the family member who turns up consistently on all census records through 1925. He may have been incapacitated to some degree, since Lora in her 1932 will bequeathed a farm to the family of J.W. Calhoun to acknowledge his help in advising and managing "my dear brother, Bud.”

Harry Harper Hinkle, beginning in 1896, spent much of his time in Mexico, where he was manager and part-owner of a firm called Pacific Packing Co. Passport applications show that he lived for more than a quarter of a century in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Chihuahua, but considered Selma his home and spent extended periods of time there over the years.

When the 1925 Iowa census was taken, the three Hinkle children, all in their 50s now, were living together at Clover Hill Farm. Bud and Harry both gave their occupations as “retired.” Harry returned shortly thereafter to his home in Mexico City.

Bud Hinkle died 3 July 1930 and and Lora was unsure what to do. She had his body prepared for burial at the Campbell Funeral Home in Eldon, then placed on July 4 in the receiving vault at the Ottumwa Cemetery to await Harry's return from Mexico. One problem she may have faced was the fact that the family lot in the Iowaville Cemetery was full.

When Harry returned to Iowa in October of that year, he purchased a large lot in a newer section of the Ottumwa Cemetery called “Summit” that appears to have been developed about 1930 or shortly before. This may have been purchased with something larger in mind since only three Hinkles remained unburied and the lot had room for at least nine (and perhaps 12 if a shoehorn were used) arranged in three ranks.

Bud's body was brought back to the Campbell Funeral Home in Eldon from the receiving vault for visitation, then graveside funeral services were held in Ottumwa on Saturday, Oct. 23.

Harry Harper Hinkle died 31 October 1932 in Mexico City and was brought back to Iowa by Lora and buried by Bud’s side. The scaled drawing of the lot maintained by the cemetery shows that Bud’s casket was placed in a steel vault and Harry’s in a “box.” Why the less than first-class burial for Harry I can’t say.

A month after Harry’s death, on 23 November 1932 at Ottumwa, Lora drew up her will. In it she left Clover Hill Farm to the state, noting two historic buildings upon it, one the Saylor cabin; and directed that her “ranch” be traded for the Iowaville farm owned by Harry. If that trade had been carried out as Lora wished, the “Old Rathburn Inn in Iowaville" and adjacent lots also would have gone to the state, presumably for preservation. As mentioned previously, J.W. Calhoun’s children were to receive the Bud Hinkle farm in return for his care of Bud; and the “Mae Hinkle Farm” was to go in trust perpetually to the sisters of Ottumwa’s St. Joseph Hospital. That trust was to be called “Melmae” or “Melvina” in Mae’s honor. All of Lora’s personal property was to be sold and proceeds disbursed to “children of Charles Starr, clerk of Ballingall Hotel, Ottumwa, a child of Edgar Johnson and the two children of Eula Swain Christy of Washington, D.C.”

Soon thereafter, Lora apparently put into motion a plan to uproot all her Jordan and Hinkle kin from their burial places at Iowaville and in Davis County and relocate them to the new lot in the Ottumwa Cemetery.

The reburial occurred, according to cemetery records, on 9 November 1933, and included Melvina Mae Hinkle, Sarah Frances Jordan Hinkle, James Erwin Hinkle, Nellie Brent Hinkle, Abraham Hinkle, Frances Melvina Jordan, James Houston Jordan and Henry Clay Jordan, all from the Iowaville Cemetery; and Thomas Jefferson Jordan, buried at Soap Creek Mill since 1850.

No one I suppose remembers now why Lora decided to do this. The lot in Iowaville was full, however, and this may have been Lora's somewhat unusual way to tidy up, bringing everyone together in one place.

Since Victor P. Jordan’s remains at Iowaville were not disturbed, it seems unlikely that his daughter, Keo, then living in Kansas, was involved.

It must have been done with the approval of Henry Clay Jordan’s daughter, Grace, then living in Chicago, since her father was uprooted and transported.

Exactly what state the remains were in upon reburial isn’t clear. The diagram of the lot shows a full-sized container for Melvina May, so she must have been brought in intact. Henry Clay Jordan has his own grave and his remains were inside a small box perhaps a 18 inches wide and three feet long.

The remains of the other seven were inside a container the size of a child’s coffin. It seems most likely that such bones as could be found when the graves were disturbed, and there wouldn't have been much left in some cases, were jumbled together in smaller containers, although cremation is a possibility.

Lora herself died three years later, on 27 March 1937 at Whittier, Calif., where she was spending the winter. Her body was brought to the Ottumwa Cemetery for burial --- inside a steel vault.

Something, however, appears to have gone badly wrong because with one exception (that of Henry Clay Jordan, whose tombstone probably accompanied him in from Iowaville) the family surnames are misspelled in every instance on the new tombstones placed in Ottumwa. All of the Hinkles, including Laura, Harry and Bud, are identified as “Henkel” and all of the Jordans as “Jordon.”

In addition, there is a later note on the lot reference card that the “stone for Thomas Jefferson Jordan, No. 8, is in cemetery office.” It was never placed and so the only record of his burial is the reference card.

These stones probably all were ordered and placed before Lora’s death. Her stone, alone, has no dates on it --- apparently no one bothered to complete that task after she died.

I really have no idea why this occurred, but there are indications in Lora's will and other documents that she knew the surname "Hinkle" had been spelled generations earlier as "Henkel" and that she had been impressed by that fact. So she simply may have decided to spell the name that way on the tombstones and perhaps "Jordan" as Jordon" as well. Who can say now?

The Ottumwa Cemetery file containing information about the Jordan/Hinkle lot also contains correspondence between cemetery association officials and Lora's administrators showing that the administrators declined to pay --- rather rudely --- some of the expenses associated with her burial. That could help explain why Jefferson Jordan's tombstone never was placed and now, of course, has vanished entirely.

Other posthumous difficulties awaited, but I'll talk more about those another time.

But the sad fact of the matter is that Jim and Frances Jordan, Abram and Sally Hinkle and the others who added shape and texture to Iowaville and its environs for a century, now are buried obscurely under the wrong names at a distance from the places their graves would have been in context and added meaning.

Miss Lora may or may not have been amused by all of this. The earth above her grave is smooth and grassy now, 70 years after she died, so if she spun in it for some time because of events after her death we'll never know.

In the long run, however, much of what turned into something of a debacle seems to have been her fault and maybe there's a bit of retribution here. I'd guess trader Jim doesn't care at all.

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