Saturday, September 03, 2011

Side by side at Last Chance

From a distance, especially on a moonlit night I’ll bet, the matching tombstones of Granville and Jennetta Westfall --- the tallest at Last Chance --- are just a trifle spooky. Tall cowled and draped figures standing side by side, looking down into timber beyond the cemetery fence (creative imagination required).

Westfall stones are in the far distance, center.

Up close, these flights of marble fancy --- identical in concept but not in execution --- are less intimidating. As probably was the case in life, Granville stands taller than Jennetta. And it’s appropriate that the couple has pride of place at Last Chance. They almost certainly are the earliest settlers in the neighborhood buried here.

According to Ralph Marshall, whose extensive research on the Westfall and related families is available at the Lucas County Genealogical Society library, Granville was a son of Clark and Permilla Westfall, born March 3, 1833, in Lewis County, (West) Virginia. The family moved to Jackson County when Granville was a child and his mother died there in 1846.

During 1847, Clark Westfall married the widowed Martha R. Teel in Jackson County. The next year, on Dec. 16, Clark’s son, Granville, married Martha’s daughter, Jennetta Teel, a complex relationship.

By the spring of 1849, Clark Westfall and his family, as well as Granville and Jennetta, were in Monroe County, Iowa, Lucas County’s neighbor to the east. Clark died abruptly there sometime between June and August of that year.

In November, Granville and Jennetta and their two-week-old daughter, Martha, as well as other family members, moved on to the Last Chance neighborhood of Union Township, settling on land that apparently had been entered but perhaps not yet proved earlier by Clark Westfall.

According to Lucas County’s 1881 history, a Mr. Hamilton --- who apparently didn’t stick around long --- was Union Township’s first settler. Others who arrived prior to 1850, in addition to Granville and Jennetta and their extended family, included the Hiram Holmes, David Fudge and Bennett Robinson families, all enumerated in the 1850 census.

Although Lafayette Sherwood was by tradition the first buried at Last Chance, members of the Westfall family soon followed him. Clark Westfall, 6-month-old son of Granville and Jenetta, died on Sept. 21, 1851; Granville’s brother, Lot, on Oct. 27, 1851; and Martha Teel, a niece of Jennetta, daughter of Joseph and Dorcas, on Nov. 21, 1851. They were the first of 10 family members buried on the lot where Granville and Jennetta eventually were interred.

Granville and Jennetta had a total of 14 children, all but the eldest born in Lucas County. Five died young and are buried with their parents; nine survived.

Jennetta died near Last Chance on Nov. 25, 1885, at the age of 53 and was buried here. It seems likely that Granville commissioned the tall stone that marks her grave.

At some point thereafter, Granville set out to visit his old home in Jackson County, West Virginia, and while there met and married on Oct. 5, 1887, Florence L. Pfost.

During 1891, Granville became ill and one of his sons traveled east to be with him. Granville died on Dec. 17, 1891, “near his old home in Jackson County,” a fact recorded on his tombstone.

Unfortunately, Granville took a detour while en route home for burial. Ralph Marshall found a brief article in the Humeston New Era describing the circumstances: “…in shipping the body home it became lost; after several days of anxiety and some telegraphing, it was found at Sheridan, Iowa, where it had been missent instead of Chariton.” Sheridan, now a ghost town, is located northeast of Grinnell in Poweshiek County.

By Christmas, however, Granville’s remains had returned home to Last Chance for burial. He has been standing here in marbled splendor, with Jennetta by his side, ever since.

Note: Although Granville's name is spelled "Granvill" on both his tombstone and that of his wife, it was then and still is spelled with the final "e" everywhere else.

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