Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Identifing "Baby Creech"

Still obsessing a little about the vanished Watson Cemetery --- destroyed during 1936 when the C.B.&Q. rebuilt its line up White Breast Hill east of Lucas --- I walked over Tuesday morning to take a look at the small markers identifying the graves of most brought into Chariton for reburial during April of that year.

They're located in the northwest corner of the cemetery, on a slope just east of the fenced grave of Mary Finley, 22, who died June 18, 1857, and whose remains also were brought here from another cemetery at some point --- although not from Watson. Watson refugees Rene and Mary Ellen Julien, fortunate enough to have had a tombstone, are buried elsewhere on a family lot.

Each of the Watson graves is marked, or was originally, with a small bronze plaque mounted on a concrete base. There are 11 "Unknowns," numbered consecutively, "Unknown No. 1-11, Reburied 1936." Beardsley Funeral Home apparently handled the reburials, since each plaque contains the line "Beardsley Service." The C.B.&Q. most likely paid the bill.

Time and lawnmowers have not been kind, however, and a couple of the plaques are missing; only bases remain. One of these is within the numbered sequence of unknowns, but I was puzzled for a while by a 12th base until it occurred to me that this missing plaque must have marked the grave of the third set of "known" remains first buried at Watson. The others were Rene and Mary Ellen.

This plaque still was in place when inscriptions were read for the Lucas County Genealogical Society's 1981 "Lucas County, Iowa, Cemetey Records." So we know it read, "Baby Creech, 1862-1863." Chariton Cemetery records add a little more information. The baby's name was Joseph A. Creech and he apparently had a tombstone, too, with the death date June 11, 1863, inscribed upon it. That tombstone must have been discarded and the bronze plaque substituted for it in the interests of uniformity. Perhaps it was buried with him.

Little Joseph's parents almost undoubtedly were Joseph Franklin and Rebecca Jane (Phillips) Creech, who were living near the cemetery in White Breast Township when the 1860 census was taken. Although his name does not appear in any of the online lists of their children, there is an age gap for him between the births of Daniel Creech, ca. 1861, and John Creech, ca. 1864.

The Creech family remained in Lucas County until after 1870, but by 1875 was living in Mitchell County, Kansas. Between 1885 and 1900, Joseph and Rebecca relocated to Spokane, Washington, where he died in 1918 and she, in 1923. According to the 1900 census, Rebecca had given birth to nine children, seven of whom surved during that year.

In a perfect world, the missing bronze plaques would be replaced and some sort of marker erected to identify this small cemetery within a cemetery for passers-by. But of course, this is not a perfect world.

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