Tuesday, March 31, 2015


So what in the world were Mary Ruth, Brandon and Frank doing out there in the Chariton Cemetery early Monday afternoon?

The short answer is, witching for graves. Mary Ruth Pierschbacher and her sidekick, Darlene Arnold, are Lucas County's premier grave witchers; Brandon, a younger member of Lucas County's vast McCormick conspiracy, has been volunteering this winter in the genealogical library as part of the CHS Silver Cord program; and I was trying to figure who the heck is buried on this double lot that contains graves of the related Fisher, Row and Noble families.

So Mary Ruth volunteered her services when I dropped in at the library to complain and Brandon came along to try his hand. My double-pronged assault on this cemetery mystery involved a follow-up visit to City Hall where Ruth Ryun very kindly helped me find the plat map of the lot that shows --- kind of --- where some of graves are --- officially.

In case you're wondering --- Mary Ruth was darned accurate, although a number of puzzles remain. When I checked her results against the plat, she had accurately detected children's graves where I would have sworn adults were buried and adults buried where I'd have sworn no one was buried. The problem is, we're still not sure who all is buried here --- and who isn't. And locating a grave does not necessarily mean you know who is in it.

I got tangled up in this while researching Joseph Fisher, one of Lucas County's Civil War fatalities. He died Feb. 15, 1863, of unspecified disease at a St. Louis-area military hospital, perhaps after having been transported upriver from Vicksburg for treatment. He is buried in Benton Barracks National Cemetery at St. Louis.

But there's a memorial inscription for him on the north face of the big white marble obelisk that is the principal stone on this lot: "Joseph, died at St. Louis, Mo., Mar. 14, 1863, Aged 21 Ys, son of J. & C. Fisher." That inscription by now is barely legible. A stone that memorializes someone not buried near it is called a cenotaph --- so the main stone on this lot, which has nine inscriptions on it, serves as cenotaph, too, for at least one person.


There are quite a few complicating factors when trying to sort out early burials in the Chariton Cemetery, including the fact that the Chariton Cemetery Co. wasn't organized until 1864 although the earliest marked burials date from the early 1850s. Burials dated (by tombstone) 1863 and earlier most likely were first located elsewhere.

We know that Chariton's first in-town cemetery, located on the current Columbus School hill, had been evacuated by 1867, when the first school building was constructed on the site. Many remains also were brought to the new cemetery over a fairly long period from what now is called Douglass Pioneer Cemetery, just southeast of town.

But the current cemetery record books seem to date from 1901-02 when they were created by Dr. J.E. Stanton, who then owned the cemetery company, and his staff. We don't know what sort of earlier records, if any (there's the legend of a fire mixed in here), they had to work from. It seems likely that records of the earliest burials were based upon an inventory of tombstones, memory and tradition (Dr. Stanton was one of the cemetery company's organizers).

Although each lot has a detailed plat with grave locations indicated, the graves cannot be linked reliably in all cases to specific people until after 1902 and even then, occasional burials were not drawn in on the lot plats (one reason why the city forced a buy-out and acquired the cemetery from Stanton heirs in the 1920s was the fact private ownership no longer seemed to be working).


The white marble obelisk, principal stone on this lot probably dates from after 1877 since its inscriptions appear to have been placed at the same time --- after the death of Charles B. Row at age 23 on Aug. 25, 1877 (he doesn't seem to actually be buried here).

There are nine inscriptons on the stone with family matriarch Catharine Fisher having pride of place. She died at age 55 on Oct. 7, 1861, and probably is buried just east of the obelisk under a newer granite stone inscribed only "My Mother."

Catharine, a New York native, was a widow with two children --- Samuel S. and Maria Row --- when she married Joseph Fisher, a native of England, during the 1840s in Ohio. They had four children of their own --- John (buried at Greenville Cemetery), Joseph (died during Civil War service and buried at Benton Barracks), George (commemorated but not necessarily buried here; he died Jan. 11, 1861, age 21) and Catharine, who married and moved west with her family.

Maria Row married Appleton Bainbridge Noble during 1851 in Ohio and they reportedly moved west to Chariton during the spring of 1854. A.B. was a carpenter and builder as well as serving as both Lucas County sheriff and deputy. Appleton died in Chariton March 24, 1905, and Maria, April 3, 1907. Their graves on the east half of the family lot are unmarked. Two of their daughters died young, were reburied here at some point and are commemorated on the obelisk --- Celestine, died March 4, 1854; and Cecelia, died May 13, 1861. The infant graves, also on the east half of the lot, are flanked by those of two Noble sons who died as adults, Warren Weston (died April 9, 1923) and Charles E. (died Sept. 20, 1934). Warren W. and Charles are the only two people buried on the east half of the lot who have tombstones.

Samuel S. Row, also a carpenter by trade, married Emaline Story, also in Ohio, and they reportedly came to Chariton with their family, too, in the spring of 1854. Emaline died at 28 on Aug. 17, 1862; daughter Laura, as an infant on Sept. 19, 1862; daughter Julyan, also as an infant on May 19, 1863; and son Charles B., at age 23 on Aug. 25, 1877. All are commemorated on the marble obelisk. S.S. Row died March 4, 1919, and has his own stone just north of the obelisk; son Etherial Plimpton Row, died May 27, 1934, and is buried at the south end of the row of Row graves with his wife, Margaret (Naslund) Row, who died Feb. 10, 1916. All of the Row graves, other than Charles's, have been marked with newer granite stones --- suggesting that Charles died and is buried elsewhere.

Sarah and Joseph Fisher also appear to have arrived in Lucas County ca. 1854, settling before 1856 on a farm east of Russell in Washington Township, and Fisher sons Joseph and George are commemorated on the north face of the obelisk here, inscriptions barely legible now. George actually may be buried here, or perhaps not.

Joseph Fisher died during 1886 at his farm east of Russell in Washington Township, having survived his wife more than 30 years, and records indicate that he was buried somewhere on the family lot, too. Unfortunately, there's no obvious place where that grave might be located, other than among unmarked Noble graves on the east half of the lot.

Whatever the case, Mary Ruth, Brandon and I enjoyed our outing on Monday --- and I've added a new favorite to my list of outstanding Lucas County names --- Etherial Plimpton Row. Wow!

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