Friday, June 26, 2015

Three angels ...



I was intrigued the other day while chasing Civil War veterans through the Chariton Cemetery by a trio of angels that mark the graves of three young women who died during the 1920s --- Genevieve Harding, her sister, Imogene (Harding) Throckmorton, and Virginia (McNeish) Doolin.

The Harding sisters are buried with their parents in the most easterly area of the cemetery; Virginia, apparently alone and far to the west.

Imogene and Virginia both died during 1926, newly married, and close in age --- one 22 and the other only 19. So perhaps they were friends. But there's little doubt that all three monuments, and their angels, were erected by Imogene's and Genevieve's father, O.D. Harding, proprietor of Chariton Granite & Marble Works, for many years a leading regional purveyor of tombstones.

Orlin Dexter Harding and his wife, Nancy Ann, moved to Chariton from Albia during 1906. He was an Indiana native who had entered the granite and marble business during the early 1890s in Grant City, Missouri; married Nancy Ann during 1900 in Ringgold County; then moved shortly thereafter to Albia.

During his time in Chariton, the business was located just south of the square on South Main --- the current location of the fire station wing of City Hall --- where marble and granite had been formed into monuments since Lucas County's earliest days.

Harding and his then-partner, Edwin Veirs --- principally a salesman for the firm --- were the contractors during 1915 for the Civil War monument southeast of the courthouse, among O.D.'s biggest projects.

O.D.'s and Nancy Ann's daughter, Genevieve, was the first of the three young women to die --- on October 21, 1921, just three weeks after her 20th birthday. She was a 1919 graduate of Chariton High School who had begun to teach in Lucas County's rural schools that fall, then attended Drake University for a term.

She had contracted to teach at Centennial School in Pleasant Township during the fall of 1921 and became ill with diphtheria while boarding near there on Oct. 12. Brought home to Chariton, she then developed pneumonia and that proved fatal.

Because the Harding household was under quarantine because of the diphtheria, no funeral services were held. But neighbors and friends gathered on the lawn of the Harding home on East Auburn Avenue for a brief memorial the morning after her death before the remains were taken to the cemetery for burial.

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Virginia McNeish was a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. David McNeish and a 1924 graduate of Chariton High School. She was married in Chariton on Dec. 29 of the year following to Arkell Doolin and they left immediately for a new home in Detroit, Michigan.

But just seven weeks later, during February of 1926, she developed acute appendicitis and died as a result in Detroit on the 17th, age 19. Her funeral was conducted at the Chariton Methodist Church on Feb. 20 and burial followed in the Chariton Cemetery.

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Imogene Harding, a 1922 graduate of Chariton High School, also was a graduate of Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, and had taught for two years in Garden Grove before her marriage on May 21, 1926, to Clifford Throckmorton, whom she had met there.

They established their home at Garden Grove, but just four months later --- on Sept. 21, 1926 --- Imogene died at Garden Grove of what was described as a "complication of troubles," terminology that generally implied her physicians weren't quite sure what had caused her death, after a two-week illness. Her funeral was held in Chariton two days later and she was buried beside her sister in the Chariton Cemetery.

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O.D. Harding died at age 64 on May 22, 1933, and was buried near his daughters. Nancy Ann sold the business later that year to C.E. Dunn, who moved its stock and equipment elsewhere to his own shop.

Nancy Ann died April 18, 1943, and was buried with her daughters and husband, leaving two other daughters as survivors, Arlene Oakes of Dallas, Texas, and Jerry Ann, serving as a military nurse in Hawaii.

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Genevieve's angel remains in near perfect condition, but the other two have suffered a variety of indignities over the years, broken wings and fractured limbs. But all three still stand sentinel over the graves they guard.



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