Thursday, August 13, 2015

Clouds, John Reese and Fry Hill

I chased clouds into the White Breast hills east of Lucas Wednesday, coming home from the greenhouse, and ended up at the front gate of John and Caroline Reese, residents here since 1888 and 1893, respectively.

It's a fine piece of ironwork --- perhaps the best of its type in Lucas County --- and always worth a stop when visiting Fry Hill Cemetery, set aside on the highest point for miles around in the late 1870s to serve the mining families of Cleveland, a company town that now for the most part has vanished.

Known originally just as Cleveland Cemetery, it acquired the name Fry Hill from a Welsh miner named Shadrack Fry, age 24, who died of tuberculosis in the village below on Nov. 30, 1880, and was the first buried here.

John and Caroline Reese were Welsh, too, and John also was a miner. Caroline, most likely, was his mother --- although I've been unable to find out much about this family. But he was 39 on Jan. 2, 1888, when he died, and she was 74 when she died five years later, on March 2, 1893.

John had worked in the mines at Lucas, but had moved his wife and seven children to a new mining town called Zero --- not far from the Lucas-Monroe county line northeast of Russell --- following, as mining families always did, the work.

He was killed in the Zero mine, according to a Lucas Ledger report republished in The Chariton Democrat.

"A miner was blasting upon the face of a pillar in an adjoining room," The Ledger reported, "and the shot going in the opposite direction, striking Mr. Reese upon the right side of the face and breaking his skull about the temporal bone."

The remains were brought to the home of John's brother, Ed Reese, located in either Cleveland or Lucas, and laid to rest in Fry Hill.

Time has dissipated that old sorrow, as it always does; and Lucas County's mines are for the most part only a memory.

But Fry Hill remains a wonderful place to watch the clouds roll by on a sunny August afternoon.

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