Thursday, September 17, 2015

John Rinehart would be proud of Richard Joles


Back in 2009, I wrote a couple of pieces here that were attempts to gently demythologize John Rinehart, who died during 1881 at age 66 and is buried just inside the main Chariton Cemetery gate --- widely celebrated as a Cherokee "Indian chief" in cemetery legend and lore.

In fact, the venerable Mr. Rinehart (I'm older than he was then, so plan to start referring to myself as "venerable," too) was head of a large extended Romani, or Gypsy, family that for more than 50 years after his death maintained a mutually amicable relationship with Chariton people, camping annually at a place sometimes known as "Indian Springs" along the Chariton River southwest of town selling herbal medicines and other items and, most likely, trading in horses during the early years.

During the fall of 1897, family members brought the remains of John's wife, Rachel --- who had died and been buried in Missouri more than a year earlier --- to Chariton to be buried by his side. In 1923, his daughter, Sahria, who had died in Minnesota, was buried here, too --- and most likely there are other family members interred on the family lot.

The family's last recorded visit was in 1934, when John's granddaughter, Dolly (Joles) Frier, spoke for the family during an interview with a reporter from The Herald-Patriot. Her mother was John and Rachel Rineharts' daughter, Elizabeth, and her father, Ephraim Joles. Ephraim had been a noted horse trader in his time.

The notion that John and his extended family were of Cherokee descent most likely was planted and long encouraged by its members because they knew the people of Chariton --- and those encountered elsewhere in their travels --- would react positively to the romantic notion of a roaming band of Native Americans; not so positively to a roaming band of "Gypsies." 

But always keep in mind that it was the integrity of the Rinehart-Joles family that ensured this long and amicable relationship with Lucas Countyans --- no matter how its members identified themselves.

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Anyhow, in the years since those posts, I've heard from several people related to or interested in the extended Rinehart-Joles family, the posts generated some online commentary that allowed me to learn more about some family members and several online family trees have been developed that help to track the complicated relationships of the Joles, Stanleys and other American Romani families.

So much information now is available that one of these days I'm going to go back into those 2009 posts to update and rework them.

Having said that, however, John Rinehart remains an enigmatic figure because we still know nothing specific about his origins and he died a long time ago.

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The other interesting thing I've learned is that this Cherokee identity adopted by some families has caused  confusion among their descendants that in some cases has cut them off from the fascinating stories of their actual Romani ancestors.

That's one reason I was so interested when my friend "Anonymous" pointed me last week toward the obituary of Richard Joles, an amazing man who died at age 84 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, during mid-August. 

Mr. Joles was not descended from John Rinehart --- but he would have been a nephew (down the line a generation or two) of John's son-in-law, Ephraim Joles, who was a member of that legendary Lucas County "Cherokee" clan. Many descendants of both John Rinehart and Ephraim Joles, including Dolly (Rinhart) and Joe Frier, eventually settled down in Wisconsin.

So I found this paragraph from his obituary, published in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram especially interesting:

"Long after his sons had grown up and had families of their own, Richard shared with them a long-held secret. He was not of Cherokee descent as he had said; he had been born to Gypsy people. He told his children the world disliked Gypsies because of their reputation, and he was fearful his children would be discriminated against."

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Here is the complete obituary of a man John Rinehart and other at rest in the Chariton Cemetery would  certainly be proud of. It's also a darned good obituary.

Richard Owen Joles wanted nothing more out of life than to be a good man. He succeeded. 

The much beloved 84-year-old died on a hospital bed in the living room of his Eau Claire home on Thursday, August 13, 2015. He died quietly while his family sat nearby sipping coffee and swapping stories about his life. 

Richard was born into hardship in Wisconsin Rapids, WI on March 18, 1931. His mother died giving birth to him. His distraught lumberjack father took his life four months later. Dick and his five sisters were split up and sent to live with relatives around the country. 

Dick spent his formative years in Davenport, Iowa raised by his aunt Nettie and uncle Richard Worton. While Dick had an active mind, school did not hold his interest. He finished ninth grade, then drifted a bit before he signed on the dotted line to become a U.S. Marine. There he found discipline, purpose and learned about human diversity. 

In 1955, the city boy met the farm girl, Carol Oritha Fossum. Dick’s sister Irene set them up on a blind date. They married a year later. Dick and Carol went on to have three sons. 

About the time they started their family, Richard got a job as a firefighter for the Eau Claire Fire Department. In some ways it was the perfect job for him. He almost daily got the chance to serve his community and people in need. He retired as a lieutenant, nearly 30 years after joining the department. His motto --- never ask other firefighters to go where he wouldn’t go. On his days off, Dick took jobs as a carpenter and a house painter, whatever he needed to do to support his family and to pursue the American dream. 

Richard enjoyed fishing for the elusive brown trout in nearby streams. Fishing in Wisconsin lost some of its luster when he took a trip to Norway and the angling proved too fast, the haul too big. He enjoyed working with stained glass, gardening and refinishing old furniture. Dick also spent countless hours grooming his perfect lawn and maintaining his nearly perfect house. 

Long after his sons had grown up and had families of their own, Richard shared with them a long-held secret. He was not of Cherokee descent as he had said; he had been born to Gypsy people. He told his children the world disliked Gypsies because of their reputation, and he was fearful his children would be discriminated against. 

Those who spent time with him, knew Dick was honest and fair to a fault. He believed people should get ahead through superior thinking and hard work and not politicking. He detested prejudice and entitlement. 

Richard leaves behind his wife, Carol; sons, Tom (Pat Peterman), Mike (Sherie), David (Marie); grandchildren, Allison Flores-Joles, Ellie, Max and Betsy Joles, and Spencer Joles; many nieces, nephews, other relatives, and friends. 

He was preceded in death by his granddaughter, Gracie Joles; sisters, Violet, Edith, Millie, Irene and Delores; and brother, Ray, who died in infancy. Memorial Service will be held 11:00 a.m. on Monday, August 17, 2015, at Eau Claire Wesleyan Church (2405 Keith St., Eau Claire). Family will receive friends one hour prior to service at church on Monday. Evergreen Funeral Home and Crematory is serving the family. 

In lieu of flowers, the family asks you to consider helping the Eau Claire Wesleyan Church, Mayo Health System Hospice, or just another person in need. 

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Here are links to the John Rinehart posts. If you take a look, keep in mind that they're outdated and in several instances need to be reworked: Part 1 and Part 2.

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