Monday, April 04, 2016

Interpreting the Jay family burial plot

Unmarked graves are among the challenges faced by those interested in family and cemetery history, but the presence of tombstones doesn't necessarily mean that the record is clear. That's certainly the case with the Jay family lot in the Chariton Cemetery, resting place of brother physicians, Dr. Joseph R. Jay and Dr. Henry W. Jay, both of whom died shortly after the Civil War of war-related causes, and their families.

Saturday's post dealt primarily with Joseph R. Jay, who died July 28, 1866, of complications from dysentery nine months after he had returned to Chariton from the front in Mississippi, hopeful that home care would facilitate recovery. See "The Tribulation of Dr. Joseph Jay, Civil War surgeon."

The Jay family lot (Old Division, Block 41, Lot 2) probably was purchased at the time of his death and his burial in the southwest corner of it probably was the first. The imposing granite stone (left) that now marks his grave is a much later addition, probably erected during the first 20 years of the 20th century by his daughters.

This is a double lot, identical in size to a majority of those sold in the oldest part of the cemetery during the 19th century. These lots could hold up to 12 graves in two rows of six each --- and my own Redlingshafer family has managed this on their lot --- but it is a very tight fit.

The disconcerting thing about the Jay lot is that, at first sight, it appears to contain as many as 15 graves arranged in three rows. Once you figure out that the third row of stones, to the east, actually consists of foot stones similar in size to the headstones a grave's length to the west, the number drops to 11. There are two inscriptions on the big gray stone --- one for Joseph Jay and the other for his wife, Lucy, who died during 1924, some 58 years after he did. She's not buried behind the big stone, however, but instead just to the north behind a small white marble stone similar in size to the others on the lot. Now we're down to 10 graves.

The ashes for Joseph's and Lucy's son-in-law, Dr. William C. Davis, and daughter, Elizabeth (Jay) Davis, were brought to Chariton for burial from Chicago during 1932 and 1951, respectively. Their inscriptions are on another of those small modest white marble markers, this one at the south end of the second row of graves.

So now we know --- there are eight sets of physical remains buried here and the ashes of two other people.

The Joseph R. Jay family occupies the row of graves in the foreground, but I have no idea who rests behind the most northerly (left) stone. None of the earliest stones on the lot are inscribed with dates; each originally had only the names or initials of the deceased in raised lettering across its arched top and I've not been able to decipher what remains of the badly eroded lettering on the first stone. The simplicity of these stones probably was a factor of the Quaker sensibilities of the two Jay brothers.

The second stone marks the grave of Lucy and Joseph Jay's only son, John Kasson Jay., who died April 10, 1872, just short of his 10th birthday. Lucy's stone is next, then the Joseph R. Jay family stone behind which the doctor is buried.

The stone at far right (south) in the second row marks the burial place of the ashes of Dr. William and Elizabeth (Jay) Davis.

The most northerly stone in this row marks the grave of Mary Hamilton (Mizer) Jay, widow of Henry W. Jay, who after Henry died married first Capt. William Lauder Robison and, second, Benjamin Franklin Bates. The raised lettering atop her stone reads, "M.H.B." for Mary Hamilton Bates. She died in 1905.

Dr. Henry W. Jay's headstone is next. The lettering reads only "Henry Jay" and it is badly eroded. His footstone, however, is inscribed with his initials "H.W.J." and for some reason his Grand Army of the Republic flag holder has been placed next to the foot stone rather than the headstone. Henry died Dec. 28, 1868, of complications from tuberculosis.

The next stone marks the grave of Capt. William L. Robison, Mary's second husband, who died during 1883. His foot stone is inscribed with initials, too --- "W.L.R."

Just to the south of Capt. Robison is the grave of "M. Miser," actually Michael Mizer, the Chariton master carpenter who was Mary (Mizer) Jay-Robison-Bates' father. He reportedly died during 1890.

If this post has seemed a trifle obsessive-compulsive to you --- well, it is. But I needed to get in out of my system. I'll be back another day with more interesting stories about Mary and four of the men in her life, Michael Mizer, Henry W. Jay, William L. Robison and Benjamin Franklin Bates.

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