Saturday, June 19, 2021

Bramlette Stotts' will & the Stotts Cemetery fence

Find A Grave photo by Carl Nollen

I've been interested in Stotts Cemetery, due east of the Marion County village of Columbia not far north of the Lucas-Marion county line, since I was a kid and first visited it with my maternal grandfather. At the time it was not maintained and difficult to approach. Today, it's better maintained, but still a challenge to reach --- there is no road to it.

According to Find A Grave, there are 27 marked graves in the cemetery, most likely more that are unmarked. I know of at least one of those, dating from 1927 and perhaps the last burial.

The cemetery probably was begun between 1853 and 1855.  Samuel Woodson Fletcher died at the age of 32 on Oct. 7, 1855, and his is the oldest tombstone in the burial ground, which was located on his property. My great-great-great grandfather, William Clair, died just northeast of the cemetery during January of 1853 but was buried a mile or two due south, just across the line in Lucas County on a hilltop that he owned there. I'm betting that if there had been a neighborhood cemetery near his home, he would have been buried in it, rather than all by his lonesome in the wilds of northeast Lucas County.

The graveyard also is known sometimes as the Whitlatch Cemetery because because Noah Whitlatch (1797-1865) and his wife, Eva (Bible) Whitlatch (1893-1889) also are buried there, but takes its more widely accepted name from John R. (1810-1886) and Mary (1814-1881) Stotts, who brought their family from Columbia in Adair County, Kentucky, to a farm southeast of the newer Columbia, in Marion County, Iowa, during 1851. Four of their children also are buried here: Mary H. (1855-1863), Lewis (1835-1867), Bramlette (1844-1871) and Greene (1851-1927).

It was Bramlette's will, written in Lucas County on the day he died, May 31, 1871, and filed for probate in Chariton a few days later, that got me interested in Stotts Cemetery again. In it, he made a mildly unusual bequest --- "Twenty five dollars to be expended in fencing the graveyard on the land of the heirs of Woodson Fletcher." As death approached, it would seem, he was thinking of the future of the place he would be buried.


Bramlette, perhaps known as "Bram," was born April 12, 1844, in Adair County, Kentucky, and would have been about 7 when he moved to the south of Iowa with his family. He seems not to have served in the Civil War although he was listed among those subject to military duty in Washington Township, Marion County, during the war. The photo here is courtesy of Dennis Stotts.

Several young men from the Columbia neighborhood set out for Colorado during the early 1860s in search of gold or silver during the Pike's Peak Gold Rush, including Bramlette's brother, Benjamin. Was Bramlette among them? Did he strike it rich? It's unlikely we'll ever know.

Whatever the case, he had prospered by 1870 when he was enumerated as a single farmer in Pleasant Township, Lucas County, owning $3,400 in real estate and $2,525 in personal property --- a goodly amount for a young single man at that time.

According to Lucas County marriage records, Bram married Mary Rudisill (1852-1944) on Dec. 27, 1870, but their marriage had barely been launched when Bram died at the age of 27, writing his will on the day of his death five months later, May 31, 1871.

Under the terms of that will, Mary did not receive the entire estate, as might have been expected, but only the obligatory widow's third plus $500.

Bram left his brother, Greene, $800 to be invested in real estate and his old wagon; and the balance went to his father, John Stotts.

The widow Mary continued to live in the Columbia neighborhood and she may have been responsible for erecting the good tombstone that still marks Bram's grave in the Stotts Cemetery. 

Six years after his death, Mary married Frank Carruthers, prosperous farmer, stockman and after 1902 banker, and they went on to have seven children and become one of the most highly respected couples in Columbia.


The last Stotts family member to be buried in Stotts Cemetery was Greene, born Dec. 15, 1851, soon after the family arrived in Iowa. He married Priscilla McCorkle on March 2, 1871, in Marion County and they lived on a farm in Pleasant Township, Lucas County, until her death on Feb. 7, 1886, age 32. She was buried in the Stotts Cemetery and left behind, in addition to Greene, two sons, John and Floyd.

Green then married Mary J. Parks during 1889 and they had a son, Walter, but the marriage was not a joyful one and they soon parted. Mary died during 1903 and five years later, Greene married Zora R. Kelsey. They eventually moved to Creston where they were living when his health failed during the early 1920s and she seems to have moved on, leaving it to son Floyd to take care of his ailing father.

Greene died at University Hospitals in Iowa City on Aug. 22, 1927, after a leg had been amputated in an attempt to prevent the spread of gangrene.

Interment took place on Aug. 24 near the grave of Priscilla "in the cemetery east of Columbia, near the original home of his father where he was born and reared," according to an obituary published in The Chariton Herald-Patriot on Sept. 1, 1927. His grave never was marked.

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