Monday, June 20, 2011

The Stanton Vault Revisited: Part 1

You'll have to imagine the gated entrance to the Stanton Vault just to the right of the spirea bush on the left here, partly sunk into the ground. The modest tombstone in the center, marking Stanton graves, is located above what was the approximate middle of the vault.

The rise and fall of the Stanton Vault, once a preferred address in the Chariton Cemetery and now a place where 16 of its former residents, some of them rather grand, rest in a heap, is a fairly good story. It is a story I told first in somewhat abbreviated form during a 2006 meeting here in Chariton.

The information has been published and posted several places since, so I figured I’d rearrange it a little, make a few corrections and put it here, too. Because of excessive detail about some of the vault’s former residents, I'll break the story into three parts; one today, the others (mostly obituaries), later

There's always been an impulse to put loved ones or ourselves to rest somewhere other than the traditional six feet under, and given enough money these impulses have been carried through --- sometimes with spectacular but often with transitory results.

As a rule, these grand monuments are bad ideas. They deteriorate, fall apart and eventually someone has to deal with a challenging and expensive problem.

Lucas Countyans have never been that enthusiastic about spending money, so as far as I know we've never has more than three mausoleums, all in the Chariton cemetery. The Copeland mausoleum (above) still is well-maintained by its family. Lockwood heirs convinced the cemetery board to undertake repairs to their plain little vault (more about it later) years ago by deeding unused cemetery real estate to the city.

The former Stanton Vault is a good example of worst-case scenario.

The Stanton Vault is tied very closely to the history of the Chariton Cemetery, which was founded by private investors during the early 1860s to supplement or replace Douglass Cemetery out southeast of town along the Blue Grass Road and an earlier Chariton Cemetery on the Columbus School hill.

By the 1880s, control of the Chariton Cemetery had passed into the hands of Dr. James Eddington Stanton, a pioneer physician, and he and his descendants operated it as a private business until the city purchased it for $10,000 during 1924 from Gertrude Stanton, widow of J.E. Stanton's son, Dr. John H. Stanton.

During the mid-1880s, J.E. Stanton hatched the idea of a vault both to serve the needs of his own family and, always practical, to be shared by others in order to make it a paying proposition. It was reported upon as follows by one of the Chariton newspapers during September of 1887:

"Dr. J. E. Stanton has the very reasonable and humane abhorrence of disposing of the dead by burying in the ground. Some time ago he conceived the idea of constructing in the Chariton Cemetery a large stone vault, not alone for himself and family, but for such others as may want their remains to rest in it. The vault is now nearly completed. It will be arranged with thirty compartments each large enough to receive a full-size burial case. These compartments are provided with hard cement bottoms, sides and tops, the front end being of heavy wrought iron, with iron door.

"The idea is a novel one in this country, but the thoughts of one's remains quietly resting in a secure vault above ground rather than in a grave below, robs death of part of its terrors. The doctor has already disposed of several of these rooms and will doubtless find no difficulty in disposing of all. The remains of Prof. Perry were the first that were laid to rest in the new tomb."

I remember the vault, faintly, as an object of mild horror. You can still find its location by driving on the main cemetery driveway about four-fifths of the way to the west end and looking to your left (south) for a grassy drive-way like area that once provided access to the vault. Two spirea bushes remain, survivors of several that once surrounded the vault; and if you turn to face east once you've passed the larger one and look up toward a modest modern tombstone inscribed "Stanton" you'll be standing before what once was the entrance.

Climb the hill and you'll find flanking the Stanton stone and in another row behind it Fielding Funeral Home markers mounted in strips of concrete recording some information about former occupants of the vault evacuated when it was demolished, then reburied in its footprint.

The vault actually looked a good deal like a large fruit cellar, sunk into the ground with grass covering its top. I'm reasonably sure that, when I was small, you could still look through a gated entrance and see the individual burial vaults.

The east-west walkway inside was wide enough to maneuver a coffin in and there were 15 burial places on either side, each fronted by a square iron door into which was mounted a slim panel of marble with deeply scalloped corners bearing inscribed information about the deceased within. The doors swung open sideways, then were closed and hopefully sealed once an interment had taken place.

Two of those doors survive, removed and mounted flush with the ground in the southeast corner of the cemetery when the bodies of Lewis Bonnett and his wife, Maria (Virgin) Bonnett, were evacuated and reinterred. Having been ousted from the vault, the Bonnetts thriftily took their doors with them. Although the marble panels are badly deteriorated, you get a fairly good idea of how the vault worked by looking closely at them since even the hinge mountings remain.

When the city acquired the cemetery during 1924, it also acquired the vault and its problems. Keep in mind that once filled, the financial incentive to maintain a structure like this evaporates. And the Stanton vault, deteriorating and subject to morbid curiosity and vandalism, became a major problem for the city. Eventually, the decision was made to demolish it.

When families could be located, they were offered the opportunity to remove and rebury the bodies of their loved ones --- and several did. Descendants of Stantons buried within opted to have their family members reinterred on the site of the vault. Those who had no descendants remaining to speak for them were reburied at city expense in the excavation left when massive stone walls of the vault were removed,

I'm not sure when this happened, but it probably was during the late 1960s or 1970s. I remember it being there, and then it wasn't. I should try to track a specific date down.

So much for "quietly resting in a secure vault above ground."

What follows is a little information about occupants of the Stanton vault, beginning with the Stantons themselves. There will be more detail in later posts.

Dr. James Eddington Stanton, who died Nov. 6, 1908, was the builder of the vault and was buried in it as he intended. Born 1828 in Belmont County, Ohio, he brought his family to Lucas County during 1862. One of the original Chariton Cemetery stockholders, by one means or another he ended up owning it and it became both a hobby and a business enterprise. The fact that Chariton still has such a pretty cemetery probably can be attributed to his foresight and design preferences. When newer sections of the cemetery were platted, their design was in sympathy with the original. The only bad idea Stanton had was the vault.

J.E. Stanton's wife, Mary Jane (Hobbs) Stanton, born during 1825 near Baltimore, Maryland, predeceased her husband on Nov. 21, 1900, and so preceded him into the vault.

Dr. John H. Stanton, son of J.E. and Mary Hobbs Stanton, was born in Indiana during 1862, and came to Chariton with his family as an infant. A widely-known and highly respected physician, he died May 25, 1922, and joined his parents in the vault.

John H. Stanton had married Gertrude Aughey, daughter of Chariton's Presbyterian pastor, during 1894. It was Gertrude who sold the cemetery to the city after John H. died. In later years, she moved to Chicago to live near her daughters and died there during April of 1940. Her body was cremated and at some point the ashes were brought to Chariton and placed in the vault, the last interment to occur there.

The graves of these four Stantons are marked by a modern tombstone erected by family members after the vault was demolished and its occupants reinterred.

The family of Dr. J.E. Stanton's other physician son, Theodore, did not use the vault and its members are buried more traditionally in the southwestern part of the Chariton Cemetery (below).

Buried immediately north of these four principal Stantons is Minnie Stanton Guylee, a daughter of J.E. and Mary Hobbs Stanton who was born during 1851 in Belmont County, Ohio, and died Dec. 18, 1896, preceding both her parents into the vault. She had married a Chariton businessman, Tom Guylee, during 1879, but they had no children.

Tom is buried north of Minnie, but he may have moved away from Chariton after her death and died elsewhere. I can find no record of his death or of when his remains joined Minnie's in the vault. There are no dates on his funeral home marker although his “Find a Grave” entry gives his dates as 1841-1912 with no source specified.

Buried immediately south of the Stanton tombstone is Mary E. Stanton, a daughter of J.E. and Mary (Hobbs) Stanton, who was born during 1857 and died at Chariton during 1865, age 7. Her remains apparently were disinterred when the vault was built and placed inside it.

South of Mary E. Stanton is Emma J. Stanton, who was the wife of Dr. J.E. Stanton's nephew, L. M. Stanton. The L. M. Stantons lived at Humeston, where Emma died during November of 1890. Her body was brought from Humeston to Chariton for burial in the Stanton vault. L.M. Stanton survived his wife by 23 years, remaining at Humeston, and because he had no one else was taken in during his final illness by his cousins in Chariton. When he died during August of 1913 he was not buried with his wife in the vault, but instead at the rear of the Theodore Stanton lot to the south and west.

The last grave in this row of reburied Stantons belongs to Ruth Ann Stanton Mead, who was Dr. J.E. Stanton's twin sister, born during 1828 in Belmont County, Ohio. She died Nov. 10, 1891, at West Liberty, and her body was brought to Chariton for burial in the vault.

The second row of burials from the former vault are mostly people unrelated to the Stantons, simply left behind after their families moved on or died out.

Andrew Swan, born during 1826 in Sweden, died at his farm in Whitebreast Township on Nov. 21, 1903, and was buried in the vault after funeral services at the Swedish Mission Church. Most of this family, including his widow, Mary, seems to have moved away leaving Andrew as the only Swan still reposing in Lucas County.

Henrietta Stewart Perry, widow of J. W. Perry, buried next door, was born during 1851 in Wayne County, Ohio, and married the professor during 1870 in Chariton. Following her husband's death, she moved to St. Louis, where her two children lived, and died there on Oct. 11, 1898. Her body was returned to Chariton during late afternoon on the 13th of October and was taken directly to the Stanton Vault for interment.

Henriett's husband, John W. Perry, the first to be interred in the Stanton Vault, was born during 1836 in Indiana and was licensed to preached by the Methodist Episcopal Church. Upon arrival in Chariton during the late 1860s, however, he chose to teach, operating private academies, teaching in the public schools and serving as both county superintendent of schools and clerk of district court. He died Sept. 21, 1887, and his remains were placed in the vault as it was nearing completion.

Henry C. VanWerden was a physician who had practiced in Chariton at one point. He died at Leon during August of 1895, having lived there for some 16 years, and his body was returned to Chariton for burial. The only relative identified in a newspaper account of his death is Mrs. W. H. Hemphill of Chariton, a sister-in-law.

Louise Mallory Thayer, daughter of Deming J. and Jessie O. (Mallory) Thayer, was stillborn at the Ilion on Feb. 3, 1888 (the date on her marker is wrong). She was the only grandchild of Smith H. and Annie (Ogden) Mallory. Deming Thayer committed suicide during 1898 and was buried in a newly-purchased Mallory lot some distance due west of the Stanton Vault, but Louise's body was not moved. Smith H. Mallory, who died during 1903, was buried near Deming, then disinterred and his body cremated and the ashes taken to Orlando, Florida, during 1920. That left Deming and his stillborn daughter as the only representatives in Lucas County of what once was its first family. Sadly, they're not buried together.

Minnie G. Kirk, buried immediately south of Louise, was born Minnie Gray in Lucas County about 1866 and married Charles R. Kirk, at one time a Chariton mover and shaker. Afflicted with tuberculosis, she died May 2, 1896, in Las Vegas, N.M., and her body was returned to Chariton and placed in the vault. Charles R. Kirk survived until 1917, but was buried elsewhere in the Chariton Cemetery.

Clara Mead, was a niece of J.E. Stanton, daughter of his twin sister, Ruth Stanton Mead, who had been interred in the vault during 1891. Clara died in Minneapolis "a few weeks" prior to August 1913, when her remains were brought to Chariton by her sisters, Mary E. and Ella Mead, and placed in the vault. One hopes she had been cremated.

That completes the account of those who were buried in the Stanton Vault until their bodies were removed to allow its demolition, then reburied in its footprint, 16 in all.

The vault also had a number of temporary residents during its useful years, since it served as the cemetery's receiving vault: A place where loved ones could be parked temporarily until final burial arrangements could be made. There's no particular point in trying to track all of these people down, but I can tell you about three I've come across:

Dr. Harry S. McKlveen, a physician and son of pioneer Chariton physician Dr. J. A. McKlveen, died at age 41 in Los Angeles on Jan. 21, 1911, after overdosing himself with chloroform while trying to relieve the pain of an inner ear infection. His father returned to Chariton with the body and had it placed temporarily in the Stanton Vault. Several months later, during early June, the body was removed on a Sunday morning and buried in the traditional manner in the McKlveen lot some distance east.

Sarah Jane (Skidmore) Lockwood, wife of pioneer Chariton jeweler George A. Lockwood, died Oct. 11, 1909, and her body was placed in the Stanton Vault after funeral services at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. About seven months later, on June 2, 1910, George Lockwood, age 71, died at the home of their son, J. E. Lockwood, in Peoria, Ill., and his body was returned to Chariton and placed in the vault as well.

George had decided in the months following his wife's death to build the Lockwood vault, that odd little flat-topped structure in the extreme northwest corner of the cemetery, but it had not been completed by the time of his death. When it was complete, the bodies of both Lockwoods were removed from the Stanton vault and placed in their own, although today it's not evident who is buried there because subsequent repairs have covered exterior inscriptions, leaving only the surname "Lockwood" exposed above the sealed door.

No doubt many others reposed briefly in the Stanton vault until the 1930s and perhaps later when it became a less desirable address and no longer was used.

There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, of a soldier’s wife (war not specified) who died while her husband was serving abroad and whose body was placed in the vault until he could return after hostilities ceased to oversee her burial.

I can also tell you about six people who intended to rest permanently in the Stanton vault, but who were removed by their families as it deteriorated.

I'm not sure when the removals occurred, but believe that all six were moved not long before the vault was demolished. Nor am I certain that the number removed and reburied was only six. There very well may have been more.

The six I know about are Lewis and Maria (Virgin) Bonnett, mentioned at the outset, and four members of another Lockwood family.

Lewis Bonnett, born during 1830 in Ohio, came to Lucas County with his wife, Maria (Virgin) Bonnett, and children during 1865 and located on a farm south of Chariton in Benton Township. He built the farm he called The Pines into a showplace, and was perhaps Lucas County's leading stockman of that time.

Maria, born during 1834 in Ohio, died unexpectedly on March 17, 1890, and her body was placed in the Stanton Vault. Lewis Bonnett died of a heart attack on June 10, 1899, while on a business trip to Chicago, and joined Maria in the vault.

Bonnett descendants removed Lewis and Maria from the vault before it was demolished, and had their bodies buried on a family lot in the southeast portion of the cemetery, overlooking the Chariton River valley. The doors from their crypts were removed and mounted flush with the ground on the new lot to mark their graves. After the marble panels in those doors became almost indecipherable, a new stone was erected to the east, providing a more permanent memorial.

Alice "Allie" Stanton was another daughter of Dr. J.E. and Mary (Hobbs) Stanton, born July 4, 1855, in Belmont County, Ohio. After moving to Chariton with her family during 1865, she married James H. Lockwood, brother of George A. Lockwood whose brief tenure in the Stanton Vault was mentioned earlier, during 1887.

The Lockwoods had three children, two of whom died young and were buried in the Stanton Vault: George, born during 1888 who died Dec. 12, 1900; and Lucille, born during 1893 and died April 12, 1906.

James H. Lockwood, born during 1837 in Canada, died Feb 19, 1917, at his home in Chariton and joined his children in the vault. Allie died July 8, 1929, and also was buried in the vault.

The surviving daughter and sister, who did not marry, arranged to have her family removed from the vault and reburied behind a row of identical tombstones on a lot some distance south --- along the driveway looking down toward the cemetery cottage.

Buried on the same lot and with identical tombstones are Allie's nieces, Mary and Ella Mead, both of whom were veteran Minneapolis school teachers who died during the 1930s. The remains of their mother and sister, Ruth Ann (Stanton) and Clara Mead, remained in the vault.

So there you have it, 22 people whose resting place once seemed secure but wasn't. And three more, perhaps four, who joined them briefly in the Stanton Vault. Next time you're at the cemetery, pay them a visit. And it wouldn't hurt, on Memorial Day, to remember one or two of them. Not necessarily the Stantons. There are plenty of their descendants scattered around the country to remember them, if they will. But to think of Andrew Swan, the Perrys, Henry VanWerden, little Louise Mallory and Minnie Kirk would be a kind of Memorial Day random act of kindness.

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