Monday, September 05, 2011

Transcendental moments at Hart-Woods

Start of the half-mile lane back to Hart-Woods.

If I ever get serious about this enlightenment business, that big old oak outside the gate at Hart-Woods Cemetery will be my Bodhi tree. Who needs figs when you’ve got acorns? Golly, it’s a wonderful tree.

Hart-Woods, a clearing in woods high on a timbered hill above Wolf Creek, is perhaps the most remote and atmospheric of Wayne County’s many interesting cemeteries. It is at the end of a half-mile lane that starts by shooting straight north in Section 4 of Washington Township, less than a mile south of the Lucas County line, then twists and turns before sweeping finally into a circle around the oak.

I went to the oldest detailed map of Wayne County I could find, dating from the 1890s, thinking it might show that a through road had once passed by the cemetery. But that does not seem to have been the case. The cemetery seems always to have been remote.

I’m guessing that the cabin of Truman Hart, who reportedly died during 1851 and who, according to his tombstone was the first buried here, was nearby at a time before roads for the most part followed section lines and that this may once have been Hart land. The Wood family, also buried here, owned it later. Hence, Hart-Woods.

Truman, whose name actually seems to have been Elisha Truman, was born according to online sources Dec. 25, 1819, in Mason County, (West) Virginia --- an area along the Ohio River where many Wayne Countyans, including my Boswell family, came from.

Truman, or Elisha, was one of about a dozen children of Truman and Clarissa (Kellogg) Hart, who arrived in Wayne County prior to 1850 and managed to launch the great Hart conspiracy that makes it very difficult to be from Wayne County and in some way not related to the Harts.

Elisha/Truman had married Elizabeth Bond Aug. 5, 1847, in Clay County, Missouri, and they reportedly had three children, Nehemiah, Margaret H. (Harrington) and Elisha T.K., reportedly born during the year of his father’s death. The widow and children left Wayne County after Truman died and moved to Missouri, then Nebraska.

Truman is buried next to his elder brother, Kellogg M. Hart, who died March 27, 1862, age 52. Note the Masonic symbol on his tombstone. According to the Wayne County Genealogical Society’s “Wayne County, Iowa, Cemeteries,” Kellogg’s son and daughter-in-law, Lafayette and Mary Hart, also were buried here (the base of their tombstone remains), but were reinterred in the Humeston Cemetery. No doubt others here are related to the Harts and there most likely are other unmarked Hart graves.

Several tombstones caught my eye yesterday, including this red granite that marks the grave of Robert J. Burley (1870-1919). The carved flourishes around the Burley name are remarkable, I thought. Robert was a member of the Lucas County Burley family (a son of James and Nancy), many of whom who are buried at Freedom and Sharon cemeteries.

The stone that marks the graves of Isaac U. and Mary Mosier also is a fine example of tombstone art executed in granite.

I really liked this draped marble stone, which has lost its finial, that marks the grave of Flora A., wife of J.H. Lanier. She died in 1879.

Hart-Woods remains an active cemetery, and innovative tombstone art is far from dead here. This stone, along with military bronze, marks the grave of Glen Mitchell Jr., one of several Mitchells buried here.

And there are minor mysteries (to me at least), too. What brought Steven E. Rastofer here to “rest in peace” in his early 30s during 1985. Rastofer is not, as they say, a Wayne County name and he seems to be alone here at Hart-Woods.

No matter how he came to be here, however, there could hardly be a better place on earth to rest in peace. This is an even more beautiful place when leaves start to turn, then fall. I may go back in a month and see it again.


Anonymous said...

Good research as always. I'll add some remarks that I believe factual.

Elisha Truman Hart was buried on the 80 acres he owned, and his estate is the first one in the probate record books of Wayne County. His will was witnessed by William B. Hart, who was likely another brother who left the area soon after, and by Corydon Hart, a nephew.

Corydon Hart came west by himself at age 14 to get away from a stepfather and join his grandfather and uncles. He is reported to have hewed the corners for Wayne County's log cabin courthouse, a job requiring some skill. It is remarkable that someone with the name Corydon and Judge Anderson from Corydon, Indiana were both there at the time the town was named, although the judge gets the credit in the history books.

The Harts gave their arrival in Wayne County as 1848, and I like to claim they were the first permanent settlers who chose to be in Wayne County, Iowa. Those in the Lineville area, who arrived much earlier, thought they were in Missouri until the state line dispute was settled.

The parents Truman and Clarissa Hart are buried at Coon Creek Cemetery, west of Trenton, Missouri, where there were other relatives.

Bill Hart

Brad Mitchell said...

The aforementioned Steven Rastofer was my cousin, and was the grandson of Faye and Frank Mitchell who are also buried near his gravesite. The Mitchell family has several branches of the family tree in the Hart-Woods Cemetery as our family has had farmland nearby for 135-140 years. I generally make a visit to this peaceful cemetery once or twice a year. My cousin Steve was from Des Moines, and enjoyed hunting in the timber nearby on the family farm, and one of his final wishes was to be interred in what our family has considered the 'Mitchell' cemetery as many of my grandfather's family is buried in the Hart-Woods Cemetery.

JF said...

I knew Steve Rastofer from Valley HS and he was a neighbor on Jefferson Ave.
May I ask how he passed away far too soon? So young.


Frank D. Myers said...

Hi Judy --- I have no personal knowledge of this family, but can tell you that Steve probably was buried at Hart-Woods Cemetery at the behest of his maternal grandmother, Faye Yates Mitchell (1904-1996), who also is buried here with his grandfather, Frank Mitchell (1900-1981). Steve's obituary, published in The Des Moines Register of Oct. 22, 1985, gave his cause of death as cancer. His survivors included a wife named Cindy who he married in his hospital room at Iowa Methodist Medical Center during late September, 1985, about a month before his death, as well as his parents (divorced) and a brother.

Frank D. Myers said...

Also see the earlier comment from Brad Mitchell, stating the Steve had enjoyed hunting in nearby timber owned by the Mitchell family and asked to be buried in the cemetery.