Wednesday, June 13, 2012

David Arnold gets his top hat back

My cousin, Ilene, was pretty excited yesterday morning when she told me that her great-great-great-grandfather, David Arnold --- out at Salem Cemetery --- had gotten his top hat back. Actually, the top hat is a marble urn that had crowned his tombstone of marble and granite for about 120 years when it just fell off a few years ago.

The whole tombstone --- a transitional type that bridges the divide between marble and granite as the principal components of cemetery art --- was in fairly tough shape at the time. The marble base was badly cracked, too, threatening to give way and bring the granite column atop it down.

Ilene acquired David as an ancestor when her great-grandfather, Greer Redlingshafer --- my great-grandmother's brother --- married Augusta Arnold, David's granddaughter. David and his wife, Alpha, also are the ancestors of Roberta, Bill and others who hang out here sometimes. Our retiring state representative, Richard Arnold, is another descendant.

Anyhow, I was the one who discovered that David had lost his hat during an early-evening visit to Salem at a time when I was heavily invested in tracking down information about everyone buried there since it is my family cemetery.

That was a little eerie. For some reason, as I walked through the cemetery gate, it seemed like something was wrong --- but couldn't put my finger on exactly what. Finally, after looking around carefully for quite a while, it occurred to me that the Arnold stone didn't look right and, walking over toward it, found the urn in the grass. It had traveled a surprising distance in its flight, but there's no indication that vandalism was involved in the fall. The iron rod that secured it to the rest of the stone had just rusted away.

I picked up the urn and put it next to the stone, then went home and called Ilene. She went out and brought it home, where it rested in the garage while she contacted various other descendants looking for ways to (a) repair the stone and (b) pay for the operation.

This spring, Jerry and Fred Arnold --- descendants of David and Alpha's grandson, Morris --- came to the rescue. Jerry lives near Garden Grove; Fred, in Pennsylvania. They found an expert in tombstone restoration at Corydon and he directed the restoration process, which included lifting the urn back into place and securing it. So now the stone's ready, we hope, to go for another century or so.

David does not have a published obituary. Only the following death notice, published in The Chariton Patriot of 5 May 1880, can be found:

Died, Arnold: At the residence of his son, Ed Arnold, in Benton Township, on April 27th, Mr. David Arnold, age 89 years.

The closest I've come to a published biography is the following exerpt from the biographical account of his son, Edward, published on pp. 251-253 of "A Memorial and Biographical Record of Iowa" (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1896). This account is filled with errors, so can only be trusted so far.

David Arnold was a native of Herkimer county, New York, of blue Yankee blood, and was a soldier in the war of 1812. He was married in New York to Miss Alpha Seward (actually Seaward), a relative of the Hon. William H. Seward, and also a native of the Empire State. After their marriage they moved to Guernsey county, Ohio, where they maintained their home for forty years, removing thence to Marion county, Iowa. He died in Marion county, on his farm, at the advanced age of eighty-five years (actually he didn't; he died at the home of Edward Arnold in Benton Township, Lucas County, and was 89). He had been a miller in Ohio, but the latter part of his life was devoted to agricultural pursuits. In his political views he was first a Whig and later a Republican. His wife died in Chariton, Iowa, at the age of eighty-six (actually 95) years, a true Christian and a devoted member of the Baptist Church. They had eight children,viz.: Lucy Parker, Omaha, Nebraska; Samuel, Perry county, Ohio; Lovina, Rosenburg, Oregon; David, Winterset, Iowa; Stephen, Chariton, Iowa; Edward, whose name initiates this article; Mary Bonebreak, Rosenburg, Oregon; and Phoebe Combstock, deceased, formerly of Burlington, Iowa.

The inscription on the tombstone is a little hard to read because of discolored marble. It actually reads:

Feb. 18, 1791
In Herkimer Co., N.Y.
Apr. 27, 1880
89y, 1 Mo, 5 Ds

David's son, Edward, lived just down the road from my Myers great- and great-great-grandparents south of Salem Cemetery. Stephen, in his time, was a mover and shaker in Chariton. I'm fond of Stephen especially because he and my great-great-grandfather, Jacob Myers, were partners in the Arizona-based Papago Chief Mining Co., involving their family, friends and neighbors in an investment scheme that was not, shall we say, a success. He also was the father-in-law of Frank R. Crocker, who brought Chariton's First National Bank to its knees in 1907.

Alpha Arnold outlived David by 11 years, dying on 5 October 1891, a fact acknowledged only by this brief article in the Patriot of 8 October:

DIED: At the home of her son, S.S. Arnold, in Chariton, Ia., Monday morning Oct. 5, 1891, Mrs. Alpha Arnold, at the age of 95 years.The funeral was conducted at Mr. Arnold's Tuesday Oct. 6, at 1 o'clock, the sermon being preached by Rev. D. Austin from a text selected by Mrs. Arnold several months ago, and the remains laid to rest in the Salem cemetery south-east of town.

Alpha's grave, just south of David's stone, has never been marked. But If she had a tombstone, the inscription on it might read:

Wife of David Arnold
Born: Feb. 18, 1796, in Ostego County, N.Y.
Died: Oct. 5, 1891, at Chariton, Iowa

I understand, now that David's stone has been repaired, attention has shifted to raising funds to purchase a small headstone to mark her grave in its shadow.


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