We're in need of an engaging, yet respectful, title for this year's living history tour of the Chariton Cemetery, an annual event sponsored by the Historic Preservation Commission and held during September.
This year's tour will deal with folks whose final resting place was not their first. An example would be "Chicago Mike" Vucich, legendary in the mining camps of Lucas County during the 1920s, who came to an untimely end when his tan Flying Cloud coupe crashed into a Des Moines streetcar during September of 1928. Buried initially in Chicago, his remains were returned to Lucas County more than 60 years later.
As it turns out, there's no shortage of interesting candidates for the tour, but coming up with a title is proving to be a challenge. If you've got ideas --- respectful ideas, please --- kindly share them.
Although John Riley Wilson and his son, William Floyd (tombstone above), are not candidates for the tour, I finally was able to sort out their postmortem travels yesterday afternoon, while Ev and I were staffing the cemetery shelter house and greeting Memorial Day weekend visitors.
I had help from a volume of vintage burial records ordinarily kept at City Hall but brought to the shelter most years so that visitors can get an idea of how the cemetery's record-keeping system originally was organized. These old record books are in some cases fragile, so this generally is their only public outing.
I first came across the Wilsons because they were buried initially at Salem, my family cemetery --- and then apparently vanished, along with their substantial tombstone. The lot they originally occupied was sold to my great-grandfather and passed on to my great-aunt and great-uncle, Nelson and Harriet (Myers) Reynolds. The original foundation for the big Wilson stone remains out there.
I had tracked the tombstone and the graves it marks to the Chariton Cemetery, but the date of reburial --- Oct. 23, 1909 --- remained a mystery until I happened upon a reference to it Sunday while leafing through an old burial register.
John Riley Wilson, born Sept. 27, 1851, in Indiana, settled with his parents in the Salem neighborhood of Benton Township about 1860 and married a neighbor girl, Martha Hawk, on March 15, 1875. They settled down on a farm several miles west --- near Derby --- and lived there for 25 years, until his death at age 53 on March 24, 1905, of Bright's disease and "a complication of troubles." Funeral services were held at his home church, Salem, and burial followed in the churchyard.
Just two months later, William Floyd Wilson --- son of John Riley and Martha --- drowned on May 21, 1905, after the boat he was sharing with a friend, L.N. DeWitt, capsized on the Calumet River some 20 miles from the heart of Chicago. Born May 4, 1880, he was 25.
William was described as a young man of "exceptionally fine talents" who had studied art at Simpson College in Indianola, in Des Moines and in Chicago. He was employed by the Scenic Art Co. in Chicago at the time of his death. His body was returned to Lucas County and buried beside that of his father at Salem.
It's not clear why the family decided to move John and William into Chariton four years later, but they did --- and I now have obsessively-compulsively placed a "solved" check mark beside the mental entry for that minor mystery.
Iowa is a patch of varying shades of green in the middle of the U.S. weather map this morning as the entire state is under one degree or another of flood watch or warning. It's raining --- and more is predicted for most of the week.
The weekend weather here was not that bad --- and we had patches of sunshine both on Sunday and Monday.
It was restful to spend an afternoon front-porch sitting at the cemetery. Among others, Flora Belle (Dunshee) Hixson, still going strong in her 90s, stopped by to visit --- as did Craig Fielding, who it seems to me looks a good deal like his father, Keith. You know you're getting older when you start recognizing people in the same age range as your own because they look like their parents.